Punishing Publication, Banishing Ideas: YouTube Censors Your World for the CIA

This post, while actually written on 20 April 2011, is backdated to the time that the video in question below was uploaded to YouTube. The video, “Humam al-Balawi: Slayer of CIA Terrorists in Afghanistan,” was an unacceptable challenge to some, starting with the very title.

Let’s put this in some perspective first. The video was placed in the public domain, published on various Arab-language websites, and broadcast by mainstream cable news media, such as ITN and Al Jazeera. I first saw it on ITN, not on a “jihadi” website. The video does not show any acts of violence, nor does it feature coarse language or nudity, and it does not advocate, instruct, or otherwise “push” anyone into committing any act of violence. It is simply a short message by a suicide bomber, specifically directed at the CIA. 

YouTube says this “violates” its “community guidelines.” By YouTube’s preferred “community,” we can only understand this to mean the CIA. It cannot possibly be “you,” that is, “us.” This is not what some mistakenly call “conspiracy theory” –there is no theory here, merely observation. That YouTube is owned and operated by Google, and that there is a revolving door between Google and the U.S. State Department, is an established and documented fact–and documented many times over by very mainstream sources. Here are just a few items you can read if you need to catch-up:

Any attempt to portray YouTube as a mere “community of users,” in a democratic society that respects the freedom of speech, is inexcusably naive. The censorship is there, it is of an everyday sort, and this is by no means a unique case.

In broader terms, this also tells us something about why anthropology, public and pushing against what the state wants us to believe, will be impeded by the authorities. Anthropology, at its best, tries to get us to walk in other people’s shoes, to at least try to understand the world from their perspective–what anthropology is not is a gaggle of foamy-mouthed, pitchfork-bearing thugs who smash heads for the state. However, there are, as we well know, those who would turn anthropology into a fascist enterprise, a science pursued to maintain order, ensure compliance, and offer students a university experience that differs little from obedience training for dogs. The point here is that you cannot even begin to learn, let alone try to understand the other, if you are never permitted to hear or even see the other.

There is also the artifice of “clean war” that YouTube actively promotes, a war without consequences, without blowback, and without targeted victims who have a fundamental right to fight back. Hence the endless stream of videos of Taliban attacks that are almost always banished by YouTube–even while videos of U.S. forces attacking the Taliban are maintained. This is nothing more than an empty-headed, bellicose jingoism.

The fact of the matter is that–despite President Obama’s glorification of the CIA and Xe (Blackwater) personnel who were killed, as heroes–this team was in charge of coordinating drone strikes against targets in Pakistan, the very same strikes that have resulted in the deaths of, at a minimum, hundreds of civilians, and according to more recent estimates, thousands. They are also a clear-cut violation of international law that have been challenged by the UN, as extra-judicial killings. By any definition of terrorism, especially state terrorism, this is what describes the work of the CIA. That makes al-Balawi’s act one that can be defined as counter-terrorism.

In moral terms, one does not need to “glorify” or “romanticize” the Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the attack. I have no love for either the Pakistani Taliban, Al Qaida, or the CIA–except that the CIA has a long and bloody history of engaging in terrorist actions worldwide, and with a greater budget, more personnel, and the weight of the world’s greatest military superpower to back it up–it is by far the most dangerous of these entities. I weep not–not at all–for the dead CIA agents and mercenaries. They cannot do what they do, and then claim they also have a right not to die. The world is better off without them. The CIA’s loss is not my loss, leaving aside the fact that I am not even American and therefore cannot be expected to perform politically correct poetry for over-sensitive, right wing American militarists. If you take offense, fine, so be it: that fact alone does no damage to my argument, and does not concern me in the least.

In true “tribal” fashion, the CIA promised to “avenge” the killings, as if it were somehow an innocent party. A CIA official told the media: “This will be avenged through aggressive counterterror operations. People at Langley are galvanized.” As mentioned before, Obama offered a sugary, sentimental account of CIA “bravery”:

I write to mark a sad occasion in the history of the CIA and our country. Yesterday, seven Americans in Afghanistan gave their lives in service to their country. Michelle and I have their families, friends and colleagues in our thoughts and prayers.

These brave Americans were part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life. The United States would not be able to maintain the freedom and security that we cherish without decades of service from the dedicated men and women of the CIA. You have helped us understand the world as it is, and taken great risks to protect our country. You have served in the shadows, and your sacrifices have sometimes been unknown to your fellow citizens, your friends, and even your families.

For more about this attack and to put it into perspective, I recommend the following:

Here is the original video that YouTube has banned:

You can now download the source file yourself, from:


And, ironically, from Google Docs itself (at least for now):

And to make sure YouTube users who wish to see the video, and search for it, understand what has happened…well, I use YouTube itself for that: