Champions of Afghanistan After surpassing the US military in unconventional warfare for nearly 20 years, the Taliban are also formidable opponents online.
Shortly after regressive Islamic fundamentalists swept into Kabul in August, images emerged of Taliban fighters naively playing with exercise equipment and cheerfully navigating pedal boats – a PR campaign, some observers guessed, aimed at softening the Taliban’s image.
Possibly, but as for the subsequent Pepe the Frog and other edgelord memes later posted by a respected Taliban member, there was no doubt about their intention: to own the West online.
It seems that the Taliban are not done trolling decadent Western democracies. In this mission, they are happy to use our vices against us, including legalized marijuana.
Early Wednesday, the Taliban Interior Ministry tweeted that a company called Cpharm had brokered an agreement with the regime to build a “cannabis treatment plant” for $ 450 million in the country. The weed factory would make cannabis-based medicine, employ hundreds of people and make the Taliban look based.
A little out there, maybe, but the report, repeated by Afghanistan’s Pajhwok Afghan News, was just plausible enough. Consider: Cannabis production is widespread in Afghanistan – which also supplies a significant amount of opium poppies – and the Taliban are eager to generate revenue. And everyone around the world is trying to make money on marijuana.
That was all that was needed. Respectable businesses, including the Times of London and Al Arabybia, took up the story, reporting it as fact and identifying the Cpharm in question as an Australian company.
“Taliban enters into first deal: sale of cannabis to Australians,” the Times solemnly reported, adding that a Taliban “drug minister” had already met with a Cpharm representative and that “the project is expected to be underway within a few days.”
With this mainstream approval, it was off to the races. The reaction varied from indignation – how could Cpharm do this! Why does the Taliban embrace weeds when Congress and Joe Biden do not want to! – to bitter disappointment. Why should Cpharm work with Afghanistan when all this unsold weeds in Canada are ready for export!
But there is a problem. There is only one Cpharm in Australia, according to a Google search – and as the company said in a press release published on Wednesday, they do not “produce” or deliver anything at all. They are certainly not working with the Taliban.
“We have no connection to cannabis or the Taliban,” Cpharm said. “We have no idea where the Taliban’s media broadcast came from.”
As Tony Gabites, Cpharm’s CFO, told Reuters it is possible that the Taliban have reached an agreement, but with another Cpharm. The thing is, there are not many other Cpharms. There is one Cpharm in Haifa, Israel and another in the Dominican Republic, but according to reviews and according to an Instagram page, they are just typical pharmacies: like where you go to buy masks and aspirin. Not in the weed factory building!
In particular, the Taliban’s original tweet does not identify Cpharm as an Australian company or anything else. The case of false identity was thus a Western media blunder. As Gabites told VICE News, everyone else – The Times, etc. – published stories naming the Australian company without first contacting Cpharm.
“It’s just a shame the media organizations are not checking their facts,” Gabites told VICE. “No one has contacted us to discuss it with us; you’re the first person to do that from the media. “
It is decided possible that there is another Cpharm out there and they all have intentions of raising $ 450 million and spending them in Afghanistan where the Taliban want a cannabis production factory.
But there are a multitude of factors that make this very unlikely.
These range from the practical (who would buy all that grass?) To the political. For example, trade sanctions prohibit Australians (as well as Americans!) From having business relations with the Taliban regime. It is possible that the Chinese or Russians could finance a Taliban marijuana factory in Afghanistan, but both of these countries are worse on grass than Texas. Not likely.
So the most plausible explanation that comes up is that the Taliban decided to celebrate Thanksgiving by having a little fun with the West. And if that was the intention, it worked. Big media have eggs on their faces to print fables, and a small Australian company has to waste time on media damage control.
First the British, then the Soviets, then the United States – and now online. Afghanistan is undefeated.