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Nairobi tweets 1: Bulletproof?

[ by Charles Cameron — taking a hint from the twitter stream of HSM Press and running with it ]


As of Monday morning 11am California time:

I now think it’s clear that the twitter stream I was commenting on in this post and the second in the series was not an official Shabaab feed, and thus untrustworthy as to its statements — although it’s exact status (fan, mimic, troll, loosely connected?) is undetermined.

I am leaving the post up (a) for the record, and (b) for whatever minor interest it may still have.

Original post:

Al-Shabaab’s “HSM Press Office” had been tweeting up a storm during the Nairobi mall “operation” — it’s been shut down at least rwice, maybe more? — and some of the claims made are worth a little exploration. Let’s start with the “bullet-proof” claim:


For some (not by any means exhaustive) historical context on that, consider this report from the Phillipines a decade ago:

The kidnapped head of the Jesus Miracle Crusade, fiery televangelist Wilde Almeda, particularly has special powers that will protect him from bullets, said Robert Chua, a member of the group. Almeda and the 12 other members of his ministry went to the camp of the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf in southern Jolo island on Saturday to pray over 20 mostly-foreign hostages seized by the rebels from a Malaysian resort on April 23 and to convince the kidnappers to free their captives. The military says they together with a German journalist, Andreas Lorenz, are also now being held hostage by the notorious Abu Sayyaf.

This, from Myanmar:

Thailand said Wednesday it may give humanitarian asylum to Johnny and Luther Htoo, the twin boy leaders of a mystical rebel movement from Myanmar who have surrendered with some of their followers. Hunted and hungry, 14 members of the God’s Army group – nine of them children, including the charismatic twins – turned themselves over to Thai authorities on Tuesday after a year on the run along the Thai-Myanmar border. For more than three years, the boys fought to overthrow Myanmar’s military government, and their followers believe Johnny and Luther have magical powers that make them invincible in battle.

Or this from the Lakota Ghost Dancers:

The presence of the troops frightened the dancers into running for the outlying areas of the some skirmishes fought. One legend of the Ghost Shirt was born during one of these skirmishes. The Ghost Shirt was part of the special clothing worn while dancing the Ghost Dance. The Sioux were the only Indians to give the Ghost Shirt bullet proof qualities. (2-42) During one of the skirmishes with the soldiers, a lone Indian rode his pony within easy rifle range of soldiers, line and allowed them to fire on him. Whether true to the qualities of the Ghost Shirt he was wearing, or due to the poor shooting of the soldiers he escaped unscathed.

And this, from Thomas Muentzer‘s Anabaptist deviants in Martin Luther‘s early Protestant Europe:

They’re singing hymns. They literally are awaiting a glorious triumph. Muentzer assures them that he will catch the cannonballs in his shirthhsleeves. Of course, it turned into a slaughter. Five thousand ill-equipped peasants were slaughtered. The Peasants’ Revolt was utterly destroyed. It was one of those incredible explosions of apocalypticism that arise in history.


Just whether the individuals in the Nairobi mall or tweeting for HSM Press take that “bullet-proof” reference literally or figuratively is an open question.

For a sense of the levels of non-scientific thinking — ie shamanism aka “witchcraft” — in today’s Kenya, see for instance this semi-skeptical account and its apocalyptic touch, or perhaps Believe it or not: Witchcraft in Kenya, with this interesting and quite relevant paragraph:

Another friend’s sister was victim of a grenade attack at a church in Mombasa. Shattered glass went everywhere but she, standing at the window, was not injured. She said that people were muttering things about the protection afforded by genies. Interestingly, she was at church but had recently converted to Islam, not that anyone knew. Not anyone visible, anyway.

And before we assume that all these experiments pitting prayer against guns always turn out badly for the prayerful side — it’s worth noting that “fiery televangelist Wilde Almeda” survived to tell the tale….


There’s a great deal more of interest on several levels in the HSM tweets, but I’ll break here and pick up in a following post.

5 Responses to “Nairobi tweets 1: Bulletproof?”

  1. Grurray Says:

    Not certain but wasn’t there a similar belief of evading bullets during China’s Boxer Rebellion? 

  2. aaron Says:

    Hey. pretty sure that’s not a reference to any of that. but actually a quote from this a song Rhianna sings.  

    “Titanium”(feat. Sia)
    [Sia:]You shouted, “Hallo!”But I can’t hear a word you sayI’m talking loud not saying muchI’m criticized but all your bullets ricochetYou shoot me down, but I get up[Chorus:]I’m bulletproof, nothing to loseFire away, fire awayRicochet, you take your aimFire away, fire awayYou shoot me down but I won’t fallI am titaniumYou shoot me down but I won’t fall
    I am titanium 

  3. Charles Cameron Says:

    Thanks, Aaron, I’m sure you’re right.  
    The song is by David Guetta and titled Titanium Fire Away. I don’t find any references to Rihanna singing it, though it’s entirely possible she does. I’ve borrowed a (very slightly ) different version of the lyrics, with line breaks, to make for easier reading — but as I say, I’m now convinced you’re right about the bullet-proof / titanium quote.

    You shout it out
    But I can’t hear a word you say
    I’m talking loud not saying much
    I’m criticized but all your bullets ricochet
    You shoot me down, but I get up
    I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose
    Fire away, fire away
    Ricochet, you take your aim
    Fire away, fire away
    You shoot me down but I won’t fall
    I am titanium
    You shoot me down but I won’t fall
    I am titanium

    Quite what that does to the discussion of how those words / that bulletproof meme would be interpreted by individual hearers would still depend on the sophistication of the individuals concerned, though. Adding that song into the mix … who knows? It’s certainly fascinating.
    Thanks again!

  4. Grurray Says:

    Good one Aaron
    So the person writing those tweets is a woman.
    Remember the ‘sexual fatwa’ from a few months ago. Maybe originated from a woman also.
    Gives new meaning to idea of ‘bulletproof’.
    During the Boxer Rebellion (the correct translation for the boxers was fists of righteous harmony) the rebels were initiated by firing a weapon with blanks at them to convince them were actually bulletproof.
    These lady jihadis potentially became convinced of their imperviousness how I wonder
    Their garments perhaps.
    Maybe it’s declining fertility. The wars of the past decade have coincided with plummeting birth rates. 
    Bad seeds of the rebels?


  5. Charles Cameron Says:

    I’m in a penitent mood, so let me be clearer on the “bullet-proof” business.  As I wrote to a friend on FB yesterday evening, “Aaron’s comment [#2 above] blew my anthro-ish comments on the “bullet-proof” meme through a loop by observing that the “bullet-proof … titanium” line was from a David Guetta song titled Titanium Fire Away. I was clearly outgunned of that one.”
    I also now think it’s clear the twitter stream I was commenting on in this post and the second in the series was not an official Shabaab feed, and thus untrustworthy as to its statements, although it’s exact status (fan, mimic, troll, loosely connected?) is undetermined.

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