Iraqis claim victory in battle invented as Twitter joke

Technically Incorrect: A man is bored and invents a battle in a fictional Iraqi town called "Cheese Bladder." He tweets it. The rest isn't history.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

A tweeted map of the non-existent battle. hassadovic/Twitter screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

There is no line between fake and real anymore. There is only feel.

Feel is what you have to do, as you sift through the vast amounts of information pumped out by the digital system and those strapped to its turbines every day.

Not everyone, though, has a perfect grasp of feel. Former FIFA officials cite Onion articles. And then there are war reports.

When word came through on Twitter that there had been a battle at Shichwa, Iraq, victory was claimed by supporters the winning team, said to be opponents of Isis.

There was one small problem with this: Shichwa means "Cheese Bladder." And, as far as I'm aware, no one has ever named a town after a cheese bladder anywhere on Earth.

As the BBC reports, the town and the battle were the inventions of Ahmad al-Mahmoud. He has a Twitter account called @IraqSurveys. It's generally a serious corner of Twitter, but, as he told the BBC, he got bored one day.

The rest isn't history.

He offered a tweet that Isis had been forced to leave Cheese Bladder. There was tweeted joy. There was tweeted celebration. There was even a tweeted image of the battlefield.

Things became a touch fraught when supporters of Isis promised revenge. Tweeters in the Arab world became frightened.

Al-Mahmoud let this go on for a couple of days before admitting that he was the emissary of fake tidings.

Did he feel guilty for creating a hoo-hah that could have become a brouhaha or even worse? Not terribly. He told the BBC: "It wasn't something serious. Any Iraqi should have known what a shichwa is."

Westerners might mutter that there is a town called Foggy Bottom. There is another called Intercourse, Pa. Civic leaders and tribesmen in generations past had all sorts of quaint notions in naming their settlements.

Mahmoud might say that it wasn't serious, but he did admit to the Daily Beast that there was a certain amount of baiting involved.

He said: "So my friend Firas and I said 'Why not invent a battle and a small village to see if the websites or social media of the government pick up the story, and this way we can assess how desperate they are?"

I wonder if he's seen "Wag The Dog."

Mahmoud, who lives in London, was amused when Facebook accounts known to support Shia militias began to crow about their victory.

This was, in its way, his victory.

Somehow in modern warfare the victors often seem non-existent. Perhaps Twitter is the only place you can win a war at all.