Tag Archives: Terrorists
In the foreground this is Emmet Till, the young man, who in 1955 was brutally lynched and his body desecrated for what basically amounts to an alleged cat call.
A cat call that was just recently obliterated by the target.
This is Till’s destroyed body, which his brave mother and father insisted be on display. This is the human cost of believing that the dignity of a 14 year old boy was erased by his “race”.
This was 63 years ago. Within the lifetimes of at least half of congress and a good number of Americans.
And we expect no consequences from events like this. No memory of the butchering of a 14 year old boy because someone alleged that he spoke in less a way than our current sitting president has spoken about several women ON TAPE.
The killers were never brought to justice because of the same system that we have in place today.
If you think that this kind of butchery should be forgotten and it has no relevance to the gunning down of kids that same age by that same system, I have no kind words for you, none at all.
I’ve been wondering why there hasn’t been much grumbling from the right about terrorism after the Toronto van incident on April 23rd. (even I find myself minimizing this act as anything other than one of terrorism). Attack just sounds too calculated and as most of these types of incidents are, the only planning this one seemed to involve was renting a truck and targeting its random victims. There is an ideology behind it, after all nowadays every asshole crackpot with a chip on his shoulder has some stupid manifesto to shape their out-sized rage.
This guy was one.
As usual the mainstream press is too late to the cultural changes that have been pointing right at this type of insane baby rage. Some guy who never learned proper coping skills, gets turned down by women he thought he had the right to and all of a sudden he’s the member of some made up protected class. In the case of Alek Minassian couldn’t even handle hanging out with other dudes (He left the Canadian army after a short stint for the reason that “(he) wasn’t adapting to military life, including in matters of dress, deportment and group interactions in a military setting.”
They call themselves “incels” or involuntary celibates, an outgrowth of the Pickup Artist(PUA)/Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW)/Men’s Rights Activists (MRA) with a side of alt-right victim-hood, they are the disgruntled kid still living in mommy’s basement all growed up.
These movements, mostly the result of demographic and cultural shifts have cross pollinated, colluded and combined in some terrifyingly interesting ways. They take an already fragile combination of identity, masculinity and frail senses of self to create a toxic soup of discontent.
I’ve watched from the sidelines as the first wave of fragile male PUAS made their marks, as self published gurus (many of which had interesting things to say about masculinity and independence, but as our culture usually goes, take them too far and in the wrong direction) make side hustles out of e-books fashioned from kooky mysticism and 90’s self help, podcasting and blogging their way to a form of stardom that could only come about in the digital age.
Many of these were barely distinguishable in language to many of the books the authors admired, self-talky and simple, the “mindset revolution” was strong with them. Initially the few who were really vile, like Roosh V’s. “Bang” were relegated to a space that seemed not too far removed from the pick up artistry of yore, the main difference being that they never tried to hide their disdain for the female sex. They met in a weird place that brought together Libertarian and Libertine with a dash of Bob Guccione. They are bitter, young, economically affected, generally White or Whiteish, and either they believe or in actuality, that their future is bleak (comparatively) and they are a new class of lone wolf terrorists.
It’s a weird time. The full transformation from self-styled pick up artists, lunkheads, meme-lords and internet Nazis into the nebulous “alt-right” is living proof of a kind of social Darwinism. Seeing how this movement evolved proved to me that the biggest threat to liberal democracy is the misuse of technology. The wildfire spread of bad, harmful, malignant ideas from a combination of attention whores, grieving man babies, workout gurus and the sons of angry white males was amazingly fast, scorching the whole of the earth. It was the textbook example of an organic social movement fueled by many of the above players and fanned by people looking to profit from the rise of right-wing sentiments. Its hard sometimes to tell who is who.
These years will be fodder for future case studies on how trends evolve. So many different influences have crafted the current tide of disaffection across the cultural spectrum it’s really hard to link our current cultural state to a single one factor.
I’m sure, even now there ate authoritarian streaks in other communities that we have yet to activate. Sleeper cells of toxic culture that are hiding under the cultural radar waiting to explode. As a person of color I especially worry about a resurgence of more militant “Black (or Brown) Power” movements rising up to meet the AWM factions activated by the latest cultural trends.
I suspect that there are a fair number of educated, disaffected young Black men who also are involuntarily celibate and rage filled. Personally, I think this whole country needs some quality time on the couch.
When we talk about violence, specifically gun violence in this country we hear a few very different takes depending on the location and the background of the shooter.
When the shooter is ideologically motivated and Muslim, we hear about terrorism first. We hear the panicked cries of mostly white conservatives and a few moderates and liberals about the cultural significance of Islam and its propensity for creating violent jihadists. Even though the insane, rational gymnastics of connecting violence and extremism, in these cases we still won’t talk about Guns, and there is little to no discussion about mental health.
When the attacker is White, and the ultimate ideological motivations are sussed out, we revert to the discussion about “mental health” and family and run away as far as we can from Guns and ideological motives. Somehow access to firearms, however they achieved them, is eliminated from the conversation and the ideological motivations all but erased by about day 2 or 3.
If the assailants are young black men and they are killing each other over gangs, drugs or other petty conflicts, it’s all about the culture. Single moms, video games, and music are the usual suspects; again, surprisingly the narrative no longer focuses on the availability of firearms, even illegal ones.
In my mind there are four primary causes of violence in general, particularly gun violence, and they cut across most cases regardless of whether they are in a school or out on the streets. Irrespective of where we come from or who we are there are a set of preestablished reactions to stressors that trigger us to want to hurt or kill. Those motivations go right to the heart of what we all share emotionally as human beings, and I believe that is one of the reasons we don’t talk about them.
1. Personal/Group Insult or Revenge – One of the most common reasons for violence and aggression of any kind is feeling violated in some way. Whether it is through direct insult or insulting one’s group, it is a defensive reaction to a breach of some social contract that causes most violence. I believe this tendency is built into us as we are social beings. Our hierarchical understanding of group and private structures create a means through which we have a built-in trigger, groups that tout exclusive membership use this instinct to manipulate people into reacting with violence when they otherwise would have just cooled over time.
2. Fear – Is it that pop-psychological to indicate fear as a primary motivation for violence or aggression. As well as being social we are also programmed to be wary of personal injury. This is an odd one because fear as a concept can be very nebulous or very specific. Fear that a bear is coming right at you is very different from fear of being attacked by a bear. The chemical reactions, the physical changes that result from the various states of fear are very distinct and can be manipulated by people and institutions that are more powerful and have some of their fears to contend with. I found this discussion of fear interesting as it almost serves as a surrogate for the triggers of violence.
3. Social Engineering – As social beings who have developed hierarchies to survive under specific circumstances we have also come to understand how reinforcement of those structures is required to keep the status quo. I’m not passing blanket judgment on this as dangerous by any means, some social structures have helped us advance to the point where we have created a better life for millions of people. Others, however, though seemingly good ideas at the time, often descend into disruptions that do damage to a great many people. It’s tough to say without the benefit of hindsight that some form of social engineering was good or bad especially if we learn from the results. In this case, violence based on established and enforced social norms.
4. External Perceived or Existential Threat – this is admittedly a kind of toss off. Its fear but not the tangible bear chasing you down type, it’s a minor madness in a way and it crosses the bridge to woo-ville in some cases, but either the feeling of something “not being quite right” or the manipulation of that feeling can drive people to violence, what distinguishes this factor as a trigger is its slippery nature. In a way its one of the most potent modern triggers because of the deluge of information we receive and have access to on a daily basis. So much information crosses our eyes and ears daily that it’s often really hard to distinguish between what is demonstrably real and what is pure hokum. Existential threats have us not believing our own eyes when we see a concrete example of the opposite of what we believe or are told to think. Cognitive dissonance is the state this puts us in and in and of itself is a kind of mass mental disorder that affects our macro brain. It is also one of the ways large groups and governments keep control of the status quo. In fact, it is the prefered method of tyrants, both big and small.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of everything in terms of an organism. From my limited understanding of the organization of life, it looks distinctly like from the tiniest cell to the largest societal collections the functions are similar but blown up accordingly. Using the example of the internet (again with a basic knowledge of biology) you can see how humans have organized themselves in the image of their biological networks. You can look at societal organizations similarly, but the internet is the clearest model of our mimicking the structure of our neural networks in our construction and organizations I can see. We build on what we know.
I look often at how these incidents of violence make perfect sense. Ideas are like mutated cells or gut influenced genes; they can grow and spread, are road tested by the environment and shaken out accordingly. You have to get non-judgemental when you think this way and see both the biological process and the spread of ideas the same way. Physiological changes, random occurrences of genes or the environment’s influence on them, have consequences. It is my feeling that biological evolution and the evolution of ideas may not only be linked but now be one in the same. We’ve reached a level of complexity in out inner and outer constructions to see where our intellectual developments have gotten almost as complicated as our biological ones.
When you look at movements, especially extreme movements, be they nationalistic, religious or racially based they broadly share the same development cycles and paths of growth. Some, like Islamic fundamentalism, are less exclusive biologically and more rooted in ideology. This is part of the reason Islam has snowballed so quickly. It is not as exclusive as some other movements, it requires no biological purity test, no cultural purity test, and no nationalistic paternity test, there is a small barrier of language, but learning a few prayers can solve that. Many other extreme movements are based on passing some racial or nationalistic purity test and have far fewer adherents as a result. At the risk of sounding like an Islamophobe, it is the perfect virus in that way.
Let me make something clear right now; I hate no person. I am opposed to certain ideologies because they make no rational sense to me beyond social grouping, but I don’t hate anyone who believes in them. I apply cancer or virus metaphor to almost all religions and any social group that forcibly bends its members to a particular kind of violence or extreme coersion.
When violence arises as a result of these affiliations, a large part of how you get perfectly rational and not insane people to enlist is through the use of the last cause of violence. In a sense, you are taking a little bit of the first three elements and mixing them to create a stew of cognitive dissonance. You create a world where, by some non-biological or vaguely biological association, you pit one association against another. The reasons could be cultural, circumstantial or just made up entirely but they don’t pass a rational examination.
What also doesn’t pass the rational examination is the ways we here in the US, separate these groups and their affiliates into little social boxes that have unequal weight on the actions of people who commit violent acts.
I’ll talk about how we treat different groups and ideologies differently in Wednesdays post.
When I first heard of the tragic shootings in San Bernardino I was saddened, dismayed and angered. One thing I was not was shocked. We seem to have entered a period of violence that shows no signs of slowing down, violence in which ideology plays a huge role.
Not only religious and political ideology but the general permissiveness of violence, the ideology that says that heinous acts of violence, in all forms of culture, are permissible and in some cases encouraged. The ideologies of gun ownership and of gang violence, of police brutality and the conditions that create it. The ideology of hamstringing our boys, who already have enough on their plates by imposing new gender roles and no new ways to transition into manhood. The toxic ideology that at once encourages the sexualization of girls and young women and then tells them that their bodies are not their own. The ideology that says that everything is permissible before you even understand what everything really means.
To blame it on video games, music or even the presence of a toxic entitlement culture, any single factor, is nothing but political noise, the truth is far more complex. All of these factors colluded and combined to create a soup of confusion that we just don’t seem to be equipped to deal with.
On the topic of the latest round of violence I think we are looking for clues in all he wrong places. Our media, as usual, is catering to the lowest common denominator, going for the easy explanation where there is none and in the process only making things worse. As soon as the announcement was made that the two assailants had been “radicalized” in some way, the usual suspects started chiming in about immigration. A point which was at least half moot due to the fact that only one of the couple was not an American citizen. A point, when taken in the context of high-powered semi-automatic weapons and regular visits to the range seemed out of context with radicalization.
These people were supposed to be the “other” training overseas for jihadist terrorism, not training right under our very noses in such an “American” way. Just as most of the shooters in the multitude of mass killings in this country seemed “normal” these two seemed very normal and American. Though the family of the man who accompanied his (wife??) on the killing spree that left 14 people dead and several more wounded had no clue he had been planning anything like this, there were signs, there had to be. The problem is that they were draped as much in the trappings of being American as they were in the guise of terrorism.
Not to say that any “solution” including tightening gun restrictions or fixing some of the conditions that Americans who have been or could be radicalized, live in, will fix this, it won’t. Like many social movements this one is self propagating, as are the popular demagogues who loudly oppose it. What the demagoguery and most Americans miss has little to do with radical Islam and more to do with frustration and anger over lost glory, deceit of power and promises never kept.
Basically, everyone is angry, largely for the same reasons.
White men especially seem angrier than usual, which I find both perplexing and perfectly rational. Perplexing because, on the surface, they still have the very best deal. They have cultural hegemony, they comprise a vast swath of the middle class, the 1% and were in a much better position to ride out the financial crisis at all economic levels. They do not face the many entrenched racial biases that Black households face in housing (a major factor, as the linked article points out, being the disparity of loan offers to the same qualified borrowers) employment and education. Yes, culture is a factor, and any idiot who claims otherwise is just that, an idiot. The questions are then, how, why and what elements of “culture” contribute to the disparity, and by culture I mean perception of culture as much as any culture itself. Perfectly rational for many of the same reasons.
So minorities get doubly screwed from multiple angles, yet, somehow, White men are aggrieved?
Let me say this out front, there is an element to “Black Culture” several in fact, that I find sickening, but that isn’t the real story here because the number of elements I find repulsive in the larger American culture are legion compared to the former. After all, the abomination of misogynist and violent music, associated with Black America is repulsive and dehumanizing, but that in and of itself doesn’t cause every social ill affecting a large number of African Americans. That river runs through the whole of American culture, the focus on violence as a deterrent for violence, placing the need for information below the need for emotional resonance in our politics, blaming, lack of historical understanding and then claiming to understand history.
It also ran through Tim McVeigh, Dylan Roof, Wade Michael Page, Christopher Dorner and Eric Robert Rudolph.
Which brings me back to the point.
Some people just want to destroy. They are angry, enraged, fearful and despised and the easiest way to combat that is to appear stronger, get angrier and deafen, blocking out anything, any evidence that the world may be just as unfair to you as it is to everyone else. In the case of many White men this is a quite painful revelation when they had been insulated from this fact for so long.
To me, whether or not and when these two were radicalized is not the point, understanding why is. Why did they turn on innocent people and lash out, why did they kill? To the best of my knowledge they did not chant “god is great” while mowing down their neighbors, they did not seem, by the choosing of their targets, to be making any kind of greater statement. By many accounts there was a seething anger in them that boiled over into rage. Yes local government officials were present according to some reports, but why carry out an act of terror in a town that has no strategic value? Why when the attack was carried out, did ISIL (or ISIS or whatever the fuck) call it out immediately, take responsibility for it? Why did it take so many days for them to even acknowledge it?
They were either angry and needed an excuse to kill or they were the worst terrorists ever because judging by the delayed response, even ISIL couldn’t figure out what they were doing and why. But when you are a terrorist organization that survives on breeding hatred and distrust in the countries you despise, any means to that end is helpful.
Despite their radicalization, apparently years long planning and appearance these two were not terrorists, they were assholes who used ideology to justify a killing spree. Just because they were pushed over the edge by a “cause” one which all but guaranteed that their small daughter would grow up without parents, does not make this crime a terrorist act. It was the act of two people so angry and desperate that they needed something, anything, to justify “going postal.”
If nothing else though, they gave terror a gift in their passing. Though by any standard they do not deserve martyrdom they may have gained it. They set in motion another thoughtless, terrifyingly fascistic wave in America. As the fringe racist right has steadily gained power in Europe (again) so it seems the United States is following. He who shall not be named’s tirades notwithstanding, there is a sizable chunk of this country that is ready as well, to use ideology and empty rhetoric to incite more violence against innocent people.
I don’t care what ideology you use to justify your hatred or violence, it is still hatred and violence and should not be tolerated by a free society. A society that is becoming even more “free” for a certain few and less free for everyone else. In any case it is no excuse for violence against people just trying to live their lives in peace.
Isn’t It Ironic?
There is no way I could have said this better, so I won’t try.