Thursday, October 09, 2008


Anomia: a disentegration of social bonds.

From Wired:
People turn to terrorism for social solidarity. He theorizes that people join terrorist organizations worldwide in order to be part of a community, much like the reason inner-city youths join gangs in the United States.
The evidence supports this. Individual terrorists often have no prior involvement with a group's political agenda, and often join multiple terrorist groups with incompatible platforms. Individuals who join terrorist groups are frequently not oppressed in any way, and often can't describe the political goals of their organizations. People who join terrorist groups most often have friends or relatives who are members of the group, and the great majority of terrorist are socially isolated: unmarried young men or widowed women who weren't working prior to joining. These things are true for members of terrorist groups as diverse as the IRA and al-Qaida.
For example, several of the 9/11 hijackers planned to fight in Chechnya, but they didn't have the right paperwork so they attacked America instead. The mujahedeen had no idea whom they would attack after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, so they sat around until they came up with a new enemy: America. Pakistani terrorists regularly defect to another terrorist group with a totally different political platform. Many new al-Qaida members say, unconvincingly, that they decided to become a jihadist after reading an extreme, anti-American blog, or after converting to Islam, sometimes just a few weeks before. These people know little about politics or Islam, and they frankly don't even seem to care much about learning more. The blogs they turn to don't have a lot of substance in these areas, even though more informative blogs do exist.
All of this explains the seven habits. It's not that they're ineffective; it's that they have a different goal. They might not be effective politically, but they are effective socially: They all help preserve the group's existence and cohesion.
This kind of analysis isn't just theoretical; it has practical implications for counterterrorism. Not only can we now better understand who is likely to become a terrorist, we can engage in strategies specifically designed to weaken the social bonds within terrorist organizations. Driving a wedge between group members -- commuting prison sentences in exchange for actionable intelligence, planting more double agents within terrorist groups -- will go a long way to weakening the social bonds within those groups.
We also need to pay more attention to the socially marginalized than to the politically downtrodden, like unassimilated communities in Western countries. We need to support vibrant, benign communities and organizations as alternative ways for potential terrorists to get the social cohesion they need. And finally, we need to minimize collateral damage in our counterterrorism operations, as well as clamping down on bigotry and hate crimes, which just creates more dislocation and social isolation, and the inevitable calls for revenge.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Good Fight and the Pedagogical Moment

Donna Brazile, who appears on our talk shows all too often repeating Washington Conventional Wisdom--you know, the WCW that we should invade Iraq, the sage opion that the smart people of Wall Street know what they're doing and should be trusted, the wisdom that trickle down economics works, you know that conventional wisdom--well, the real Donna broke through today, and she got to the heart of the matter.  She said that she sensed something deeply troubling in the Republican ranks, something truly wicked, something beyond the pale, something truly, deeply, madly racist.

Indeed, we have:

Sit down, boy.

Then there are the enlightened souls screaming, at the planned mention of Barack Hussein Obama (emphasis on Hussein), "terrorist," "kill him," and "traitor."

Update, and thanks to youtube, you can see these Republican supporters talking about Obama's "bloodline," his "muslim background," and say that he's a "one-man terror cell": (h/t digby)

Nevermind that Sarah Palin's husband was/is a member of a separatist/secessionist group.  (Though we should remember that abortion clinic bombers and militia members and the various Timothy McVeigh's of the world are never anti-American, they're anti-government.  I repeat: these killers are never anti-American, they're anti-government.)

So we have people like Sarah, people like John conducting, orchestrating events attended entirely or almost entirely by white people and, let's be honest, encouraging their crowds to jeer at the mention of the name Hussein.  This is not about policy or politics.  It's not even about personality, though some in the punditry might use such terminology to gloss over the situation.  This is about hate, this is about wanting to kill, imprison or humiliate someone because they have a different name, a different color skin.  Go ahead, say it--growl it, scream it: "Hussein."  This name, apparently, is supposed to make you mad.

While it is perhaps true that John and Sarah may not hear the remarks from the podium, they have by now heard of them.  They know this is happening.  We thus have what might be called "a teachable moment."  One of these prospective "leaders" of the United States could and should plan on interrupting their speech when they or one of their entourages hears the epithet.  They should interrupt their speech and show themselves to be above this and to signal to these crowds that its wrong, just plain wrong, plain un-Christian to act in such ways.

This won't happen.  As Digby says:
"This is the kind of thing that really makes me fear for Obama. They are already screaming "terrorist" at Palin's rallies and shouting "kill him." The whole "Obama is a muslim" thing is bizarre, but with his name and childhood spent partly in a Muslim country --- and the fact that he's black, which makes everyone flash on Louis Farrakhan --- makes the right wing lizard brain twitch uncontrollably. They will use this, I have no doubt. There is an entire wingnut industry devoted to stirring up tensions in the middle east and another on devoted to character assassination of Democrats. Obama brings them together in serendipitous loathing and paranoia. It's going to be ugly."


Or, as Josh Marshall quips:

"Shorter McCain Campaign: He's definitely black; probably Muslim; and maybe a terrorist."

So, Donna, thanks for the reminder.   Now do this on teevee!

My Fellow Prisoners

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. We're prisoners of debt, militarism, crony capitalism and greed.

Of course, McCain is probably just suffering from dementia and/or fatigue, so this will slip conveniently beneath the radar. Just imagine if Barack Hussein Obama had said that! What if Petain had said it?

Venerate and Despise

A friend sent me this today, it's from the Guardian.
By any normal standard, including the ones applied to male presidential candidates of either party, she did not. Early on, she made the astonishing announcement that she had no intentions of actually answering the queries put to her. "I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also," she said.
And so she preceded, with an almost surreal disregard for the subjects she was supposed to be discussing, to unleash fusillades of scripted attack lines, platitudes, lies, gibberish and grating references to her own pseudo-folksy authenticity.
It was an appalling display. The only reason it was not widely described as such is that too many American pundits don't even try to judge the truth, wisdom or reasonableness of the political rhetoric they are paid to pronounce upon. Instead, they imagine themselves as interpreters of a mythical mass of "average Americans" who they both venerate and despise.
De Tocqueville could not have said it better.

Trust Your Local Psychologist

My friends blog/My friend's Blog

"It’s McCain’s social skills that seems to belie his ability to effectively debate. He could almost pull it off, but as Chris Matthews was saying after the debate, Obama has this sincere smile that feels real and a natural ability to connect. McCain comes across as really creepy and insincere when he laughs/smiles. As a psychologist, I have to say that these social mistakes McCain keeps making get people at a real gut level. They don’t know what it is about McCain that’s rubbing them the wrong way, but people who are savvy socially know something just ain’t right - whether they can say what that thing is or not."