Monday, October 27, 2014

ISIS takes Internet asymmetry to a new "low", crossing a "Rubicon"

I take offense when enemies make threats that seem to be directed at “ordinary civilians” in the homeland.  That’s true whether the threats come from ISIS tweets, or North Korean bluster.
Although we tend to talk about conflict in the political abstract as dealing with “them”, the danger to civilians is, of course, repeated throughout history.  The Russian revolution involved expropriation and confiscation on “bourgeois” lands with great delight in driving the idle rich into poverty, to bringing them low.  I can recall, when spying on the “People’s Party of New Jersey” in late 1972, that a middle class professional like me was seen personally as a potential “enemy”.  The North Vietnamese, and later the Khmer Rouge, made a great show of targeting civilians seen as counter-revolutionary (and some of that was used to justify the 60s era draft).  During the 1980s, the idea of a low-level Communist subversion by infiltration with radioactive weapons was known, if rarely discussed publicly (it’d an idea that occurs in one of my novel manuscripts dating to 1982).  [That idea, of the lone saboteur, had been known since before WWII and inspired more than one Hitchcock film.] Of course, the “Cultural Revolution” in Maoist China in the 1960s got very personal, requiring almost every intellectual to take his turn becoming a peasant.  It sounds like it was all about karma. There is something about “capitalism” and “individualism” that seems to “exploit” the unseen sacrifices of others – balanced by the fact that the innovation that comes with capitalism gradually raises average living standards for everyone, even if wealth inequality increases on paper. 
After 9/11, and on the day (Sunday October 7, 2001) that President Bush announced operations in Afghanistan, media outlets played video of Osama bin Laden addressing Americans, saying individually they would not feel safe at home, because their government had occupied holy Arab lands.
Yet, the train of rhetoric was somewhat contained, and the biggest fear was large attacks, on other airliners, or even with WMD’s.  Conservative columnists have repeatedly opined about the possibility of radical Islamic terror with nuclear weapons, dirty bombs, and even electromagnetic pulse, even inspiring several novels (like “One Second After”) and maybe one or two upcoming films. 
ISIS or ISIL seems to have taken a totally different tack, that takes asymmetry to a new level, while reducing existential threats to the homeland.  New York Magazine explains “the new normal” here in a piece by Benjamin Wallace-Wells.  In the New York Times, in an Oct. 24 piece, David D. Kirkpatrick describes rhetoric that crosses a “Rubicon” in advocating public savagery against police officers, journalists, their families, or employees of tech companies, or sometimes randomly just anyone, depending on which tweet one read or which plot was broken up (as with recent arrests in Britain and Australia).  The president says that there is “no ideology”, and it seems designed to appeal to psychopaths, almost inviting the zombie attacks of horror movies (which the hatchet attack in Queens, NY looked like).   It’s clear that the brainwashing can trip up those with certain kinds of personality disorders (including OCD, which needs more attention from law enforcement than it now gets), merely beyond those simply not doing well in a competitive, individualistic society (the so-called “disenfranchised” who can play the race card, too).  There is an ideology of sorts, but it goes beyond the expropriation or even “purification” preached by the commie left (although ISIS will play the “exploitation” card when it sees fit).  This one is predicated on the idea that the whole world is evil, so if must be cleansed of non-Muslims ("infidels" or "apostates").  Then future generations can enjoy an Islamic paradise, where sin is impossible.  The psychological tactics of some slick ISIS propaganda seem to shame Muslims at home for non-action when their “brethren” are attacked in Syria or Iraq, and it seems that Obama’s decision to “go in” with airstrikes certainly aggravates the rhetoric. In radical Islam, there is no independent sense of self apart from the future of the whole body of believers.  So young men must give themselves up. 

A lot has been made about a mystery FBI bulletin, warning of attacks amateur lone-wolf attacks against military personnel, their families, and likewise with cops and some media personalities.  Whether the danger is mostly “far” overseas depends on which tweet or video you saw.  Breitbart published the bulletin with a Scribd embed, link here.  It would seem that kidnappings in Turkey, bringing journalists or cops back into Syria sound possible, unless Turkey gets its own act together.  But these warning shave been circulating since the end of August.  Fox News has a reaction to all of this, by John R. Lott Jr. that is quite predictable, here (saying we're all "sitting ducks" unless we learn to defend ourselves personally, like grownups). 

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