(Be your own role model)
-- Thomas Belvedere, The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion --
When it comes to explaining the latest 15-minute video released by ISIS on November 16, the mainstream media simply cannot hold their ink.
As always, a consensus quickly, mysteriously congealed. From the California redwoods to the New York island, desperation is the New New Thing, the in interpretation of why ISIS released the video.
What´s that? You think the CIA had nothing to do with manufacturing that consensus? -- that the agency does not "help" the news media, movies, radio, TV? I know somebody who disagrees with you: the CIA. Click here for their narrative.
Desperation? We offer a totally different interpretation.
First, it has been widely noted that the ISIS video of Peter Kassig is unlike the beheading videos of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines, and Alan Henning. Gone is any pre-packaged confession; gone is the orange jumpsuit; gone is any pretense to hide the location (Dabiq); gone is trotting out the next victim. All we see is what appears to be Kassig´s severed head -- see our post of September 5, 2014, "A New Explanation of The James Foley Video," about standard magic tricks -- at the feet of Jihadi John.
Before continuing, why do we hold on to the possibility that at least one of the decapitations of Westerners was faked?
Answer: ISIS could be preparing a coup de théâtre.
Sometime in the near future ISIS posts a video in which Jihadi John appears with that morning´s newspaper, makes a signal and out walks...Steven Sotloff! Against a background of lurid Western newspaper headlines decrying the barbarian murder of Sotloff, Jihadi John talks about how "your" media and government are lying to you, how they betrayed your trust, how they are incompetent. "Look no farther, oh American and British people. Here´s proof. Obama, deny it if you can!"
The purpose: devastation of Western public support for the war in Iraq and Syria -- and beyond.* Caution: the coup de théâtre is possible, not probable.
It´s time to read between the lies -- and The Telegraph did it. Obviously, something went wrong. Did Peter Kassig refuse to read Jihadi John´s script? Did he remain silent? Did he denounce ISIS and Jihadi John as aberrations of Islam?
Whatever happened, Kassig was his own role model. He showed that if a picture is worth a thousand words, one act is worth a thousand pictures.
* * *
Jihadi John committed a major blunder in declaring the dead Kassig "doesn’t have much to say. His previous cellmates have already spoken on his behalf." It wasn´t the first time Jihadi John´s unconscious sabotaged him. A similar pronunciamiento, "I´m back, Obama," made in the video of the beheading of Sotloff, revealed more about Jihadi John than a million FBI-tapped phone calls or 10 million CIA-intercepted emails.
Jihadi John´s sarcastic, in-you-face humor gives his game away. Without knowing who he is, we know who he is:
We noted in our post of November 12, 2010, "Terrorist Humor, Anwar al-Awlaki, and Dandyism," terrorist humor is anchored in the cult of contradiction. That cult is the signature song of middle class rebellion. In that regard, what you are about to read has nothing to do with anything the CIA and FBI, CNN, the Washington Post and other establishment media are telling you. Make that, can tell you.
Over a half century ago, Albert Camus exposed Jihadi John´s schtick: dandyism.
"´To live and die before a mirror´: that...was the dandy's slogan. It is indeed a coherent slogan. The dandy is, by occupation, always in opposition. He can only exist by defiance. Up to now man derived his coherence from his Creator. But from the moment that he consecrates his rupture with Him, he finds himself delivered over to the fleeting moment, to the passing days, and to wasted sensibility. Therefore he must take himself in hand. The dandy rallies his forces and creates a unity for himself by the very violence of his refusal. Profligate, like all people without a rule of life, he is coherent as an actor. But an actor implies a public; the dandy can only play a part by setting himself up in opposition. He can only be sure of his own existence by finding it in the expression of others' faces. Other people are his mirror. A mirror that quickly becomes clouded, it is true, since human capacity for attention is limited. It must be ceaselessly stimulated, spurred on by provocation. The dandy, therefore, is always compelled to astonish. Singularity is his vocation, excess his way to perfection. Perpetually incomplete, always on the fringe of things, he compels others to create him,while denying their values. He plays at life because he is unable to live it. He plays at it until he dies, except for the moments when he is alone and without a mirror. For the dandy, to be alone is not to exist." Albert Camus, The Rebel, 1951, p. 29.**
Jihadi John will "not go gentle into that good night." He will not stop provoking because he cannot cease to astonish. Kill Them All: the instant he stops being excessive, he will disappear in the eyes of his enemies. No mirror = no appearance = no existence. Held together by the sheer violence of his defiance, he is compelled by unconscious forces -- his own and of the people around him -- to lecture the world with knife in hand.
In the Kassig video, provocation served another purpose: distraction. The key to any magic trick is distraction. Look again at the image at the top of this post. Kassig said "No," making his captors´ video fatally flawed for propaganda purposes.
What to do?... Who ya´ gonna call?
Following feverish communications with higher-ups -- Kassig won´t come along and sing the song -- ISIS hurriedly diced and spliced together a solution of sorts. To distract us, the Kassig video suddenly switches to an even more provocative video of the decapitations of 18 Syrian soldiers. Here, ISIS media men took quite literally some terminology from Movies 101. In screenplays, that type of abrupt change is called a SMASH CUT.
Shocked and awed, the CIA, FBI, Pentagon and establishment media continue to marvel at the "meaning" of it all. Again, where they see (or would like to see) desperation, we see something else:
The bare-faced -- truly, bare-faced -- 18 ISIS recruits who performed the decapitations were participating in an initiation rite. The knives had been washed and counted (probably more than once), placed blade-down in a small box at arm level for quick-n´-easy plucking; no fuss, no muss. The recruits´ camouflage fatigues and caps are identical, freshly-laundered like their faces. Clean, clean, clean: Hitchcock sent a message when he showed Norman Bates laboriously cleansing the bathroom ("Psycho"). Only Jihadi John, who stands in the center, is dressed differently. No doubt anywhere who the leader of the gang is.
But why does Jihadi John continue to wear a mask when the other ISIS executioners have discarded theirs? We will return to this question; it is a vital one.
New desperation caused by U.S. bombing? Hardly. There is absolutely nothing new -- including desperation -- in the ISIS video. It is a middle class rebel, black humor play -- albeit deadly serious and over 90% unconscious -- on icons of decency.* If you think Jihadi John deserves a merit badge for a creative send-up -- he is boogeyman and head Mouseketeer rolled into one -- my deepest condolences. Mad Magazine got there first in 1955, with "Mickey Rodent."
In order to become a true son within the faith, a fledgling terrorist must go through certain rites of passage. We analyzed in The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion how those rites are fundamental components of the terrorist syndrome. To wit:
Westerners are flirting with themselves when they claim ISIS made the video for them. Sorry, this song is not about you. The targeted audience of initiation rites is always insiders, not outsiders. The purpose is to cement group identification and solidarity.
Here Washington can (or should) relate to its own experience in water-boarding Guantanamo prisoners. The CIA knows (or should know) firsthand that information gained under torture is not worth the effort expended -- the victim will say anything to stop the pain. So, why torture somebody?
Answer: to create group identification and solidarity among the torturers. The victim is a means, not an end.
Initiation rites are absolutely crucial to any terrorist organization; we underscore them in our definition of terrorist (see below). Killing is the maximum threshold which can be crossed in initiation ceremonies. In committing a murder in a rite, a prospective member completes a transition. For functional purposes (which are all the group cares about), he is indeed transformed; the collective impersonal group identity is now his individual personal identify. That transformation explains how somebody like Maxime Hauchard (see below) who would not hurt a fly could kill a man.
The 1966 movie "The Battle for Algiers," which was based on actual terrorist practices, succinctly and unforgettably depicted murder as an initiation rite for group consolidation purposes; so did Dostoevsky´s novel The Possessed.
Was the beheading video of the 18 Syrian soldiers originally intended for ISIS in-house purposes only? Is it a training/indoctrination tool that somebody grabbed off the shelf after the Kassig beheading video was torn apart by Kassig and had to be mended?
The CIA, Pentagon, FBI and Homeland Security have never recognized terrorist rites of passage for what they are, much less their key importance. Don´t expect that recognition to develop anytime soon. Washington lacks insight because it has no analysis. The practical upshots include an on-going ineptness in determining, among other things, who is and is not a terrorist and which terrorists can be rehabilitated and integrated into society. More on this subject shortly.
Inherent to any analysis are definitions. The Source of Terrorism:
"A terrorist is usually a middle class rebel (1) experiencing magnified marginal or transitional conditions, who (2) voluntarily (3) goes through certain rites of passage, among which are (4) clique membership and (5) a deliberate decision to commit a criminal act that is almost always (6) violent and usually (7) murder, in (8) the name of higher intentions or convictions without (9) retaining consciously the ambiguity of his criminal act and his higher intentions/convictions. He expresses powerful, unconscious, ambivalent emotions in two ways: (10) converting his intentions/convictions into idées fixes or absolute truths, the opposite extreme from ambiguity, and (11) wielding uncertainty as a weapon. That uncertainty is total, as shown by the fact that (12) everyone — allies, non-combatants, even himself — is a potential victim. A concluding note: it is the syndrome, the running together of components, which counts — not specific components taken in isolation.
By not admitting what he cannot admit, the terrorist guards his secret, even from himself.
By not admitting what he is, the terrorist shows the gravity that admission holds for him. To my knowledge, no terrorist or other middle class rebel has ever said what he is.
What he is, is the secret he keeps: he is a middle class rebel."
We analyzed elsewhere how United States Government definitions of terrorism are so full of holes a typical teenager can play them like a flute. The federal government´s inability to formulate a definition that makes sense is simultaneously a prerequisite and consequence. That ineptitude demonstrates in a nutshell why, when it comes to terrorism, Washington literally and figuratively does not know what it is talking about.
Why that inability? Part 3, the last of this series, will look into that question. The answer will astound you.
A bumper sticker on a grade school teacher´s car got it right: "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." The past-due bill for the lack of insight riddling the federal government -- which extends down to state and local law enforcement agencies, mental health professionals and university/high school teachers and counselors -- arrives unexpectedly but without fail from Santa Barbara to nearby Santana High School in California to Ft. Bragg in North Carolina to Camp Chapman in faraway Afghanistan to Aurora and Columbine in Colorado to Camp Bucca in Iraq to Virginia Tech to hot Tucson in Arizona and Guantanamo in Cuba to ...
* * *
There is a growing, gnawing fear in Western societies that European, Australian and American terrorists with their organizational contacts and military skills will bring the war home.
For their part, jihadists are ready, willing and able to play their assigned role. One lectured/threatened Westerners: "The mujahideen around the world will not hesitate, whenever there is a possibility, to cut your heads...As long as you keep bombing you will not find peace. You will even fear traveling to the market."
Government responses range from programs to rehabilitate and reintegrate returning jihadists (Denmark and Holland) to imprisonment or banishment (England). The point is, without an understanding of terrorists, any and all responses will be at best inadequate, at worse produce the very phenomenon they are supposed to eradicate. To my knowledge, that understanding has yet to develop on a governmental level anywhere.
But enough criticism. What is to be done?
We present here a cursory outline of what is needed: a sensitivity to a syndrome.
In the Source definition just given, an understanding of terrorism starts with the middle class. To date, not a single serious, scholarly investigation contests that conclusion; on the contrary, all support it. (Example: the most recent quantitative study found that 67% of French jihadists are from middle class families.)
Given overwhelming scientific evidence, why, outside Source and this blog, has nobody investigated in depth the terrorism-middle class connection? The answer is something you already know, but may not be aware of.
When what is common knowledge is not openly acknowledged, a taboo is in place. The prevailing ideology in America -- which is middle class in origin** -- cannot openly acknowledge the obvious because to do so would open the door to a serious questioning of that ideology´s basic assumptions. By definition, no ideology allows that type of inquiry.
In the case of terrorism, a questioning of basic premises would be doubly serious, for, as Source showed, the very ideology that purports to investigate the problem is part of the problem.
All of which means for now the Western door to comprehending terrorism is closed. The ideological blinders are on. Some readers may experience a very real, everyday consequence of that blindness where they live and work: programs for returning jihadists will set killers free while innocent men and women are locked up.
Acquiring a sensitivity to a syndrome requires going to the bottom of the middle class-terrorism connection. To do that is to ask: What is the ultimate reality of terrorists?
The real motive of a terrorist is not political or religious.
It is relief from ambiguity, or more precisely, from ambivalent emotions created by ambiguity.
Ambiguity is the middle class rebel-terrorist´s lot because any middle class position, status, or condition -- of which the socioeconomic middle class is the largest but by no means the only example -- is inherently transitional/intermediary/marginal, i.e., ambiguous. Anybody who has ever crossed a street has been middle class in that wider meaning of the term.
On the one hand, on the other; there´s the good side and the bad side... The middle class rebel-terrorist seeks relief from ambivalence because he cannot endure the tension of opposites endemic to his situation. Those feelings are for the most part unconscious; their dynamic, their energy, is the source of his fervor.
For a cure, he turns to an absolute because an absolute is the opposite of ambivalence. The absolute can be a religion, a political ideology, whatever. Indeed, a middle class rebel can make an absolute out of anything: a straight line will do. It is that propensity, rather than any specific absolute, which matters.
The quest for an absolute is the telltale heart of the middle class rebel-terrorist.
On a practical level, any interrogation of a terrorist; any effort to lead a terrorist to co-operate or change sides; any dialogue with terrorists about prisoner exchanges or hostage releases; any program to rehabilitate or reintegrate a terrorist into society -- all should first and foremost focus on the terrorist's ambiguous situation and associated ambivalent emotions. Without that focus, counterproductive results are inevitable.
As for how a middle class status or condition creates ambivalence:
A condition of dependency always creates ambivalent feelings. No middle class can escape dependency. No middle class can be autonomous because it ceases to exist without something above and something below it; or in front of and behind it; to its left, to its right. To clarify: if everybody were middle class, nobody would be middle class.
The anthropologist Mary Douglas poignantly identified the inherent link between an intermediary/transitional/marginal position and violence/extremism/terrorism:
"Danger lies in transitional states, simply because transition is neither one state nor the next, it is indefinable. The person who must pass from one to another is himself in danger and emanates danger to others."***
Understanding intermediary/transitional/marginal situations and the ambivalent emotions they create, is ultimately the secret to defeating terrorism. You just saw, in general orientation terms, the solution to the problem of returning jihadists.
* * *
Let´s look at three Western ISIS terrorists through the lens of our middle class rebel syndrome.
Only a perfunctory glance is possible because only perfunctory information is available. All three men appear (see below, not beyond a doubt) in the ISIS executioner line-up featured above.
1. A Welshman, Nasser Muthana, 20, stands immediately to the left of Jihadi John.
From a middle class socioeconomic background, Nasser had offers from 4 universities to study medicine. An interview with his father reveals how Nasser was also middle class in the wider sense of the term -- intermediate/marginal/transitional. His home life was a beehive of ambiguity:
"Having spent many hours with him this week, attempting to make sense of these well-educated young men’s decision to abandon their promising futures and run with fighters who routinely behead their enemies, I am convinced of his good intentions.
However, hearing him talk about his favourite TV shows and his penchant for nightclubs and pretty Welsh ‘Valley Girls’ before his arranged marriage, one can’t help but wonder whether he sent out mixed messages to his errant sons, Nasser, 20, and Aseel, 17, and if so, whether this unwittingly contributed to their cataclysmic decision to become ‘jihadists’.
An engaging man who has driven himself to the brink of exhaustion this week in the hope of dissuading other misguided young Muslims from following the same path as his sons, Mr Muthana, 57, who came to live with an uncle in Britain when he was 17, doesn’t shirk the question.
‘Yes, we raised our sons to be a mixture of British and Yemeni,’ he admits. ‘They were born in Wales and we thought that was the right way.
‘They attended a Roman Catholic primary school (where he is a parent-governor), they ate Yemeni food and roast beef on Sundays, and they would dress in Yemeni style for special occasions, but wear western clothes in the week. We would play reggae and rock as well as traditional Yemeni music.
‘I took them to the mosque and they learned Arabic. But we wanted them to have a Welsh education and British standards - to be reliable and polite, like doctors, lawyers and barristers — and treat people properly.´...
Occasionally, he smiles ruefully, when their mother wasn’t around, he’d also let the older boys watch the belly-dancers with him. Until a few months ago, it seemed that this considered, East-meets-West upbringing had achieved spectacular results.
Now he tortures himself with thoughts that he might have failed his jihadist sons in some way..."
Nasser´s father´s anguish is palpable. He sought relief by subsequently declaring he would not welcome Nasser home and by denying that the man in the video is Nasser. To each his own absolutes.
Did Nasser´s father find answers? Or non-answers? A stunning example of the latter immediately follows.
2. Frenchman Maxime Hauchard, 22, is the fifth man to Jihadi John´s left. His socio-economic background is middle class.
Hauchard´s uncle said that "he was aware that his nephew had travelled to Syria but was puzzled as to his motives. ´I don’t get this. My nephew would never chop off a head, it’s not possible. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.´” In the same vein, neighbors described Hauchard´s behavior as "having nothing extremist about it. He was friendly and completely normal."
The mayor summed up: "He was never rebellious." Is the town a ghetto crammed with alienated youth? Au contraire. The mayor answered there is "basketball, karate, judo, danse...We even refurbished the skate park!" What more could anybody possibly ask for -- a refurbished skate park?
Our regular readers have seen all that before. The ISIS terrorist Hauchard was "completely normal" -- all too normal, we add. A hallmark of the middle class rebel is that he is, in certain stages of his development, extremely normal. It sounds counter-intuitive but the extremism with which the rebel embraces the normal, the banal, the non-extreme, identifies him as a rebel. The Source of Terrorism (p. 213): "the middle class rebels by conforming, i.e., conformism in extremis shows that class has overshot the mark..." In his non-rebellion -- often, anti-rebellion -- phases, all the dynamics that characterize rebellion as we commonly know it are present, albeit latently. Only the manifestations vary.
Never rebellious. Those two words sum up Maxime Hauchard and thousands like him. Since all parents want their children to be good little boys and girls -- the more so, the better -- , the rebel within does not merely go unrecognized; it is actively cultivated. Which is to say: Mom and Dad had a problem long before they had children.
Actively cultivated -- how? One extreme always testifies to the presence of its opposite. The latter is usually in a latent condition. It is that presence which makes the first extreme an extreme in the first place.
I will sum up this discussion this way:
Beware the good child -- the polite and well-mannered kid, the altar boy, the youngest-ever Eagle Scout, the engineering student, the exemplary marine, the accomplished pianist, the officious bank teller and bill collector. He, not the teenager caught drinking beer or smoking a joint, is the one who climbs up into the tower at the University of Texas and shoots 48 people.
* * *
We come to our third Western executioner: Jihadi John.****
Our post of October 16, 2014, "The ISIS Crisis. Abraham Lincoln´s Solution," documented Keystone Cops stumble-bumming by U.S. and English intelligence agencies in their pr handling of Jihadi John.
Armed with multi-million-dollar voice and vein recognition programs, the agencies were set to rip off his mask, according to England´s ambassador to the U.S. in an interview on August 24. Instead, a month of silence ensued. On September 25 the FBI announced they knew who Jihadi John was but were keeping his identity secret.
Hypothesis: The FBI is telling the truth. End of story. Or is it? Our third and final post in this series will look into this option. It is far more disturbing than the one that follows...
Null hypothesis: The FBI is not telling the truth. In fact, American and English intelligence agencies are no closer to identifying Jihadi John than on August 19, 2014, the day he appeared in an ISIS video alongside James Foley. All the mega-bucks hardware and mega-bucks software and whiz-bang vehicles floating around in outer space irredeemably failed.
All of which leaves us here. In claiming they know who Jihadi John is, is the FBI running a scam? Bluffing? Lying?
Let´s look closer at the null hypothesis. Why is it in any way credible?
First, as for any FBI definitive ID of Jihadi John, here are FBi Director James Comey´s exact words: "I believe that we have identified him, I’m not going to tell you who I believe it is."
I believe is not the same as I know. Comey´s words appear to be firm, committed, but look again -- they are not. They contain an exit.
Lawyers often refer to The Fudge Factor. It is testimony so designed as to allow the speaker to change his story if developments prove it wrong. Government officials have another term for the same phenomenon: Weasel Words. Frequently-heard synonyms: CYA and Wiggle Room.
Illustration: "I believe I have a cure for AIDS." -- the speaker gets worldwide attention; book offers pour in; medals and awards abound -- Bill Gates gives him a house, George Clooney a car; he goes on tour, appears on talk shows, charges $200,000 per lecture; a movie script has been green-lighted; the Nobel prize committee is ecstatic.
Eventually, when scientists armed with evidence and reporters catch up with him and confront him in the street, he smiles, shrugs: "I never said I had a cure for AIDS. My belief turned out to be mistaken. Sorry." He then proceeds to where he was going: the bank.
We come to the second reason for doubting the FBI knows Jihadi John´s identity.
We were informed that drones pinpointed Jihadi John. So, why not kill or capture him? Well...oh...ah...too risky. ISIS defenses in the area are "too strong." You mean the entire anti-ISIS coalition doesn´t have enough power to overcome those defenses?
The whole silly cop-out scenario evinces the childish mentality pervading the CIA, Pentagon and FBI. I could do it if I really wanted to; I just don´t want to. If you believe that line, run it by the neighborhood 12-year-old; he or she will be happy to set you straight. Ditto the James Comey elementary school sing-song, I´ve got a secret.
Third and finally, with the unveiling by ISIS of its executioner recruits, there is absolutely no strategic reason for American and British intelligence agencies to keep secret a single second longer Jihadi John´s identity.
But wouldn´t a public identification tip off his accomplices in England, who would escape?
If the FBI really knew who Jihadi John was, they would have searched his home in England, seized his computer, questioned his relatives and neighbors, and engaged in other activities that would have alerted his fellow terrorists. They would be long gone by now. Our next post will develop this point.
Obviously, those search and seize activities did not take place, which is why, if the FBI has a secret, so does Jihadi John.
Here it is:
He knows the FBI has not identified him. That is why he continues to wear his mask.
There is a one way and one way only out of Washington´s childish, Jihadi John imbroglio:
Call the FBI´s bluff.
We challenge a British newspaper and journalism class to form a pool and pick up where Peter Kassig left off; to get the scoop of the year, maybe of the decade; to build their careers; to make history; to do what the American and British governments failed to do: identify Jihadi John.
A preliminary warning: be prepared to be astonished at how quick and easy identifying Jihadi John is. Such was certainly the case with the Boston Marathon attackers.
Two possibilities are plausible:
1. Jihadi John is a middle class rebel.
Working a few hours a day, the newspaper staff and students would employ the Terrorist Identification Procedure we presented in our post of April 29, 2013 on the Boston terrorist attack by the Tsarnaev brothers:
"1. Take out a telephone book.
2. Open it to universities and colleges.
3. Call their engineering schools.
4. Acquire lists of their present and past students and professors.
Before continuing: why engineering schools?
Mark Sageman, formerly a C.I.A. psychiatrist, concluded from his first-hand study of terrorists: ´Very often these persons have already chosen such unambiguous technical fields as engineering, architecture, computer science, or medicine. Students of the humanities and social sciences were few and far between in my sample.´ (Marc Sageman, Understanding Terrorist Networks, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2004, p. 116. Cited in The Source of Terrorism, p. 295). For the record, Dr. Sageman also concluded that terrorists were ´generally middle-class, educated young men.´ (Op.cit., p. 96.)
5. Tamerlan [Tzarnaev] was a former engineering student. Dkhokhar [Tzarnaev] was a marine biology student. In this case, the FBI had photos of the suspects. The fact the FBI released the photos to the media showed it had zero leads regarding who the suspects were and hoped the general public would help. Tragically, the publication of the photos tipped off the brothers that the noose was tightening; their spree of violence ensued.
The FBI should have withheld the photos and showed them only to engineering school personnel. They would have identified and located the Tsarnaevs within hours.
6. If engineering schools do not provide leads, proceed to other hard science faculties, e.g., medicine, computer science and architecture, thereafter to all other faculties associated with middle class professions.
7. If universities and colleges provide no leads, shake the tree. Open the phone book again. Bring in all middle class professionals, e.g., engineers, lawyers, doctors and accountants, for interrogation. Somebody will know something.
Clearly, unlike a government, a newspaper staff and journalism class cannot perform the round-up described in step 7. However, if Jihadi John is a middle class rebel, there is a major likelihood he would be identified long before a round-up is needed. Make that within hours if Jihadi John was an engineering student/teacher.
2. Jihadi John is not a middle class rebel but a member of the lumpenproletariat -- panhandlers and pimps, drug dealers and muggers, street gang members, loan sharks and card sharks, welfare cheats. **** In that case, Jihadi John may be even more quickly identified:
I lived in London near the Marble Arch, around the corner from Edgware Road, the Arab sector. A few days of interviews with bartenders and waiters and newspaper vendors will turn up more leads than you can shake a stick at.
I suspect Jihadi John is more likely a middle class rebel than a lumpen. In either case, newspaper staffers and journalism students, only one question remains:
What are you waiting for?
Be your own role model.
Smash Jihadi John´s mirror.
December 9 Update. The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report today on torture by the CIA of terrorist prisoners.
Based on 5 years of research of, among other things, millions of pages of documents, the report buttresses key conclusions made in the above post. CNN highlights:
"´The use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information,´ according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report.
The report debunks the top 20 examples CIA has used to defend the now-shuttered enhanced interrogation program, claiming that each of the examples ´was found to be wrong in fundamental respects.´
Additionally, false confessions obtained by enhanced interrogation techniques from detainees led the CIA to pursue dead leads that did not help in the fight against al-Qaeda."
Instead of maturely evaluating the results and discarding torture as a technique, the CIA immaturely lied about the results:
"The Senate report also concludes that the CIA ´provided extensive amounts of inaccurate and incomplete information to the White House and top national security staff.´ The DOJ legal memo that justifies the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, according to the report, is based on evidence the report says is false."
It is a basic position of this blog that when it comes to terrorism, the CIA has no idea what it is doing. It is an amateur hour in search of a Ted Mack. You disagree? The report continues:
"Junior officers were tasked with oversight of detention facilities and untrained CIA officers interrogated detainees unsupervised.
At the CIA detention facility referred to as COBALT in the report, a ´junior officer on his first overseas assignment with no previous experience or training in handling prisoners´ was placed in charge. During his tenure, a detainee died of suspected hypothermia in 2002."
Price paid by the taxpayers for CIA stumble-bumming? Try this for starters:
"Two psychologists who helped develop the CIA's enhanced interrogation procedures founded a company in 2005 to help run the CIA's interrogations program.
Between 2005 and 2009, the company pulled about $81 million from the government."
$81 million? On top of all the deceit and brutality and denial and back-filling and national shame and cover-ups and war crimes -- all of it needless -- you will be reading about in the coming weeks and years, you can add this: the CIA doesn´t know how to cut a deal.
*Our post of October 6, 2014, "The ISIS Crisis: The Abraham Lincoln Solution," disclosed the strategy behind that type of mise en scène:
"Hanna Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism discussed how totalitarian movements like ISIS don´t stand a chance of taking power unless the general public is first convinced that its rulers are fools, tools, and, worst of all, hypocrites. ISIS´ trademark of extreme violence is both cause and effect of that convincing process.
Here is how Arendt connected the dots (note: given her context, I would qualify her term bourgeoisie with Occidental):
´Since the bourgeoisie claimed to be the guardian of Western traditions and confounded all moral issues by parading publicly virtues which it not only did not possess in private and business life, but actually held in contempt, it seemed revolutionary to admit cruelty, disregard of human values, and general amorality, because this at least destroyed the duplicity upon which the existing society seemed to rest. What a temptation to flaunt extreme attitudes in the hypocritical twilight of double moral standards, to wear publicly the mask of cruelty if everybody was patently inconsiderate and pretended to be gentle, to parade wickedness in a world, not of wickedness, but of meanness!´ (p. 335)
The unseen agent in Arendt´s analysis: the middle class rebel. He is the one who combats ruling class duplicity by flaunting extremist attitudes; it is one of his defining characteristics. And, he is in charge of ISIS."
**"´Vivre et mourir devant un miroir´, telle était, selon Baudelaire, la devise du dandy. Elle est cohérente, en effet. Le dandy est par fonction un oppositionnel. Il ne se maintient que dans le défi. La créature, jusque-là, recevait sa cohérence du créateur. À partir du moment où elle consacre sa rupture avec lui, la voilà livrée aux instants, aux jours qui passent, à la sensibilité dispersée. Il faut donc qu'elle se reprenne en mains. Le dandy se rassemble, se forge une unité, par la force même du refus. Dissipé en tant que personne privée de règle, il sera cohérent en tant que personnage. Mais un personnage suppose un public ; le dandy ne peut se poser qu'en s'opposant. Il ne peut s'assurer de son existence qu'en la retrouvant dans le visage des autres. Les autres sont le miroir. Miroir vite obscurci, il est vrai, car la capacité d'attention de l'homme est limitée. Elle doit être réveillée sans cesse, éperonnée par la provocation. Le dandy est donc forcé d'étonner toujours. Sa vocation est dans la singularité, son perfectionnement dans la surenchère. Toujours en rupture, en marge, il force les autres à le créer lui-même, en niant leurs valeurs. Il joue sa vie, faute de pouvoir la vivre. Il la joue jusqu'à la mort, sauf aux instants où il est seul et sans miroir. Etre seul pour le dandy revient à n'être rien." Albert Camus, L’HOMME RÉVOLTÉ, 1951, pp. 59-60.
***Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger, Routledge, London, England, 1996, p. 97.
****French authorities claim a second French citizen was among the executioners. The son of Portuguese immigrants, Mickael Dos Santos is from a working class background. However, serious doubt has emerged about the presence of Dos Santos among the executioners; hence, we do not include him.
*****ISIS is only the latest in a long series of toxic amalgamations of middle class rebels and lumpenproletariats. (For specific examples of ISIS lumpens, click here.)
The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion (p. 272):
"The combination of middle class rebels with lumpenproletariat elements can have consequences as spectacular as they are lethal. According to investigators, the attacks in Madrid in March 2004, were the work of a ´collaboration of educated, middle-class and ideologically radical Muslims with drug dealers and petty criminals.´ Elaine Sciolino, ´More Madrid suspects at large,´ International Herald Tribune, April 12, 2004. Two other notable cases: (i) the Symbionese Liberation Army whose members in 1974, kidnapped the heiress Patti Hearst; (ii) the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany. Andreas Baader was a high school dropout and petty criminal. Ulrike Meinhof was the daughter of a prominent art historian.
The relationships between middle class rebels and petty criminals that generate hyper-violence have never been adequately portrayed, much less analysed; Dostoevsky’s The Possessed comes the closest. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood explores how, acting together, two petty criminals were capable of committing a heinous crime that neither could have committed alone."