Authorities say that the two brothers who allegedly bombed the Boston Marathon were probably “self-radicalized.”
The media have embraced this catchy term, partly because of the assurance it seems to offer: Don’t worry, folks — Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev weren’t recruited and deployed by al Qaeda or any other terrorist group; they hatched their own plot with no tactical help from abroad.
That might well be true, but little comfort can be taken from it.
Some of the most notorious acts of political violence in our history were carried out by pissed-off loners or impromptu zealots who belonged to no organized cabal.
By modern definition, Lee Harvey Oswald was self-radicalized. So was Sirhan Sirhan. Ditto for hermit Ted Kaczyinski, the Unabomber.
And who was more self-radicalized than Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the creeps who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995?
Everyone who sets out to create blood-soaked headlines finds a way to rationalize it. Murder in the name of God, Allah or patriotism is the oldest excuse in the book.
Once caught, the killers seldom admit they did it just for a sick thrill. OK, I’m a loser and my life is crap, so I decided to do something really outrageous.
Self-radicalized terrorists can be scarier than organized cells, because the cells are easier to track and their agendas are less opaque. They wave their hatred like a flag.
In Boston, the older Tsarnaev brother and apparent mastermind of the bombings was loving life until three years ago. According to interviews with friends and family, Tamerlan’s dream had been to become a professional boxer and earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
He wore flamboyant white fur and snakeskins, and trash-talked his opponents in the ring. He was a good fighter, too, twice the Golden Gloves champ of New England.
Then the rules changed. Tamerlan wasn’t allowed to box in the Tournament of Champions because of his immigration status — he was a legal permanent resident, not a full U.S. citizen.
Disappointed, he quit boxing. He didn’t work a regular job. His wife, a healthcare aide, paid the family’s rent. The Tsarnaevs also received food stamps and welfare payments.
Tamerlan tried community college but soon dropped out. He grew a beard and became increasingly interested in Islam, the religion of his Chechen and Dagestani heritage.
Last year he went back to Dagestan for six months without his wife and daughter, a trip being scrutinized by the FBI and Russian authorities. So far, though, Tamerlan hasn’t been connected to any terror group that has targeted America.
His path to Boylston Street, as presented in law enforcement’s scenario, is at once amateurish and harrowing: Older brother returns to the States and enlists his impressionable younger brother, a pot-smoking college student with good grades, plenty of friends and no known hostility against this country.
Together, the two of them assemble bombs from an Internet recipe using kitchen pressure cookers, fireworks, nails, ball bearings and remote control mechanisms from toy racecars. Then they go to the marathon, place the devices in the crowd and stupidly hang around to watch the detonations.
A professional operation it was not. The brothers had no idea there were video cameras all over the place. No disguises, no getaway plan, no fake passports, no money, no plane tickets, no car (Dzhokhar’s was in a repair shop).
This, we are told, is the new face of terror. Spontaneous and rudimentary.
A disgruntled young athlete, his career stymied, violently attacks the country that he’d once hoped to represent in the Olympics. Maybe Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been “self-radicalized” into an Islamic fanatic.
Or maybe he was just furious because a lack of U.S. citizenship papers had kept him out of the biggest boxing match of his life. Maybe it was that simple.
Tamerlan is dead, and Dzhokhar might or might not reveal the motive for the bombing. Clearly, though, it wasn’t the act of two crazy persons.
Cold and twisted? Obviously. But not crazy.
Even more sobering is the ease with which the brothers put their plan in motion. These days, anybody with a laptop and a grudge can arrange a massacre on a shoestring budget.
You don’t need fake IDs. You don’t need special training. You don’t even need to be very smart.
All you need is the one dark impulse.
By: Carl Hiaasen, The National Memo. May 7, 2013
“Substituting Identity For Motivation”: How To Understand Things When You Don’t Want To Think Too Much
Let’s be honest and admit that everyone had a hope about who the Boston bomber would out to be. Conservatives hoped it would be some swarthy Middle Easterner, which would validate their belief that the existential threat from Islam is ongoing and that their preferred policies are the best way to deal with that threat. Liberals hoped it would be a Timothy McVeigh-like character, some radical right-winger or white supremacist, which would perhaps make us all think more broadly about terrorism and what the threats really are. The truth turned out to be … well, we don’t really know yet. Assuming these two brothers are indeed the bombers, they’re literally Caucasian, but they’re also Muslim. Most importantly, as of yet we know absolutely nothing about what motivated them. Nothing. Keep that in mind.
But for many people, their motivations are of no concern; all that matters is their identity. The sentiment coming from a lot of people on the right today runs to, “See! See! Mooslems!!!” Some of them are using the suspects’ identity as a reason why we shouldn’t pass immigration reform, and the increasingly unhinged Glenn Beck is insisting even today that the government is protecting a Saudi man who was involved in the bombing, I guess because the Obama administration is in league with Al Qaeda or something. Whether this has anything to do with the receiver the CIA implanted in Beck’s brain to exert its mind control over him through satellite transmissions could not be confirmed.
We should note that there are people on the right being restrained and responsible; not everyone is like the repellent Pamela Geller, already referring to the “Boston Jihad Bomber” (and no, I’m not going to link to her oozing pustule of a web site). But here is an editorial from the upcoming issue of the Weekly Standard titled “Civilization and Barbarism,” in which William Kristol labors to remind his readers that in the world there is us, the civilized folk, and our enemies, the barbarians. He casts a wide net (barbarism can apparently be found not only in terrorist attacks but also in Roe v. Wade), but it’s a plea to simplify your thinking, to make sure that in matters of foreign or domestic policy the only question is who is Us and who is Them. Once you’ve established that and you know that Them aren’t human at all but just barbarians, all the solutions become clear. The foreign barbarians must simply be crushed, in the most violent way possible (though it will not be Bill Kristol or his children with their lives at risk; they have people for that). As for the domestic barbarians who reside in the opposite party, well, we don’t want to kill them, but you certainly wouldn’t compromise with a barbarian, would you?
To this way of thinking, when you’re dealing with barbarians, understanding their motivations just muddies your thinking and saps your will. Identity is all that matters. Maybe that’s because it can be so hard to understand other people’s motivations. For instance, I get how someone could become enraged over the death and suffering that have been the collateral consequences of all America’s various foreign adventures. But I can’t understand how a person could decide that blowing up a bunch of innocent people could possibly be a morally defensible or even practically effective response. Does the attacker in these kinds of cases say to themselves, “This is really going to make a difference”? It’s hard to get inside their head in a way that makes any sense.
So it’s easier to say, “They did it because that’s just how those people are.” It’s an answer that means you don’t have to ask any more questions.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 19, 2013
For a number of years, Patrick J. Buchanan was considered “The Man” in the conservative movement; he took a back seat to no one. He ran for the GOP’s presidential nomination and attracted a large following; he hosted and appeared on several cable news shows, including being one of the original co-hosts of CNN’s “Crossfire”; his books have been bestsellers; and, perhaps most famously of all, Buchanan’s “Culture War Speech” at the 1992 Republican Party convention both enthralled his followers and chilled a good part of the rest of the nation.
In a recent column about the events in Norway, after a perfunctory condemnation of the bombing and murder spree unleashed by Anders Behring Breivik, Buchanan was classic Buchanan suggesting that, “Breivik may be right.”
Over the years, as Jamison Foser recently pointed out at Media Matters for America, Buchanan has expressed an, “almost unbelievable dislike of Nelson Mandela and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.”; took up the cause of John Demjanuk, who was”convicted earlier this year of complicity in the murder of tens of thousands of Jews while serving at a Nazi death camp”; defended the white supremacists beliefs of Nixon’s Supreme Court nominee, Harold Carswell; and,”praised Klansman David Duke for his staunch opposition to ‘discrimination against white folks.’”
In a June column posted at CNSNews.com, titled “Say Goodbye to Los Angeles”, Buchanan commented on the June soccer match at Pasadena’s storied Rose Bowl that saw the Mexican team beat the U.S. He wrote that fans rooting for Mexico should consider returning there and they should”let someone take his place who wants to become an American.”
Buchanan pointed out that “By 2050, according to Census figures, thanks to illegals crossing over and legalized mass immigration, the number of Hispanics in the U.S.A. will rise from today’s 50 million to 135 million.” Never one to miss an opportunity to be excessively dramatic/hyperbolic, Buchanan concluded: “Say goodbye to Los Angeles. Say goodbye to California.”
When Pat Buchanan spoke, many may have turned their heads, but his core audience, anti-immigrant, white nationalists perked up and listened, and later echoed his remarks.
Despite the reams of “culture war” commentary, including anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rage, for some inexplicable reason, the Washington Beltway crowd has always considered him”a good old boy.”
“A cutting edge figure among a significant sector of extreme paleoconservatives”
“Although Buchanan doesn’t have the influence he did in the 1990s when he commanded a following inside the Republican Party, he remains an influential, even cutting edge figure among a significant sector of extreme paleoconservatives,” Leonard Zeskind, president of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights told me in a telephone interview.
“His ideas may not be adopted outright, but they find their way into the mouths of others, that do have a following,” Zeskind, author of the invaluable Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, added. “Think of him as a cutting edge figure, with a following on television news and an influence on others who have larger followings,” said Zeskind.
Buchanan Hearts Breivik
Buchanan’s column about Breivik may in part be an attempt to grasp renewed relevance. The piece, “A fire bell in the night for Norway,”which was posted at WorldNetDaily, maintained that Breivik is an, ” evil … though deluded man of some intelligence, who in his 1,500-page manifesto reveals a knowledge reveals a knowledge of the history, culture and politics of Europe.” Breivik, perhaps unknown to Buchanan, also revealed an ability to purloin a chunk of the manifesto from other published sources and claim them as his own.
“He admits to his ‘atrocious’ but ‘necessary’ crimes, done, he says, to bring attention to his ideas and advance his cause: a Crusader’s war between the real Europe and the ‘cultural Marxists’ and Muslims they invited in to alter the ethnic character and swamp the culture of the Old Continent,” Buchanan maintained.
Now that the “atrocious” deed has been done, Buchanan is, as many other conservatives have been doing, attempting to disassociate Breivik from the conservative movement in the United States and Europe: “His writings are now being mined for references to U.S. conservative critics of multiculturalism and open borders. Purpose: Demonize the American right, just as the berserker’s attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson was used to smear Sarah Palin and Timothy McVeigh’s Oklahoma City bombing was used to savage Rush Limbaugh and conservative critics of Big Government.”
But, Buchanan wrote, the left will not get away with “guilt by association,” a methodology Buchanan charged, “has been used by the left since it sought to tie the assassination of JFK by a Marxist from the Fair Play for Cuba Committee to the political conservatism of the city of Dallas.”
While Buchanan admitted that there are, “violent actors or neo-Nazis on the European right who bear watching,” he declared that “native-born and homegrown terrorism is not the macro-threat to the continent.”
According to Buchanan,”Europe’s left will encounter difficulty in equating criticism of multiculturalism with neo-Nazism. For Angela Merkel of Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and David Cameron of Britain have all declared multiculturalism a failure. From votes in Switzerland to polls across the continent, Europeans want an end to the wearing of burqas and the building of prayer towers in mosques.”
Buchanan concluded by pointing out that “Breivik may be right,” in asserting that “a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries,” is coming down the pike.
Buchananism “will live long after [he] has departed this mortal coil’.
“Buchanan’s brand of Christian nationalist xenophobia has been picked up by others, guaranteeing it will live on long after Buchanan has departed this mortal coil,” Rob Boston, Senior Policy Analyst at Americans United, told me in an email. “That’s his true legacy. … The trail he blazed is now well traveled by Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Dinesh D’Souza and a host of others.”
Boston noted that: “The Breivik shooting is a textbook example of what’s wrong with today’s cultural warriors of the far right. An angry and hate-filled man killed more than 70 people — many of them young — in cold blood. Yet so many on the right seem unable to condemn this without adding a ‘but.’ That we have come to this pass — and that so few public commentators have the guts to stand up and call the right out for the cranks that they are — is a telling indicator of the great moral confusion these so-called guardians of public virtue have spawned.”
Leonard Zeskind pointed out that while Buchanan is not the Buchanan of the past, he still has a following: “Even if he does not have three million votes behind him, he still has [many] people who listen to [him] everyday. At the same time, he has been eclipsed by the Tea Partiers, who embody, in part, his constituency of yesteryear.
The Tea Partiers are the Buchananites of the past, moving into the future.”
By: Bill Berkowitz, Talk To Action, AlterNet, August 5, 2011