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Unfortunate tweet sequence

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — keeping a wary eye on algorithms, with the sting in the three links at the end ]
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Here’s a tweet alerting readers to a newspaper piece on the Munich terror attack:

Here, entirely by chance, is the tweet that followed it as I scrolled down my feed:

That tweet, for what it’s worth, was promoted.

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I’m sure the people doing the promoting wouldn’t have chosen to have me read it immediately after reading the newspaper tweet just above it, but that’s the sort of things that happens when “thought” gets automated. It reminds me of the time I was researching al-Awlaki on the pro-jihadist site Revolution Muslim, and some algorithm suggested I’d like an add offering “bold Christian clothing”:

Awlaki-and-ad

No sale there, I’m afraid.

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It gets more serious, though:

  • 3 Quarks Daily, Algocracy: Outsourcing governance to Algorithms
  • WSJ, Google Mistakenly Tags Black People as ‘Gorillas,’ Showing Limits of Algorithms
  • ProPublica, How We Analyzed the COMPAS Recidivism Algorithm ProPublica
  • JJ MacNab on the Baton Rouge shooter

    Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — plus further readings on sovereign citizens & the Moorish Science Temple ]
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    JJ MacNab, author of The Seditionists: Inside the Explosive World of Anti-Government Extremism in America — note date of publication — has the basics on the quasi-religious sovereign citizen and Baton Rouge cop shooter, Gavin Long:

    Here’s the text of MacNab’s Tweet-storm, collapsed for easier reading:

    Yesterday, Louisiana law enforcement revealed that the Baton Rouge shooter, Gavin Long, had a Washitaw Nation card on him when he was killed. Judy Thomas of the Kansas City Star looked beyond the social media clues to find a Washitaw-related legal filing: Kansas City man identified as suspect in killings of three Baton Rouge police officers

    A sovereign citizen is someone who mixes fabricated history, out of context laws, and miscellaneous quotes to prove he’s above all laws. Those who have been watching the #BundyRanch standoff and the #oregonstandoff have seen this “magical thinking” in action.

    25+ years ago, this movement fell into the white supremacist / right-wing extremist categories. 20 years ago, the white supremacist side of the movement splintered off, leaving behind a right-wing extremist group. 15 years ago, a handful of left-wing extremist / black supremacist groups adopted many of the legal theories as their own.

    Today, the sovereign movement falls into 3 general categories: the right wing patriots, the left wing Moors, and the left wing anarchists. Since the left-wing anarchist sovereigns aren’t a significant threat at this point, I’ll leave them out of the rest of this thread.

    In 2015 Gavin Eugene Long aka Cosmo Setepenra filed a curious document with the Jackson County, Missouri recorder.

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    In this document, he corrected his “common law name” from Long to Setepenra.

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    Note that his given name GAVIN EUGENE LONG is in all capital letters while his “corrected” name Cosmo Ausar Setepenra, is mixed case. In sovereign-speak, he is attempting to separate his flesh-and-blood self (Cosmo) from his corporate fiction self (GAVIN.) In the document, Long claims to be a member of a fictional Native American tribe: the Washitaw Nation.

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    This group has a theory that, when the North American continent separated from the African Continent, humans were split between them. They consider the slave ship stories of the early colonies to be a myth. Therefore, he is descended from an indigenous people who were in the U.S. before it became a country and is not subject to any our laws.

    When gov agencies (police, IRS, courts) fail to recognize their faux indigenous status, they believe their inherent rights are violated. They simply lifted legal theories from the right-wing sovereigns – UCC codes, “reclamation,” admiralty law theories, “truth language.” The personalized those theories w/ a complex layer: Egyptian mythology and symbols, numerology, new age imagery, holistic healing, etc.

    To see some of these beliefs, poke around this website a bit: http://www.stewartsynopsis.com/washitaw.htm 

    Long left clues beyond filing his sovereign “reclamation” legal document and carrying a Washitaw Nation card (probably his ID card.) The number 7, for example, is sacred.

    5

    Gavin Long’s email address was TheCosmoWay7@gmail.com. The family name he chose for himself was Setepenra or Setep-en-ra (Chosen by Ra.) The shooter said that he used to be part of Nation of Islam. That is not inconsistent as there is some overlapping between movements.

    When you start looking into this movement, you will find hundreds of website, hundreds of Youtube videos, and thousands of online comments. It’s a complex sub-culture so no tidy category boxes. Moorish sovereign beliefs can be found in everything fr popular music 2 self-help vids. As w/ their “patriot” sover’n cousins, there’s a lot of grifting, property theft & domestic violence (females relatives & kids are property) And like the “patriots,” they resent authority figs who don’t respect their belief that they are above the law. This can be deadly to cops.

    The following is violence/plots list. As you scroll down (it’s 8 pages,) look for the “Moorish Sovereign” subset. http://www.seditionists.com/antigovviolence.pdf

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    I first became aware of the Moorish Temple via the brilliant and eccentric Peter Lamborn Wilson‘s Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam. Herbert Berg‘s Mythmaking in the African American Muslim Context: The Moorish Science Temple, the Nation of Islam, and the American Society of Muslims looks to be a serious paper on the topic, and you can find more at the Moorish page at the Hermetic Library — note that Hakim Bey is the pseudonym of Peter Lamborn Wilson. See also the Holy Koran of the Moorish Science Temple of America.

    The Shoehorn — two into one won’t go

    Monday, July 18th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — these things are multi-factorial, and can’t truthfully be shoehorned to fit two categories — “terrorist” or “deranged” — as realtors might say, it’s nuance, nuance, nuance ]
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    Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt have an interesting piece in the NYT today, titled In the Age of ISIS, Who’s a Terrorist, and Who’s Simply Deranged? It hinges on a comparison of two similar events in France, two years apart, in Dijon and Nice.

    Here, I’ve presented them as a DoubleQuote. The Dijon article (upper panel, below) comes from an NYT report dated December 23, 2014:

    Tablet DQ 600 Terrorist or Deranged

    The Nice report (lower panel, above) comes from Mazzetti and Schmitt’s piece today.

    **

    Mazzetti and Schmitt point out that shortly before the Dijon attack,

    In September 2014, the spokesman for the Islamic State put out a call for the group’s followers to attack Westerners by any means possible, and to do so without awaiting further instructions from the group’s leaders.

    “Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him,” the spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, said during a 42-minute recorded statement.

    The whole Mazzetti and Schmitt piece is worth your reading. Categorization, as they explain, is changing —

    “A lot of this stuff is at the fringes of what we would historically think of as terrorism,” said Daniel Benjamin, a former State Department coordinator for counterterrorism and a professor at Dartmouth College. But, he said, “the Islamic State and jihadism has become a kind of refuge for some unstable people who are at the end of their rope and decide they can redeem their screwed-up lives” by dying in the name of a cause.

    Mr. Benjamin said this also led the news media and government officials to treat violence like the Nice attack differently from other mass attacks, like shootings at schools and churches that have been carried out by non-Muslims.

    “If there is a mass killing and there is a Muslim involved, all of a sudden it is by definition terrorism,” he said

    — and this has impacts far beyond the horrific crimes themselves.

    For instance, here’s one conclusion with significant foreign policy implications:

    But terrorism experts caution that because the Islamic State seems to have broad appeal to the mentally unbalanced, the displaced and others on the fringes of society, there are limits to how much any military campaign in Syria and Iraq can reduce violence carried out in other countries on the group’s behalf.

    **

    As Will McCants puts it in a Time piece titled The Difference Between ISIS and ISIS-ish:

    The pattern is tragically familiar: a troubled youth with a criminal past attacks in the name of ISIS. Charlie Hebdo, Orlando, San Bernardino and perhaps now Nice. They are not ISIS, exactly, but ISISish men and women who have no organizational ties to ISIS but murder in its name.

    And Heraclitus:

    No man ever steps in the same river twice.

    Soundbites and hasty headlines don’t chew what they bite. Each case is its own case — sui generis. Classical philosophy used to posit four types of cause: formal and material, efficient and final. In terms of acts of sudden violence, we may want to consider a variety of contextual influences, subconscious drives (James Gilligan‘s work on violnce and shame is deeply relevant here), overt signalling by perps including claims of bayat, methods employed and their history in previous actions and inspoirational or technical literature, and post-action claims by known terrorist groups

    Life does not pretend to be simple. Convenience is no substitute for careful analysis.

    Meanwhile, back in Nice..

    Saturday, July 16th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — from blessed peace to brutal war ]
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    Yesterday:

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    Today:

    Or as they say on Twitter, #FridayFollow Rukmini Callimachi.

    Who am I? I am my motto!

    Saturday, June 25th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a curious similarity between the courtroom appearances of the Orlando and Jo Cox killers ]
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    The Orlando killer’s court appearance is featured in the upper panel below, the appearance of Jo Cox MP’s killer in the lower panel:

    I am my motto DQ

    Sources:

  • WSVN, Orlando shooter’s partial 911 transcript
  • Reuters, Jo Cox murder suspect says name
  • **

    It is generally true that one’s name stands for one’s entire identity — which in my own case would include my personalities as a father, friend, poet, blogger, game designer, analyst of apocalyptic, lover of the beloved. To give an ideological response — a motto — repeatedly, when asked one’s name would indicate an uncanny degree of single-mindedness, of focus, of purpose.

    Scott Atran‘s work, eg his paper, Devoted actors sacrifice for close comrades and sacred cause, would be of interest here:

    Studies across cultures suggest that the strongest forms of primary group identity are bounded by sacred values, often in the form of religious beliefs or transcendental ideologies, which leads some groups to prevail because of nonrational commitment from at least some of its members to actions that drive success independent — or all out of proportion — from expected rational outcomes. For such “devoted actors,” rightness of in-group cause often leads to intractable conflicts with out-groups that become immune to the give-and-take common to “business-like” negotiations.

    Thus, our interviews with United States officials familiar with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (now self-proclaimed “Caliph” of the Islamic State) and his close circle, including General Douglas Stone, who commanded Camp Bucca where they were held, suggests absolutely committed “purists,” completely devoted to their idea of Sharia and the Caliphate, and willing to do anything for it, to use violence to instill blood lust among their followers and terror among enemies, who were no match for them. Unconditional commitment to comrades, in conjunction with their sacred cause, may be what allows low-power groups to endure and often prevail against materially stronger foes: since World War II, revolutionary and insurgent groups (e.g., the Islamic State) have beaten armies with up to an order-of-magnitude more firepower and manpower because of devotion to comrade and cause rather than typical reward structures, like pay and promotion (e.g., Iraq’s army).

    All of which ties in with what I was saying four days ago in Firefights, breath, & meditation about “tightly focused” vs “wide-angled” awareness.


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