zenpundit.com » terrorism

Archive for the ‘terrorism’ Category

Zengi can be Zangi and Zinki, among others

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — besides horror at the beheading, there’s an analytic note that needs to be heard ]
.

abdullah issa 600
Abdullah Issa fighting, and wounded — soon to be savagely beheaded

The ferocity of the beheading has been blurred out in most versions of the video, though ZeroCensorship is still showing it, and YouTube has a version that stops short of the beheading but appears to record Abdullah’s final wish — to be shot, not slaughtered.

That devastating final wish goes way beyond Shakespeare‘s “to be or not to be, that is the question” — it may well be the most terrfying depiction of a choice made at death-point that I have ever heard.

**

I commented recently to a post by Ehsani2 titled The Boy Beheaded by Zinki Fighters, Abdullah Tayseer, Who Was He? on Dr. Joshus LandisSyria Comment blog, noting that the piece used the names Zanki and Zinki without commenting on the difference between them, and asking for clarification. I’d like to thank Dr Landis for a graciously email in response, and am happy to note today that my concern regarding the discrepant names used in the article is not without cause — as Kyle Orton just made clear in his own post on his Syrian Intifada blog, A Rebel Crime and Western Lessons in Syria:

One of the first complications with al-Zengi is the sheer variety of ways to transliterate the group’s name. Nooradeen can be Nooridin, Noorideen, and Noor/Nur al-Din/Deen; Zengi can be Zangi and Zinki, among others. Harakat means “movement,” though sometimes the organization is referred to as kataib (brigade) instead. Nooradeen refers to the twelfth-century Seljuk atabeg of the Zengid dynasty, whose life’s project was the reunification of the Islamic community.

No wonder I was confused.

**

My point, as so often, cuts against the grain of the conversation on Ehsani2’s post, which is largely about the horrible event itself and the group that performed it, one time support from the US included, and not the ways in which lack of languahger skills can cause confusion where clarity would be preferable — and that’s fair enough. My point, hiwever, is the linguistic one, and I think it’s important in a way that’s perhaps better suited to discussion here than on Dr Landis’ blog.

My plea is for analysts with special knowledge of places, groups or languages to bear in mind when writing, that there will be some in their interested audiences who may not share those specialities but are still worth reaching — and in particular that non-specialists, while inherently weak in local detail, may nevertheless contribute significant insights from outside linguistic or area-specialist silos, precisely by virtue of not being in the echo-chambers that such forms of specialism themselves tend to erect.

Zen has from the beginning of this blog stressed the mutual virtues of what he terms “horizontal” and “vertical” modes of knowledge — see his series:

  • Understanding Cognition: part I: Benefits of horizontal thinking
  • Understanding Cognition: part II: Benefits of vertical thinking to horizontal thinkers
  • Understanding Cognition: part III: Horizontal and vertical thinking and the origin of insight
  • I came to my own interest in that topic by being a primarily analogical and only secondarily linear thinker, by hearing Murray Gell-Mann at CalTech speak on the importance of generalist “bridge-makers” who perceive analogical links between otherwise unrelated disciplines, and by my twenty- to thirty-year effort to devised a playable form of the great analogical game loosely described in Hermann Hesse’s brillian (nobel-winning) novel, The Glass Bead Game.

    In prepping a proposal — as yet unfinished — for DARPA or IARPA last year, I formulate my basic message as a sort of motto, thus:

    Out of the box, out of the silo, out of the discipline, out of the agency, out of the explicit known into the “unknowing” — where the future takes shape…

    I could — and in the finished proposal will, God-willing — go far further on this topic, describing the ways in which complexity is far better modeled for us humans by analogical than by linear thinking, by cross-disciplinary than by silo’d thinking, by visual rather than verbal thinking, by human scale (7, plus or minus 2 datapoints) visualization than by big-data viz, and so forth. But let’s make it simple:

    Quirky thinking has a better chance at creative insight than routine thinking, individual contrarian passion than in-group agreement.

    Okay?

    **

    Thanks again to Dr Landis, and back to business..

    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 ]
    .

    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.

    **

    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.

    **

    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 ]
    .

    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.

    2

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

    3

    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.

    4

    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

    **

    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 ]
    .

    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 ]
    .

    Yesterday:

    **

    Today:

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


    Switch to our mobile site