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O Florida, Florida!

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — with application to paras from JM Berger & WIll McCants ]
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Two from Florida, both yesterday!

Really!

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The kid who converts from Neo-Nazi to Islam and then kills his disrespectful roomies makes for a brilliant & provocative case study, becaause it so confounds our usual expectations.

Consider. We are used to the idea of otherwise unexceptional people joining extremist groups, religious or political — we term the process “radicalization”. And under the banner of “countering violent extremism” we encourage people to leave violent extremist groups and fade back into the normal fabric of society — some become anti-extremist messengers, Kerry Noble and Maajid Nawaz being well known examples. And both coming and going, there’s the little matter of messaging — messaging for radicaliziation, messaging for deradicalization.

But converting from a far-right political ideology to militant Islam? What kind of process us that, and what kind of messaging is involved, or called for?

I want to focus in on this poor dumb kid Devon Arthurs because he offers an almost too-good-to-be-true instance of two significant ideas from two of our finest analysts.

**

Let’s take Will McCants first.

McCants’ point is that every jihadist (and every extremist, by extension) is subject to a wide mix of drives, some more potent than others, but none of which should be viewed as the exclusive “explanation” for radicalization. As he writes in a gobbit that is now pinned to the top of his twitter-feed:

The disappoint stems from the desire to attribute the jihadist phenomenon to a single cause rather than to several causes that work in tandem to produce it. To my mind, the most salient are these: a religious heritage that lauds fighting abroad to establish states and to protect one’s fellow Muslims; ultraconservative religious ideas and networks exploited by militant recruiters; peer pressure (if you know someone involved, you’re more likely to get involved); fear of religious persecution; poor governance (not type of government); youth unemployment or underemployment in large cities; and civil war. All of these factors are more at play in the Arab world now than at any other time in recent memory, which is fueling a jihadist resurgence around the world.

If anyone elevates one of those factors above the others to diagnose the problem, you can be certain the resulting prescription will not work. It may even backfire, leading to more jihadist recruitment, not less.

That’s the general case: but you could hardly have a better instance of how sui generis the process is than our case of the young Neo-Nazi turned Muslim.

**

Things get even more interesting, however, when we see how this case fits with a point JM Berger has been at pains to meke recently. In Extremist Construction of Identity: How Escalating Demands for Legitimacy Shape and Define In-Group and Out-Group Dynamics, JM expresses his growing sense that extremism should be studied as a category unto itself — that we should not limit our studies to such brands as “Islamic extremism” or “Right Wing extremism”. He writes:

More broadly, this paper is a first step in developing and testing the hypothesis that extremist group radicalisation represents an identifiable process that can be understood as distinct from the contents of a movement’s ideology. That is not to say that the content of an ideology is meaningless or unimportant. Rather, this research seeks to explore whether universal processes of radicalisation provide a more useful window into why identity-based extremist movements form in the first place and how they evolve toward violence.

In the case of Devon Arthurs we have someone who doesn’t only espouse one extremism, but two, in rapid succession. And thus it is plausible to say that it is not Nazism, nor violent extremist Islam, that attracts him, but extremism as such.

Thinking through our ideas about narratives in radicalization and derad with Arthurs as our instance, raises all sorts of questions: what messaging if any do the Neo-Nazis and Jihadists have in common? What message allows someone to slip from one camp in to the other? And what messaging would be an effectove counterbalance not to one ideology or the other, but to the general propensity for extremism?

All in all, this kid makes for a fabulous case study in the ease with which our assumptions can deceive us.

**

Sources:

  • CBS News, Cops: Florida man kills neo-Nazi roommates over Islam disrespect
  • RawStory, FBI busts ‘Atomwaffen’ Neo-Nazi in Florida for making explosives
  • OODA, Ouroboros — and Trump

    Sunday, May 21st, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — first of three relatively minor posts while awaiting Trump’s Saudi speech re Islam ]
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    First off, the Boyd OODA loop — shown in the lower panel below in one of Michael Wilson‘s variant versions from Graeco-Roman Egypt — is an Ouroboros, shown in the upper panel in a version from Toward an Ontology of Integrated Intelligence & Conflict.

    **

    Then, the loop is getting so tight here, it’s almost a tautology:

    “If Donald Trump gets impeached, he will have one person to blame: Donald Trump,” one of those administration officials said.

    That’s from The Daily Beast, Trump Officials: ‘He Looks More and More Like a Complete Moron’

    One hardy perennial ouroboric comment about President Trump is that he has shot himself in the foot [ eg: 1, 2, 3 ] — even when he thinks abpout shooting someone else on Fifth Avenue:

    Venn diagram, Trumpian firings

    Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — Sally Yates, Preet Bharara, James Comey ]
    .

    I like it when other people do my work for me.

    This diagram is a splendid double (ppl imvestigating Trump; ppl Trump has fired) and triple (Sally Yates; Preet Bharara; James Comey) bead game, a Venn diagram with perfect and complete overlap. Bravo.

    Trump bites the hand that investigates him

    Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — as i tweeted, if you fire the guy who’s investigating you, that’s ouroboric – it creates & instantly breaks the circle, too ]
    .

    Okay, the Comey firing.

    Shortly after President Trump‘s firing of FBI Director Comey today, Jim Hanson of Frank Gaffney‘s Center for Security Policy commented on Fox:

    You know, this may be the first bipartisan thing Trump has done that both sides can get behind.

    It was an extraordinary comment. That’s not how the Wall Street Journal saw things. Their headline and sub-head read:

    Comey Dismissal Upends Probes of Trump Campaign Ties to Russia
    Move adds impetus to calls for a special counsel to handle the case

    Quite the opposite: I’ll show you nonpartisan:

    Nonpartisan, right now, means disturbed by the firing, by its timing, by its implication for ongoing investigation into Team Trump’s ties with Russia..

    And as John Schindler notes:

    The optics of firing the FBI director investigating your Russia ties then meeting the Russian FM on THE VERY NEXT DAY defy easy description.

    Or Blogs of War:

    When you fire the guy who is investigating you on Tuesday and meet with your case officer on Wednesday..

    Ahem: case officer..

    **

    From my analytic point of view, alert for pattern and archetype, what leaps out here is another damned ouroboros — this whole place is getting to be quite a snake-pit.

    Trump has in fact bitten off the hand that was investigating him. Or to put that into Politico’s prose:

    The extraordinary dismissal of the FBI director by a president whose own campaign is the focus of an ongoing FBI investigation is sure to produce a torrent of criticism that Trump is interfering with the independence of law enforcement.

    There’s even a sub-ouroboros, given that Trump cited a letter from AG Sessions as contributing to his decision — as Sen. Schumer noted in his press conference:

    Attorney General Sessions, who had recused himself from the Russian investigation, played a role in firing the man leading it.

    Maybe we could call that “recusal of the recusal”?

    Counter-messaging by violin, cello and cigarette

    Sunday, May 7th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — long a chain smoker, painful on the ear when he attempted the violin, never tried the cello ]
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    No, I don’t smoke any more, haven’t for more than a decade. But I still think of cigarettes as potential sacraments, as when a soldier in the trenches at the Somme passes one to his dying mate.. sacramentals, to be precise. So I can take pleasure in this conjunction of violin and cigarette in defiance of the Islamic State:

    and:

    **

    The potential for grace is more easily seen in music than in smoking, to be sure — Ameen Mokdad with his violin in Mosul surely found it, as did Karim Wasfi with his cello in Baghdad. In these times in which the President scatters bombs around the place with one hand while planning to cut funding to the National Endowment for the Arts with the other, you might like to visit the Facebook page of Karim Wasfi Center For Creativity – Peace Through Arts, or listen to one or more of these videos..

    Karim Wasfi — Interviewed by NPR’s Renne Montagne:

    Iraqi cellist Karim Wasfi plays music on bomb explosion site:

    Karim Wasfi, cello sonata and lecture at Geneva Centre for Security Policy during Geneva Peace Week 2016:

    Iraqi Violinist Ameen Mokdad Plays Concert In Defiance Of ISIS | NBC News:

    Ameen Mokdad, Viaggio:

    **

    Music as sacrament is nicely illustrated by John Eliot Gardiner‘s quoting Bach immediately after Sara Mingardo sings O selger Tag! in the DVD of Bach Cantata BWV 63, “Christen, ätzet diesen Tag”:

    Wherever there’s devotional music, God with his grace is present.

    Recitatives — O selger Tag! is an example — are by definition “musical declamation of the kind usual in the narrative and dialogue parts of opera and oratorio, sung in the rhythm of ordinary speech with many words on the same note”. Arias are the stellar “diva” vocal parts for solo, duet etc, and recitatives the mere handmaidens that carry us from one aria or chorus via narrative to another. How extraordinary, then, the devotion Sara Mingardo‘s musicianship manages to pour into this recitative as performed in rehearsal above!


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