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JM Berger’s latest, 2

Friday, April 21st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — rushing to keep up with the prolific JM ]
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JM Berger sets his latest work in context:

Extraordinary!

JM Berger’s latest, 1

Friday, April 21st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — JM’s sustained attack on Christian Identity and ISIS ]
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JM on his latest piece:

I’ve kept those first three tweets in Twitter form becaue they include graphics. JM’s series continues on twitter, but here I’m reformatting it as regular prose for ease of reading:

The paper is first in a series aiming to develop a framework to study extremism as a phenomenon crossing ideological boundaries.

The framework I’m presenting is derived from a grounded theory approach, using Christian Identity as a starting point. The paper traces how Christian Identity emerged from a non-extremist precursor, and what that says about identity and group radicalization. It also offers new (and probably controversial) definitions of extremism and radicalization, seeking to address a serious gap in consensus. Finally, it offers some ideas for counter-messaging and deradicalization derived from the framework.

The next in the series will apply the framework to ISIS propaganda with concrete notes on how the framework informs counter-messaging. I’m ultimately asking what ISIS has in common with Christian Identity, and what that tells us about each and both.

An important approach, IMO.

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JM Berger’s latest, 2 will present his accompanying overview of recent work in the field.

Muslim Abu Walid al Shishani, also Trump’s hair

Friday, April 7th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — also critique of jihadist fatwas — with hat-tips to Pundita & JM ]
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Pundita posted a photo today under the heading Al Qaeda celebrating Trump for bombing Syrian air base:

She got the image from the collection here:

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The image Pundita posted is of Muslim Abu Walid al Shishani, and those aren’t actual wigs, they’re photo-enhancements — here’s the original photo, from a research site “documenting the involvement of Russian-speaking foreign fighters in the Syrian conflict”:

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Reading that site’s material on Shishani, I came across these very interesting paragraphs, with their unadorned descritption of how young jihadists misuse jihadist scholars and their rulings. From Nohchicho’s Interview with Muslim Shishani:

Alhamdulillah, in Syria there are a lot of great scholars who have a sea of knowledge, and when you ask them a question of any difficulty, they explain it so beautifully and distinctly, giving ayats, hadith and the history of the Companions, that there is no doubt. But I also noticed that these scholars are very far removed from what is actually happening here. They don’t participate in the activities of the jamaats, even when they are part of them. They are not aware of the subtleties of the jamaats’ programs, they mainly deal with questions of nikah [marriage], divorce and such matters. The main issues of the jamaat get solved by the students of these scholars. [The scholars] get remembered only when a jamaat needs a fatwa to legitimize its questionable actions.

The situation gets presented like this: Sheikh, I’m in the desert, I didn’t eat a thing for many days. There are pigs not far from here, and if I don’t eat their meat, then I’m going to die. What should I do? And of course the Sheikh gives an affirmative answer. And then they ask that he announce it publicly so that others don’t reproach them, and then they start using this fatwa even when they just get hungry. And the whole problem is that the Sheikh isn’t up to speed with what is really going on.

Having gotten to know the scholars and the situation, I realized one thing: if you want to know the truth, then ask the scholars the scope of the Sharia in the particular case, where Allah’s pleasure is, and stick to it as far as possible within your situation. And a scholar’s fatwa basically depends on how you present your situation to him. It depends on your conscience.

When we ask Sharia questions to a fighter, military questions to politicians, and political questions to Sharia experts, we will always run into mistakes. But if we learn to ask questions to specialists in their relevant fields, and if these experts don’t get into issues outside their competence, then it’s going to be easier for us to reach the truth.

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I’d welcome any info about Muslim Abu Walid al Shishani’s affiliation — Junud al-Sham, if that still exists? AQ? ISIS? This is the first time I’ve run across him.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross in Foreign Affairs #2, more directly to his point

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — following up on Daveed Gartenstein-Ross in Foreign Affairs, my oblique analysis and more pertinent to the point he’s making ]
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Daveed is illustrating a pretty significant pattern with his latest article in Foreign Affairs, The Coming Islamic Culture War, subtitled What the Middle East’s Internet Boom Means for Gay Rights, and More:

These paragraphs:

Today, a new type of discursive space—one that will foster a very different set of ideas—is opening up in the Muslim world. In April 2011, Bahraini human rights activists created one such space when they launched the website Ahwaa, the first online forum for the LGBT community in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Esra’a al-Shafei, one of the website’s founders, was modest about the site’s ambitions, explaining that Ahwaa was intended “as a support network” for the “LGBTQ community” as well as a resource for those “who want to learn more by interacting with [LGBT] people.”

Although little-noticed at the time, Ahwaa’s seemingly innocuous project was in fact revolutionary. Homosexuality in the MENA region is not only stigmatized but generally criminalized and banished from the public sphere. The creation of an online platform where LGBT people could candidly discuss the issues affecting their lives, such as romantic relationships or the tensions between Islam and gay rights, was thus a direct challenge to deeply inscribed cultural and religious norms. Indeed, Ahwaa heralds a wave of challenging ideas that, fueled by rapidly rising Internet penetration, will soon inundate Muslim-majority countries.

Online communications, by their nature, give marginalized social and political groups a space to organize, mobilize, and ultimately challenge the status quo. In the MENA region, online spaces like Awhaa will give sexual minorities the ability to assert their identity, rights, and place in society. So too will the Internet amplify discourses critical of the Islamic faith, or of religion in general, and solidify the identities of secularists, atheists, and even apostates. The rise of these religion-critical discourses will in turn trigger a backlash from conservative forces who fear an uprooting of traditional beliefs and identities. The coming social tsunami should be visible to anyone who knows what signs to look for.

Into the black swirl of geographical regimes that give no room for questioning — gay, political, religious, or whatever — a white circle of online discussion and possibility blossoms —

Shielded by the relative anonymity of online communications, marginalized individuals of all stripes can discuss intimate and controversial issues. The Internet, furthermore, allows like-minded people from disparate corners of the world to find one another and create virtual communities. An atheist living in rural Egypt, for example, may not know anyone else who shares his views. But when he goes online, he will find millions of people who do.

— and as it blossoms, the black swirl of repressive backlash again threatens it.

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Likewise, though this does not happen to be Daveed’s point, into the white swirl of western democratic societies a black circle of illiberalism opens — the internet providing a networking space for anti-Semites and other far right groups they would previously lacked —

Today, the Internet is a powerful and virulent platform for anti-Semitism — hate towards Jews that has a direct link to violence, terrorism and the deterioration of civil society. Hitler and the Nazis could never have dreamed of such an engine of hate. [ .. ]

The Internet allows anti-Semites to communicate, collaborate and plot in ways simply not possible in the off-line world.

— and this blossoming extends into the Trump camp, as JM Berger suggested

New developments and new propaganda items are a constant part of the ISIS landscape, whereas content in white nationalist networks tends to be repetitive, with few meaningful changes to the movement’s message, landscape, or political prospects. A notable exception to this is Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, which has energized white nationalists and provided new talking points and opportunities for engagement. Trump’s candidacy is likely driving some portion of movement’s recent gains on Twitter.

And again likewise, this blossoming begins to be threatened by its own backlash — the blossoming of internet speech within contrary geographical cultural norms cuts both ways. It’s almost apocalyptic — that internet space blossoming can open up cracks in what David Brooks called “the post-World War II international order — the American-led alliances, norms and organizations that bind democracies and preserve global peace” — to which Steve Bannon is vehemently opposed.

Apocalyptic? Whether we’re speaking of Daveed’s “coming Islamic culture wars” or Brooks’ “international order” there are signs of the times to be seen. As Daveed says —

The coming social tsunami should be visible to anyone who knows what signs to look for.

— and in closing —

Regardless of their ultimate outcome, however, signs of the coming Islamic culture wars can already be discerned. Western observers have long overlooked or misinterpreted social trends that have swept through Muslim-majority countries. This is one trend that they cannot afford to miss.

Three from PBS: Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City and the Turner Diaries

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — two sad and deeply moving documentaries from PBS: The American Experience, plus a short ]
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Last week, PBS brought us the Oklahoma City bombing (at 1 hr. 53 mins, the longest of the three videos in this post):

I’m not usually prone to tears, but moments in this documentary moved me in much the same way that the HBO docu Manhunt‘s portrayal of the Camp Chapman attack did.

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This week, the same PBS team explored Randy Weaver and Ruby Ridge (53 mins):

Here I was particularly impressed by Randy Weaver’s daughter, Sara. She not only clarified the apocalyptic element in the Weavers’ thinking:

My Mom interpreted some of the things in the Bible very literally. There’s a verse in the Old Testament about not having graven images, and so there was a point when the TV, you know, kind of left and my parents started to dig deeper into the Bible. They did believe in an apocalyptic future. And I think that they started to take that more seriously as they got ready to leave Iowa. Fear was–was a big part of it.

She also showed an impressive sense of closure on what must have been a horrific period in her young life. Close to the end of the film, two find clips are juxtaposed:

Jess Walter, Writer: People focused so much on who was to blame. But if you look at what happened and how many times it could have been averted and avoided, how many mistakes had to be made, and how many times both sides would multiply the mistakes, the question of who was more to blame is less interesting to me than the question of how did an all-American Iowa family end up with these beliefs. And how did the government end up treating them like a group of armed terrorists?

Sara Weaver, Daughter: I do know there’s a lot of remorse and I know that the FBI uses what happened to my family as a training tool as to what not to do, and that is hugely gratifying to me. But the same way they stereotyped my dad and blew him up into this thing he wasn’t, I think a lot of people do that with our government as well. And when you operate out of misinformation and fear, things can go wrong.

Powerful, even-handed.

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Also posted very recently: a short film (8 mins) in which JM Berger discusses the Turner Diaries:

Berger’s calm and clear narrative of the impact of William Pierce’s awful book is admirable — as is his more detailed exposition of the same topic in his ICCT report, The Turner Legacy: The Storied Origins and Enduring Impact of White Nationalism’s Deadly Bible.

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There’s some clear overlap between the three films. All three are highly recommended.


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