When I was a kid, one of the few documents anybody considered contraband was the Anarchist’s Cookbook. It had directions on how to make napalm, among other cool tips. I bet I still have a copy somewhere in text form saved for posterity’s sake. That document started one of the earlier debates on uses of the Internet, and whether you were allowed to post that document publicly. No matter the outcome of the debate, if you got your hands on a copy of the document and read it once, you own the knowledge. It’s virtually impossible to stop things from spreading, if they have relevance and get into the public domain. The cookbook had passages on how to make pipe bombs too, if I remember correctly. Nowadays, there are plenty more resources that will teach you how to make just about any type of explosive, booby trap, or weapon you’d ever want. It’s not just knowledge ISIS is passing to potential terrorists, it’s just what’s out there on the public Internet. Knowledge will be free.
It’s pretty clear that the San Bernardino killers were Muslims, and that they killed because they believed the Koran told them to do so. Does it much matter whether they were in contact with ISIS? Did they need ISIS to learn how to make pipe bombs and wire them to the receiver on the remote control truck, or is that schematic in Anarchist Cookbook, 2015 edition?
It doesn’t take membership in a terrorist organization to know how to shoot defenseless citizens, it takes time at a range. The real question is what it takes to get someone to the point that they are willing to kill indiscriminately so they can achieve some unearthly reward. Is it really that extreme of a position for a Muslim to take, based upon what they’ve read in the Koran? Apparently not, if the whole world is up in arms about the threat that lone wolves pose. What should we make of these individuals who become willing to inflict death and destruction on society in the name of their religion? Have they been remotely brainwashed by a Skype-based ISIS hypnotist? What could possibly be said to someone over social media to turn them into an unthinking killer?
There are no verses in the Bible that, read clearly, incite violence against sinners or non-believers. It recounts how Jesus specifically stopped those who were stoning an adulterer saying “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. Contrarily, any rational individual reading the Koran and associated texts would learn the opposite – without needing an ISIS (or Al’Qaeda, or Boko Haram…) interpreter . We see stonings of adulterers, gays being tossed from buildings, and routine violations of women’s rights across the Muslim world, not just from ISIS and its supporters. These are not all ISIS supporters, these are “mainstream”, “moderate” Muslims. Thinking that Islam is a pure religion of peace and it’s just ISIS interpreting Islam in that way is a sorry mistake to make.
If that’s the case, is the book the real problem? Most of these lone wolves don’t have direct contact to an ISIS handler, in all likelihood. That would create an easily traceable digital footprint. There doesn’t need to be one. ISIS puts out direction – in the form of hints, plans, schematics – publicly, along with a list of ideal targets, and they’ve got even odds that somewhere there is an Islamist in a position to follow the suggestion. For example, we’ve seen public calls for killings of US service members (complete with lists of addresses) and knife attacks. It’s well documented that they’ve published directions on how to make various bombs and explosive devices (like the pressure cooker bomb used in Boston).
What all Muslims who attack others have in common is motive – the thing Obama would probably still say we don’t understand in the case of the San Bernardino killings. The motive seems quite clear; the killers wanted to earn the reward promised them in the Koran for being good Muslims and killing infidels. They were prepared to die that day and claim their place in the Islamic version of heaven. It’s just appalling that they got to the point that they thought these actions were what would earn them their spot there.
Obama used the phrase “self-radicalize”. If that’s the case, then the book alone and publicly available teachings are enough to radicalize anyone, or at least any existing Muslim. Isn’t that a problem? Even if we give Obama the benefit of the doubt that he mis-spoke and the terrorists did in fact have contact with ISIS, it could not have taken much work to radicalize them. A few videos? A quick call to someone overseas? Maybe it’s me, but I doubt that I would give much of my time to someone who tried convincing me that the Bible supported a concept similar to jihad. Why would they sit and listen?
If lone wolves can be caused by self-radicalization, maybe we should focus our efforts on the book that starts them down that path. Which has gotten more people killed, Mein Kampf, or the Koran?