Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jihad Jane is No Surprise

A 46 year-old American woman living in the Philadelphia suburbs was arrested in October on charges that she conspired over the Internet to kill an unnamed Swedish artist.  Most folks speculate that her target was Lars Vilks, the cartoonist who drew offensive pictures of the Prophet Muhammed for a Dutch newspaper.  The woman, who called herself "Jihad Jane," had no known Muslim connections, was born and raised in the United States, and, as news reports have been repeating over and over (sometimes multiple times in the same article), she's blonde.  She apparently posted a Youtube video a while back saying she wanted to help alleviate the suffering of Muslimms, and she was contacted by people in Ireland to recruit her for the job.

Today's news has been full of stories about the suspect's past.  She was married and divorced twice by the age of 24.  She has two prior brushes with the law and an apparent suicide attempt.  While the media gasps about the fact that she does not fit the profile of a terrorist, I can't help but notice that she doesn't exactly fit the profile of Mother Teresa, either.  This woman had problems.

To me, this is a good example of the media spinning a story to make it as sensational as possible, rather than simply relating the facts and letting us make our own decisions.  Why, for example, does a story that has a full face picture of the suspect, describes where she lives, gives her Irish-American name and says she had no known links to Islam also need to tell us that she doesn't fit the profile of a terrorist, or that she "raises fears about home grown terrorists," or even, for that matter, that she's blonde?  Is there a risk that we might miss that she doesn't look Middle Eastern (or her hair color)?  The only possible purpose is to focus our attention on what the reporter (or editor) thinks we should be afraid of.  And it seems to me that either we read the facts and look at the picture and are afraid, or we're not.  We don't need a guided tour.

Richard Clarke, late of the Clinton administration, was quoted by ABC saying something I find absolutely priceless about this case:
It was easy for the FBI to find her, but there are other people who are much more covert. . . . There will likely be more attacks. Hopefully, they will be small, and hopefully, we can catch them early.
So, let me get this straight.  This case illustrates the fact that there are American-born terrorists who are trying to get us that we don't know about.  The fact that she acted incredibly stupidly and was easy to catch definitely means there are other less reckless people out there.  It's like mosquitoes -- the males buzz but the silent females bite, so it's when you don't hear a buzz that you have to be worried.

If we boil down this case to its bare bones, we get the following:

There are people out there, some in the name of religion and some with other interests, who want to kill people.  It is possible that some of them were born in the United States and live here.  It is possible that your next door neighbor will turn out to be a whack job, and if so they might be recruited by some scary people to do scary things.  Most of the time we catch these people before they do much, but not always, and when we don't it's really bad.

Could someone tell me what part of this penetrating analysis is actually new news?


Matt said...

I think I can do this more succinctly: there are crazy )@)ing people out there and they're #))@ing crazy and want to do some #@)#)ing crazy **** for no apparent reason except they're $#@))ing crazy, but fortunately because they're #@)(ing crazy they're easy to catch.

There was a similar strain of people attracted to various domestic terrorism outfits in the 60s and 70s...and to the right-wing extremists of present day...I don't hear much about the "profile" of Dr. Tiller's killer or the Holocaust Museum murderer.

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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
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