Every major news outlet and most minor ones have reported that the husband and wife team of terrorists in San Bernardino "declared support for ISIS" on social media sites before engaging in the attack. This feeds smoothly into the narrative of a terrorist attack, but it misses the point of what, if anything, posting something on Facebook and its equivalents proves.

There is a useful distinction, obliterated in practice, between declaring support for ISIS and being affiliated with, or in some way receiving support from, ISIS. Logically, anyone with internet access can throw up a post saying, "Wooooooo ISIS #1 ruuuuuuuulez!" in the moments before they engage in activities they do not expect to survive. Other equally useful declarations could be "Hail Satan!" or "J-E-T-S, JETS JETS JETS!" On the other hand, being in contact with and receiving necessary information or equipment from ISIS would be a different and more meaningful story.

For years during the Bush administration I asked, whenever they crowed that their policies had stopped another terrorist attack in preparation, what "in preparation" meant and whether the plot had any realistic potential to be executed. In fact, it often turned out that the only thing keeping these one-lung plots afloat was an undercover law enforcement officer offering to provide hard-to-get materials. Is it a good thing that someone plotting a terrorist attack is interrupted in progress? Of course. But there is a relevant difference between a well funded, well organized, realistic plot that could have proceeded to completion without the intercession of law enforcement and a bunch of jackasses who couldn't successfully execute a liquor store robbery sitting around googling "how to make terorist bomb" and publicly available schematics of famous buildings. Presenting both categories as equals is misleading at best, deceptive at worst.

The FBI director has stated that the San Bernardino attacks were "inspired by" foreign terrorist organizations. Tellingly, that is the same phrase movies use when they have only the most superficial relationship to source material. "ISIS operatives" and "copycats/wannabe terrorists" are two distinctly different things and, as usual, the distinction is absent.

15 thoughts on “MATERIALLY ASSISTED”

  • And America's response to the attack is going to further increase stochastic terrorism which is exactly what the terrorists and fascists want.

  • So this was the Bird Shit, Vol 2 post?

    The extent to which the media feeds the fear frenzy is remarkable. And so, as cat says, this is how the terrorists win.

    Once again, the problem is easy access to semi automatic weapons. Take away the AR-15's and in all likelihood, this attack doesn't happen. Or if it does happen, far fewer people are killed or injured.

    Regardless, using this as an excuse to increase our footprint in the Middle East (as virtually all of the GOP and too many of the rest seem to desire) would be, in my estimation, a grave error.

  • We had a "terrorist" plot up in Canada — a couple of people were planning to blow up the BC legislature. But it seemed pretty clear, even from the breathless news coverage of the situation, that those people were wholly incapable of doing anything of the sort, and the only thing that got them anywhere was the involvement of undercover police officers. The only explosives they managed to get were fake ones from the police. They wouldn't have otherwise known how to get explosives.

    So, just in case you were worried that only your country was nuts, that's not the case.

  • We just had what would appear to be an "inspired by" terrorist attack here in the UK, only, because it is quite hard to get a gun here, it was one guy randomly stabbing and slashing at people in a subway station whilst shouting stuff about Syria. The cops tazer'd him and the crowd jeered at him and suggested he might be a twat. No fatalities, minor flesh wounds treated by the NHS.
    I guess it would be utterly incorrect to draw any kind of gun control message from this. Anyway, our shitty tabloid newspapers are certainly trying to treat it like the next IS atrocity, rather than the random violence of a delusional asshole.

  • At eionmonkey.

    Well,good thing that didn't happen in the USA!USA!!USA!!!!

    Cuz, here? Those minor injuries woulda prolly allowed some ILLEGAL to get free medical care!

  • Just musing here, but if I were a Muslim in the US and I heard the anti-muslim rhetoric from all the Republican candidates I could easily become "radicalized". I would be scared to death. Our Muslims are part of the great melting pot and the vast vast vast majority are loyal Americans. Even a loyal American who is marginalized and hated can change. Muslims in Europe are not assimilated like Muslims here.

    And look at the World Trade Center attack. Do you know anybody who was killed or injured? Probably not. How many people here and in Europe have relatives back in Syria/Libya/Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan who know somebody or a family member who was killed by bombing/drone strike/invasion.

    People here are rightfully pissed off over the WTC attack, but imagine if you lost a family member. You'd be even madder.

    Even if American troops didn't do it we still get blamed.

    If I were a Muslim I would feel pretty impotent now and if I already had that grievance over losing somebody it could push me over the edge.

    Add to the equation the easy availability of military weapons and getting mad at someone at a Christmas party could spark my fuse. The San Bernardino shooters obviously were planning something. Otherwise why have the body armor? (the guns and ammo are pure 100% American). My gut feeling is that they had no controlling authority in the mideast. But they were happy that somebody over there was fighting back and they were just copycatting all the other mass shootings. I agree 100% with your comment about posting on Facebook.

    The more mass shootings, the lower the barrier to entry for somebody who is pre-disposed the do it. Someone who would never be the first would find it easier to be the 10th or 30th or 100th. It's only going to get worse.

    Also the refugees are fleeing the war. They are desparate to save their families. Take them before they become radicalized by living in refugee camps for too long. They can be vetted. We let Hungarian refugees in from Communist Hungary in the 50s. We let any Cuban who can step on dry land in. We turned away the Jews before World
    War II and they ended up as soap.

  • Anybody can open a TOR browser and get way too much now and then accurate information on how to set up some nasty fireworks. Guns too but it would be safer going to a shop for any guns needed.

    The scarier bunch will be today's headscarf cleansers. Give them a little time.

  • America, as a nation, is just fine with mass shootings. If it weren't, after about 1,000 shootings in three years, the country would fucking do something about it.

    Don't say we don't know what to do. We know exactly what to do. We don't have the national will to do it.

  • Oh well,that must be a disappointment to the fourteen dead people that they didn't die at the hand of ISIS operatives but by the action of "copycats/wannabe terrorists".

    What was your point again??

  • c u n d gulag says:

    And today, competely predictably, Dumb-'n-old t-RUMP has called for the US to to completely shut down our borders to Muslims – among other horribly vile and stupid/ignorant bullshit!

    Are we sure that ISIL hasn't brainwashed this ancient demagougic Fascist feckin' eedjit?
    It wouldn't take much soap and water, after all!
    Because needless to say, this is exactly the reaction ISIL wants from the US – to help alienate America's Muslims.

    And as usual, our conservatives and their GOP politicians are never short of tankers full of of fuel, like hate, fear, and bigotry, to throw on even the tiniest of flames.

    For all of his faults, I'm going to really miss President Obama.
    I'm 57, and he's the best POTUS in my lifetime.

    I'm not sure that this country deserved someone smart, thoughtful, rational, and calm, like him.

    Take a look at the psychotic assclown's running for the GOP "Preznenshul"nomination.
    All of them are the diametric opposite of Obama.

    We don't deserve them either, but we just might get one.
    After 8 years of relative peace and prosperity under Clinton/Gore, somehow – by hook, or, mostly ""crook" – we didn't deserve to get Bush/Cheney, but we did.
    And it'll take many generations to wipe the shit-stains they left on this country, in their wake.

    You know what?
    If you look at how many stupid, ignorant, and/or bigoted people we still have in America, maybe we do de serve psychotic and stupid/ignorant leaters hip again…

    Americans suck at history.
    Even history as recent as less than 8 years ago.
    And, let's face facts – if you can't learn from something less than 10 years ago, you probably ain't capable of learning.

    And those who do not learn from history, may soon doom the rest of us to repeat it.


  • The moral is that homegrown terrorists don't need links to terrorist movements because there are half a dozen retailers in a ten-mile radius who are just itching to arm them to the teeth.

  • Eisenhower Socialists Rule says:

    @cund: "I'm 57, and he's the best POTUS in my lifetime."

    You're older than me, and you wouldn't remember Eisenhower, but he's consistently underrated. Think about it:

    – Made peace with the New Deal
    – Massive government infrastructure spending program
    – Support of trade unions
    – A general who nonetheless coined the phrase "military-industrial complex"
    – Used the 101st Airborne at Little Rock to make sure desegregation started
    – 91% marginal tax rate on incomes above $400k (~$1.5M to $2M in 2015 dollars)

    He's not perfect, of course. Too much deference to the CIA, some of which we pay to this day (Iranian coup, among others). And don't forget that his VP went on to be President.

    Many people think of him as bland, which is quite an accomplishment in the turbulence of the 1950s. Nixon said that Ike was "far more complex and devious than most people realized," though of course Nixon would add that he meant "complex" and "devious" in the good senses of those words.

    All in all, though, I think he's too liberal to be elected today, even as a Democrat.

  • I remember hearing IKE when I was a kid. He was a terrible speaker but he was the next to last establishment Republican, Nixon was the last. IKE paid a lot of attention to Wall Street, was careful keep Northeastern business happy, didn't bug the farmers and so long as labor kept it down a bit all was well. He was the president of the 1950s as much as the USA. He had his faults but the cold war was a scary thing and we were happy to have a general around.

    One thing IKE did not do was to hire idiots….especially those paid by Big Oil to pretend that science was debatable or just a theory. It made the late 1950s much more interesting.

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