Thanks to social media, terrorists no longer have to directly train and direct their minions. All they need do is create an atmosphere of hate, and then just wait for some unhinged person to do their bidding.
Pity the poor Unibomber. Born into an era before the Internet was popular and when Social Media didn't exist, he had to vent his rage on random targets - without any real direction or cause to be fighting for. What a waste!
Today, thanks to Social Media, you can be radicalized with a cause! Your particular brand of crazy doesn't have to be generic anymore, you can be directed and pointed in the right direction - and then let go.
And that is exactly what is happening today, throughout the world and even in this country. We are seeing terrorist-style attacks that are not directed by or instigated directly by, any one terrorist organization. Rather, we are seeing a saturation of hate speech online, designed for and read by crazy people whose minds are turned in on themselves.
These sorts of folks spend all day online in conspiracy theory forums, or right-to-life forums, or jihadist forums, reinforcing each others' beliefs. They start to collect guns, or bomb-making materials. They are not trained or indoctrinated or radicalized by others, rather they self-train, self-radicalize, and self-indoctrinate.
Why is this? Well, in any given population of people, a large percentage are going to be unhinged, goofy, or just irrational. Every time a serial killer is caught and tried, he is inundated with letters from lonely women offering to marry him. How crazy to you have to be to want to marry someone who is likely to kill you? Pretty damn crazy - but the world is full of crazy. Moreso that rational.
Act rationally in an irrational world.
A lot of young people like to idolize criminals - same shit, different day. Kids play at being "gangsta" and shout "fuck the Police!" until that day their apartment or car is broken into and their shit gets stolen. Then it's "fuck the criminals, and where are the Police?"
But others never have this epiphany, and take this "gangsta" shit seriously. They join a gang and become criminals, or if they are middle-class white kids, just play at being criminals and end up getting caught.
And we all do this to some extent. When The Sopranos was the biggest thing on television, we all tuned in to root for Tony and the gang - not those nasty FBI agents (Boo! Hiss!). He broke hearts - and kneecaps - one at a time.
When that went off the air, we took it a step further by idolizing drug dealers (Breaking Bad) and serial killers (Dexter). After all, Dexter is a nice guy because he only kills bad guys, right?
Japan had a similar problem with Yakuza movies - movies glorifying their own organized crime syndicates. The tide started to turn, however, when organized crime really started to ruin their society and economy and suddenly, it wasn't funny anymore.
But our background fascination with crime and criminals is not the real problem - although it illustrates how all of us are predisposed in this manner.
In the past, in order to be a bad guy, you largely had to associate with other bad guys. The KKK didn't recruit by telephone, but in-person. And unless a society was entirely corrupted (as it was in the South) it is harder to get people to join such an organization.
Today, well, we have the Internet. And there are thousands, if not millions, of cubbyholes on the Internet, where you can indulge yourself in whatever hate-filled fantasy you want to believe in. You want to start a Jihad? Check. You want to bomb an abortion clinic? Check. You want to start a race war? Check, check, check! It's all out there, and the types of people who visit these sort of sites are unhinged to begin with. All they need is a little push to put them over the edge.
Like a windup soldier, all you have to do is turn the key and point them in the right direction and then let them go. You can pretend later on you had nothing to do with it.
We are seeing this in Israel right now - young Palestinians stabbing Jews, not as part of an organized Intifada, but as random acts of street violence, encouraged by social media and bootstrapped by earlier acts. A young person who is a little crazy, plus a website spewing hate, is all you need. No training camps, planned operations, or even in-person meetings - which are expensive and risky.
And deniability is easy. Right now the Islamic world is falling all over itself to condemn violence. And yes, there are some Muslims who do not condone terrorism. But many more contribute to "charities" that fund hate, either directly or indirectly. The Saudis are the best at this - giving money to Muslim charities that in turn train young men in the doctrines of hatred. All in the name of Allah!
But Christians are little better. I recounted before, how in my largely Irish Catholic home town, people raised money (covertly and overtly) for the IRA back in the 1970's. And although to a man, all my friends would condemn the bombings and attacks in Northern Ireland, when a bomb went off and some Protestants were killed, they could hardly contain their glee.
Similarly, on the "Pro Life" side of Christianity, the taking of lives is roundly condemned as evil and wrong and officially denounced by pro-life leaders. But when an abortion doctor is shot by a sniper while sitting down to dinner, the comments on the Internet are more "serves him right!" than "life is sacred!"
Many on the Christian right also celebrated the Oklahoma City bombings. These things don't occur in a vacuum. These are not "lone wolf" operations. Sure, Christian Leaders will condemn such actions (and then equivocate by saying things like, "Well, they were driven to this by the standoff at Waco!") but the rank-and-file, or a lot of them, will remain silent or think secretly to themselves that it was justified.
And of course, this is not a new trend, just one made so much easier by Social Media and the Internet. William McKinley was assassinated by a self-described anarchist, who may have been driven over the edge by comments in Hearst newspapers calling for McKinley to be shot. You put the idea out there, and see if anyone takes you up on it. Most, if not all, assassinations work that way - not some detailed conspiracy, but a background noise of hate and violence finally coalescing and resonating with one crazy person who wants to be a hero.
So what is the point of all of this?
Well, for starters, don't be crazy, and yes, you have a bit of choice in this matter. If you spend all day long on conspiracy sites, hate group sites, jihad sites, or whatever, chances are, you are going to turn yourself into a windup solider in short order. Look around you - in the real world - and realize how lucky you are, and how perhaps the outrages and "injustices" being posited on websites are less real injustice than an attempt to brainwash you.
For example, in the Arab world, who is repressing and killing Muslims the most? America? Europe? Russia? The correct answer is, of course, other Muslims. As much as they chant "death to the great Satan" their real enemies are their fellow Muslims - of other denominations. Sunnis and Shiites will kill each other at the drop of a hat - and do, on a regular basis, and in fact right this very moment.
The same is true with this "Black Lives Matter" issue. Yes, the murder of that young kid who was wired on PCP is atrocious - and the officer in question is being charged with first-degree murder. But the majority of black lives taken in this country are taken by other blacks. And often, no one gets charged, as witnesses refuse to come forward to testify, because the people doing the killing have convinced their own kind that cooperating with the police and trying to stop crime is a bad idea. And this will not change until that attitude changes, sadly.
When someone tries to fill your head with hateful ideas, chances are they have an agenda, and the agenda is one that diametrically opposed to your best interests. You are being manipulated to be someone else's windup foot soldier in their cause which is a sure way to get you to stop thinking of what is in your best interests. Why be someone else's pawn?
The late Dr. Sol Gordon gave me the best advice in this regard. While it is a fine and wonderful thing to have causes to believe in, and to protest once in a while, don't lose sight of your own interests. And often the best thing you can do for the "cause" is to improve your own life.
This fellow who shot up the abortion clinic - did he really do anything to help the "right to life" movement, or did he set it back a notch?
This fellow who shot up a Christmas party - did he really improve the image of Muslims in America, or just make things harder for those Muslims trying to fit in to our culture? If he became successful at his work and a role model to others, would that not help the image of Muslims far more? Because let's face it - we're not going to let Jihad win anytime in the near future. The net result of attacks like this is not victory for Muslims, but defeat.
Rioting and looting might sound like a lot of fun, but does this really improve the image of black people in the eyes of the rest of the county? Maybe, instead of protesting, getting a worthwhile college degree and becoming successful in your field would do more to change racial attitudes in the long run? The real heroes on the front line of the war against racism are the black Doctors and Lawyers and Businessmen who are fighting the really hard fight and succeeding - and proving stereotypes about blacks are plainly wrong - and also moving themselves, and their children, out of poverty.
Taking care of yourself is not "selfish" but
often the best thing you can do for society.
Being someone else's puppet, on the other hand, is a one-way ticket to personal and societal misery.