Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kill the Messenger

The NPR story was about five young Muslim Americans who were detained in Pakistan that may have wanted to train in terrorist camps. "Making them the most recent Americans known to have been radicalized in the U.S. who then traveled abroad to act on their beliefs."

What is disturbing is not about the five becoming radicalized, but about how the blame is being placed on the messenger, that is, the Internet.

U.S. officials say the young men used the Internet — specifically the social networking site Facebook and videos on YouTube — to link up with extremist groups in Pakistan.

"Basically most of the noise on the Internet are the clarion calls to battle from the jihadis, the inspirational and motivational messages that they communicate," says Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. "And there has really been almost no concerted, systematic and strategic effort to counter those messages."

This case provides more evidence that radical Islam's Internet messages are effective.
My concern about all this is that we as a society will settle on the easy fix - ban thought and speech we do not agree with. We have a mechanism to do just that, if it is designed to incite violence it can be banned. But to do so misses the bigger question here. Why did these five make the transition? There are millions of other young people their age from the same background that are not motivated or persuaded to act out. What was ground zero here? It was not the words being spoken and heard, although words have the power to motivate, there must always be something else in play. The question is what?

One of the young men also left a video message for his parents. The head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, says he saw the 11-minute video. "I walked away with the feeling this was disturbing that young people think this way and they're angry [and] this may lead them to do something wrong," he said.
OK, they were angry - yes - but so are a lot of other people and they don't carry it to that end point. Is it something akin to suicide clusters? Something similar is in play here that if it could be quantified might just be the thing to focus on, to keep the switch to act out turned off, to find an alternative release for that anger.

But no, we'll take the easy way and blame the internet, video games, rock n' roll music, comic books or...... What we will not do is try to figure out the why. there is a why, and its not the messenger, their sex, or their religion, its something else that is in play and can be influenced by them. Even if you removed every form of speech that could be considered hateful or a cry for action, the genesis for radical destructive behavior will still be there.

Isn't it better to just ban it - you know give it that ol' zero tolerance? I don't think so, I mean after all Cane and Able came about way before the internet didn't they?