The Fungibility of Rage



Islamic State recruiter?

After the mass shooting in San Bernadino in December of 2015, the media displayed a baffling level of confusion. Was this a terrorist attack by radical Islamists, or an act of workplace violence by an American citizen? For several days it didn’t seem to occur to anyone in the mainstream press that it could be both, although the Islamic State has repeatedly stated its intention to infiltrate Western countries with invisible sleeper cells and lone wolves. A recent research report out of George Washington University tallied the backgrounds of people charged with ISIL-related crimes. The report’s findings can be summarized with the following statement by its author, Lorenzo Vidino:

There’s absolutely no common profile. From teenagers to people in their 40s, people of extremely diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, men and women, Caucasian, Latino, African-American, Jewish — you name it.

quoted in Al Jazeera

We in the West must realize that the Islamic State is already inside us. Much as a biological virus replicates using the cellular machinery of its host, ISIL replicates itself using the machinery of globalist capitalism. It wages a psychological war that employs the media and the internet as tools.

But how is a radically fundamentalist movement with an Arab ethnic base able to recruit from within Western society? It has been widely noted that radical Islam is not a traditional enemy, whom we can fight using traditional means. But let’s back up for a moment: what is meant by a “traditional enemy”? The history of war is a long and convoluted one. Industrialization changed the way war was fought tremendously. But even industrialized war mainly involved power struggles between states. The nature of states has changed since ancient times, as have the reasons for them to come into conflict, but we can still classify most of the wars in history into two general categories: conflicts between states, and conflicts internal to a state. The latter kind includes civil wars, rebellions, revolutions. The West has tried to treat ISIS as a rebellion or civil war in Syria, but this model does not seem to fit cleanly. How does a Syrian civil war include atomized sleepers cells, and attacks on civilians in France and California? What new kind of devil is this?

The answer is that the Islamic State preys on precisely the ressentiment that leftism breeds. Leftism, from its very roots in the Spirit of 1789, thrives by encouraging resentment against authority and hierarchy. It is not our purpose here to deny that the complaints of the French revolutionaries were without merit. Further, anger has definite evolutionary advantages. When attacked by a bear, a man experiences either the desire to flee (fear) or the desire to fight (anger). Once the man flips over into the fight response, energy and a sense of rightness flood the organism helping to ensure survival. Without a doubt this impulse has a lawful place in human nature; however, the tragedy of what we call modernism is that it distorts the proportions of man’s nature. Leftism, the political ideology of modernism, is in some ways the elevation of emotion to the status of prime mover. One need only look at the terrible aftermath of 1789 to see where this very swiftly leads.

Anger, you see, is a passion. A passion once inflamed becomes fungible. The original targets of one’s resentment, even the justification for it, become less important than the physical and emotional high it produces. Addiction sets in. Thus leftist anger can be turned to very illiberal, even fundamentalist purposes. The resentment that leftism encourages is precisely the weak point that gives radical Islam a chance to enter. Rage unrestrained – whether on the Left or the Right – ultimately compromises our cultural immune system, precisely because it is so fungible. Rage (or any other passion) removes rationality and increases suggestibility, leaving the population open to ever more bizarre and destructive ideas. The resulting chaos leads to more rage, thus perpetuating the cycle of addiction.

A drug addict gets high, makes bad choices. Those choices have consequences, making the addict’s life harder, more confusing, more chaotic, which results in negative emotions. His inner resources increasingly atrophied, the addict turns to drugs to alleviate his bad feelings. His tolerance for the drugs grows, so he needs more or harder drugs. The resentment/outrage addiction works the same way. SJWs absolutely get amped on their outrage at those who have “victimized” them. It gives them the illusion of being strong and righteous, in lieu of the real strength or righteousness. But they build up a tolerance; they need more and more outrage to produce the desired high, so their perceived slights become more numerous and more bizarre, coming to seem sillier and sillier to a relatively objective observer.  

Western leftist anger is perversely turned against its own mother culture. When the outrage addict bottoms out on SJW-ism and can’t achieve the desired feeling of self-righteousness, his hatred for Western culture becomes so strong that he may become sympathetic to radical Islam, even though the specific tenets of Islam contradict liberal ideology. A SJW who yelled about LGBTQ rights may throw in his lot with fundamentalist Islam, which wishes to kill homosexuals. The truth is that the specific beliefs that fueled his anger no longer matter as long as he gets his fix of power and self-righteousness.

Remember, if you encourage someone’s resentment you aren’t doing him – or the rest of us – any favors. Human civilization stands on a set of higher laws that provide a reason and a method for restraining human passions. Once we begin to indulge outrage and resentment, these passions begin to tear at the fabric of social cohesion. Unless we wish to return to a state of savagery and forfeit the fruits of civilization we fan the flames of anger at our peril.

Here are some revealing quotes from articles about Islamic State recruiting in Western countries.

Either outright converts from Christianity or people raised in nonobservant or atheist households, they are often rebels in search of a flag of convenience, terrorism researchers say. In rejecting modern society and its rules, many of these newly baked jihadists have embraced Islamic State’s genocidal cult simply because it is the most obvious counterpoint to the West.

Mathieu Guidere, an expert who tracks Western foreign fighters at the University of Toulouse, estimated that more than half are “disillusioned idealists and revolutionaries….”

Terrorism analysts point out striking similarities between Islamic State’s Western followers—who often come from affluent backgrounds—and the young women and men who embraced homegrown terrorist groups such as the Red Brigades in Italy or Red Army Faction in West Germany in the 1970s and 1980s.

“It is fundamentally the same malaise that is also inspiring the far-left activists,” said Thomas Hegghammer, director of terrorism research at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment. “A lot of young people have the same idea that the capitalism-centric Western system is not for them, and that another society is being set up.”

from Wall Street Journal

STERN: Studies of Westerners joining jihadi organizations, prior to ISIS’s recruitment drive, have shown that foreign fighters tend to be alienated or marginalized within their own societies; they may have had a bad encounter with police or distrust local authorities. They tend to disapprove of their nation’s foreign policies. If they’re living in an ethnic enclave, they’re likely to be alienated from people living alongside them, as well as the country as a whole, whether it’s the United States, or the U.K. or elsewhere in the West….
Many of the people who join terrorist organizations believe they are making the world a better place. They see pictures of [Syrian leader Bashar] Assad’s brutality against his own people, and they feel the desire to help. That sense of righteousness is a very appealing aspect of joining a terrorist group, for some….
But I would say in some ways it’s more like joining the Weather Underground than the Peace Corps. At this point, it’s hard to imagine anyone joining without knowing that they’re going to be involved in real atrocities.

GAZETTE: But in their minds, those actions are righteous.

STERN: Absolutely.

from Harvard Gazette

First, alienation from Western materialism being expressed through revolution is far from new. It demands comparison with the urban guerrilla movements of the 1970s – all of which were predominantly drawn from middle-class kids who saw their parents’ success as a form of collaboration with capitalism and fascism. Is there any real difference between, on the one hand, Mahmood allegedly abandoning professional achievement and the life of a liberated Western woman for Jihad, and, on the other hand, Ulrike Meinhof of the Red Army Faction abandoning her children and sparkling literary career for a life of assassinations and bombings in the 1970s German terrorist underground? None, except the contrasting ideological manifestations of their malaise. And, aside from bourgeois angst, Seventies Marxism and contemporary Jihad are linked by a) an obsession with America/Israel as a nexus of capital and military power that is responsible for everything wrong with the world and b) an unrealistic sense of their ability to do anything about it.

from Dr. Tim Stanley’s blog at The Telegraph

One thought on “The Fungibility of Rage

  1. I noticed the following quote by the report’s author:

    “There’s absolutely no common profile,” Vidino said. “From teenagers to people in their 40s, people of extremely diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, men and women, Caucasian, Latino, African-American, Jewish — you name it.”

    Being Jewish myself, I wondered, “Hmmm, there are people from Jewish backgrounds who turn into Islamic terrorists? Now THAT is odd!” So I searched the Al Jazeera article that you linked to, and found the quotation, just as you had written it. Next, I went to the actual report. I read it, but found no mention of Jews or Judaism. Then I did a word search on the entire PDF for “Jew” or “Judaism”: No hits though. I wonder if Al Jazeera misquoted, or if the study’s author decided to embellish for dramatic effect….shrug, regardless, it makes me trust Al Jazeera as a credible news source about as much as Russia Today.


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