ISIS's New Strategy Is Stupid Yet Amazingly Effective
Three assholes in a truck rammed a bunch of pedestrians on the London Bridge, hopped out of said truck, and stabbed several more people. Seven of them died. The same basic thing happened back in March, too. That time a single terrorist, Khalid Masood, rammed four people to death with his truck and then fatally stabbed a cop. ISIS claimed credit for that attack too, but British police found no link between the man and ISIS.
Let's talk about that link.
The propagandists of the so-called Islamic State are the first, and so far most successful, pioneers of a new technique in terrorism. They've learned how to use the internet to direct fatal and damaging attacks against their enemies, anywhere in the world. It's the terrorist equivalent of an ICBM, or a cruise missile, only it costs them absolutely nothing.
Back in November, ISIS published this article in their magazine, Rumiyah.
This article was a guide, urging any readers living in Western nations to rent trucks and carry out attacks exactly like the attacks in London this year. The article lays everything out, advising potential terrorists to avoid small vehicles ...
... in favor of renting large trucks. They even note that U-Haul trucks represent a particularly "affordable weapon" for the jihadi on a budget.
I want to emphasize that both attacks in London followed exactly the path laid out in Rumiyah. The ISIS magazine also urged anyone taking its advice to pack a "secondary weapon," ideally a knife. And that's exactly what both sets of killers in London's two attacks did.
Let me back up for a second. We all know that a certain population of (mostly) young (mostly) men in Western countries are attracted to the idea of murdering a bunch of strangers before they die. See: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newton and just, way too many other tragedies. Statistically, some of those angry, depressed young men will be Muslims. ISIS has figured out how to weaponize them.
See, you don't decide to off yourself after murdering a bunch of random people unless you have some desire for fame. The Columbine killers wanted to carry off an attack that was bigger than the Oklahoma City bombing. Elliot Rodger wanted to ignite an anti-woman revolution. ISIS offers depressed, angry Muslim men a chance to tie their deaths to a larger "cause." They urge anyone carrying out an attack to leave notes tying themselves to the Islamic State ...
... and in return, they promise a certain sort of fame. ISIS magazines and videos regularly feature hagiographies of "mujahids" who die carrying out attacks in Western nations. "Die for us," they say, "and you'll earn a slick-ass spread like these guys."
It's a brilliant strategy, because the nature of social media and internet virality means that, no matter how much territory ISIS loses, their propaganda will continue inspiring deadly attacks around the globe. Their goal is not just a body count. The brains behind the Islamic State understand that every attack on a Western nation damages that nation's economy, costs that nation money in additional security, and also inspires that nation to up their military commitment to the fight against ISIS. Their explicit goal is to bleed the West dry and destabilize their enemies politically.
We're "mushrikin," by the way.
When I was in Mosul two weeks ago, my fixer Ayar gave me an old ISIS newspaper from right after the 2015 Paris attacks. You don't need to read Arabic to see that they're bragging about France's increased military commitment in the wake of the attack.
Specifically, they're happy France launched 40 airstrikes on "empty" parts of Raqqa, their capital.
The 9/11 attacks cost around half a million dollars to carry out. They did at least $10 billion in physical damage and prompted the War on Terror, which has cost the U.S. nearly $5 trillion to date. ISIS's new tactic of throwing out propaganda and trusting scattered violent assholes to do the rest is even more cost effective when it comes to manipulating the West. And it's self-perpetuating, because tactics like drone strikes tend to inspire more terrorists than they kill.
Ever since 9/11, the whole world has sort of cringed in anticipation of the next 9/11-scale attack. You know, the one where some terrorist group gets ahold of a dirty bomb, or a shitload of anthrax or whatever virus kills James Franco and the earth in those monkey-world movies. We were scared of the wrong thing. It turns out a handful of smart assholes with Photoshop is way more dangerous.
Robert Evans and his videographer, Magenta Vaughn, are filming a documentary about the young Iraqis who risk their lives to fight ISIS in the media. You can back them here.
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Check out Robert Evans' A Brief History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization, a celebration of the brave, drunken pioneers who built our civilization one seemingly bad decision at a time.