The beheading in Oklahoma is horrible. Is it garden-variety American workplace violence? Is it linked to Islamicist calls for violence against ordinary citizens in the West? I suspect both of these things are true. We don't know enough yet, and a lot of what we think we know may be quite inaccurate, but the story that's emerging suggests that it's not an either/or situation.
A man fired from an Oklahoma food processing plant beheaded a woman with a knife and was attacking another worker when he was shot and wounded by a company official, police said Friday....The mainstream press is downplaying this story -- it's not prominent on the front pages of CNN, The New York Times, or The Washington Post as I type this -- while it's getting saturation coverage in the right-wing media. That means right-wingers are going to frame the story while the MSM plays catch-up. You know how that usually turns out.
[Alton] Nolen severed the head of Colleen Hufford, 54, [Moore, Oklahoma, police sergeant Jeremy] Lewis said...
A Facebook page identified as the suspect's is the subject of intense scrutiny on the right, although the name in the URL is Alton Threadgill, not Alton Nolen. The page identifies the subject as Jah'Keem Yisrael. The Daily Caller breathlessly reports some of the content:
Nolen’s Facebook "cover" photo appears to be of several Taliban fighters, according to a Google reverse image search.A story by Caleb Howe at Ben Shapiro and David Horowitz's Truth Revolt gives us this:
He also posted images of Osama bin Laden and wrote in a caption on a photograph of the 9/11 attacks "A Future Prophecy Revelation 18:8 She (The statue Of Liberty) is going into flames. She and anybody who’s with her." He also referenced U.S. intervention in Iraq in a July 24 post, writing, "AMERICA SO CALL HELPS IRAQ (WHICH NOT)- WELL WHY CANT U HELP THE GAZA CITIZENS AGAINST ISRAEL...AMERICA AND ISRAEL ARE WICKED. WAKE UP MUSLIMS!!!"
This past Tuesday, posting on Facebook as Jah'Keem Yisrael, Nolen said "Shalom Alhakeium (O Ye Muslims) Allah (sWt) says in the last days, 'People will be lovers of themselves, proud and unholy.' So to all of U that masturbating which I think is 80% of the world and for whatever desire it is in your hear that U doing it for - U can get! (warning) This is the last days ... 2nd Timothy 3:2."Assuming this really is the killer's Facebook page, that post suggests someone who's slipping into an unhealthy mental state -- someone who's become obsessed with sexual purity and end times. His religion is reinforcing what's going on in his head (which can happen with a lot of religions, not just Islam), but if he's losing the battle to keep himself from lashing out, his problems stem from more than just a few calls to jihadist violence on the Internet. They're also coming from within.
Oddly, another Truth Revolt story reinforces that notion, where I would have expected more "jihadists are coming!" propaganda:
Alton Nolen, the suspect in the beheading of a woman in Oklahoma this week, grew up in a rough neighborhood in the small town of Idabel, and was filled with anger and resentment, according to a friend from the neighborhood. Nolen "always had a temper" and a tendency toward violence, says Kenneth Tucker, a former Army reservist, corrections officer, and cop, currently working the oil fields in Oklahoma, who was friends with the suspect growing up. Tucker was "not surprised" to learn of the violent attack.I suppose this reinforces a different conservative message, one about a "culture of violence" -- the story goes on to identify other murderers from Nolen and Tucker's circle of friends -- but it does run counter to what we're likely to hear as the right-wing press floods the zone, and Republican politicians inevitably add to the demagoguery. (The first Truth Revolt story I quoted -- despite the fact that its headline is "BREAKING: Beheading Suspect Fired After Argument Over Stoning Women" -- also has positive things to say about the one Muslim family in Nolen's hometown.)
"I knew that he had a temper," says Tucker. "I knew that, like, most of us who grew up where we grew up ... we had attitudes. We grew up in a rough neighborhood and we grew up poor."
Nolen is a convert to Islam, and his Facebook page and his arguments about Islam in the workplace have been prominent news stories today, but Tucker thinks there is more to the picture than religion. "I think it's funny they're trying to push it off as a religious thing," he says. "That's not the only reason people do things that are bad decisions."
What we're likely to get instead is more like this, from Breitbart:
OKLAHOMA BEHEADER LINKED TO AL QAEDA LEADER AWLAKI, BOSTON BOMBER'S MOSQUEYes, except that the imam has been in Boston since late 2011, and Nolen went to prison in March 2011 -- he reportedly converted to Islam there -- and was released in March 2013.
Suhaib Webb, an Imam with ties to former Al Qaeda mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki, had also previously been the leader of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, which had been attended by Alton Nolen -- the man who on Thursday beheaded a former coworker after recently converting to Islam, Breitbart News has learned. Webb now serves as Imam of the sister organization of the mosque attended by Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
So if what we're reading is accurate, I'd say the narrative is this: man with a rap sheet converts to Islam in prison -- where Islamic identity is, to some extent, like gang membership (as is white supremacism). He's not the most stable person and Internet calls to violence speak to him. But it's hard to know whether something else would have made him snap sooner or later.
A few thoughts here: the narrative of "Trained jihad fighters returning to Western nations to wage war!" is ridiculous, as is "Omigod they're coming over illegally and leaving Muslim prayer rugs near the Mexican border eeek eeek eeek!!!!" The violence ISIS is calling for doesn't require military training, or any more stealth than the average God-fearing Christian workplace shooter is capable of. Moreover, the propaganda is totally borderless -- and we're helping ISIS retransmit it by talking about it all the time.
On the other hand, what's the game plan here? ISIS isn't going to conquer a country of 300 million people a killing or two at a time. We already have plenty of insane killings, and we're still standing.
The game plan, with regard to the West, seems to be just to kill as an end in itself -- this will sound flip, but the ISIS folks seem to want it done for the lulz, as the kids say. Either that or they're delusional about how much damage a few scattered acts of violence can do.
Yeah, I know -- maybe they think we'll respond by bankrupting ourselves in order to attacking them. Except that we've done harm to Al Qaeda as well as ourselves in the past decade. If they're looking at that narrative, they want us to harm ourselves even if we do serious harm to them. I think they just want to kill for thrills and then (as I've said before) commit suicide by global cop. It's a live-fast-die-young mindset more than anything.
However, the right is going to tell us between now and November that eight-year-old Central Americans surrendering to the Border Patrol equal a beheading by a guy born in Oklahoma who never got closer to a Middle Eastern battlefield than a high-speed Internet connection could take him -- and America, I fear, will believe them. Will the GOP win all the close Senate races as a result? If so, I won't be surprised.