Boris Johnson and the rise of the porno-terrorist

Seasoned readers of this site might be surprised to know that the single most common search category that brings new readers to this site is pornography, more specifically, a category known as ‘British army porn.’   Readers interested in this phenomenon usually end up here because of an old post I wrote called ‘the British army’s war porn’ – a post that provided no obvious reason not to keep both hands on the keyboard, and probably won’t detain these seekers for long.

I used to think this was funny, but now I’m wondering if it’s dangerous in the wake of the Lord Mayor of London’s depictions of jihadi terrorists last week as ‘literally wankers, serious onanists.’    Maybe it’s Churchill’s anniversary or the smell of cordite from the machine gun that he fired in Iraq last week went to his head, because Johnson is not known for his insight into terrorism.   Nevertheless he told the Sun:

‘If you look at all the psychological profiling about bombers, they typically will look at porn. They are tortured. They will be very badly adjusted in their relations with women, and that is a symptom of their feeling of being failures and that the world is against them. They are not making it with girls and so they turn to other forms of spiritual comfort – which of course is no comfort.’

Questioned about these observations later Johnson said he could not believe that ‘anyone could seriously contest a word I said.’ Well I’m sorry but I just have to contest it, not because I care about anything that this Tory narcissist says about anything, but because according to him, he took this thesis from M15 reports.

This could be because the security services have decided to adopt ridicule as a form of propaganda – as in ‘let’s all laugh at the terrorists and they’ll all go away’, because otherwise it is really quite alarming.

The tendency to reduce terrorism to a question of individual pathology has a long pedigree.  Governments and establishment ‘terrorism experts’ have been doing it for years in conflict after conflict.   It’s comforting to think of terrorists as weird psychotic loners from another planet to the rest of us.    The main purpose of this kind of profile is not so much to understand what makes such and such a person become a terrorist – a category that tends to be subjectively defined if it is even defined at all,  and often has no meaning beyond ‘bad person.’

More generally this kind of psychological profiling is intended to obscure, deny or marginalize the political conflict or context that gives rise to this kind of violence, by reducing the entire phenomenon to a bunch of maladjusted losers.

The Russian prosecutors of the People’s Will assassins who killed Alexander II tried to do this.   So did German society with Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader.  Doris Lessing once did the same thing in her pretty awful novel The Good Terrorist.   When Americans discovered to their horror that the Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh was not an Arab of a Muslim, many media ‘experts’ concluded that it was all down to his parents’ divorce.

A look back at the history of non-state terrorism can certainly find numerous examples of ‘losers’, and dysfunctional and marginalized people of the type that Johnson describes, but you can also find such people in most armies.   And just like the army, you can also find highly intelligent and even talented terrorists too.   Muhammad  Atta was a Phd student.   The Peoples Will included extremely gifted young men and women,  one of whom was an engineer who some Soviet scientists claim developed a prototype of the Sputnik.

As for women, well some terrorists are women.   And Andreas Baader had plenty of success with ‘girls’ .  The first World Trade Centre bomber Ramzi Yousef spent some time whoring with Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in Filipino bars while plotting how to blow up passenger planes.  The 9/11 pilot Ziad al-Jarrah was by all accounts an attractive, charming and well-adjusted bloke who was going to get married to his fiancée before he decided to engage in a suicidal act of mass murder instead.   Nor do the 7/7 bombers fit Johnson’s profile.

Admittedly there are no simple answers as to how these men were able to convince themselves that it was their religious and/or political duty to murder ‘soft targets’, but the idea that you can reduce the modern jihad to a few sad young men with low esteem who are hooked on porn is self-serving empty blather.

Johnson’s profiling is no more vacuous than the UK government’s list of the ‘engagement factors’ than educators, parents and other people in authority are expected to regard as signs of potential radicalization as part of its Prevent strategy.

These include ‘Feelings of grievance and injustice’,  ‘A need for identity, meaning and belonging’,  ‘ A desire for status’, and  ‘ A desire for excitement and adventure’.  Then there is ‘ Being at a transitional time of life’ and ‘ A desire for political or moral change’ – a category that includes most of the Greeks who voted for Syriza, the 100,000 who gathered at the Podemos rally yesterday, and the million and half demonstrators who marched against the Iraq war back in 2003.

Now you all probably know many people who fit into one or more of these categories.  Just as you probably know young men who ‘typically look at porn.’  But the assumptions behind them change radically when applied to Muslims.   Then, it seems ‘ a desire for excitement and adventure’ or ‘ a desire for political or moral change’ becomes part of the conveyor belt that leads to ‘radicalization.’

In the same way,  the notion that ‘porn-driven’ Muslims are likely to end up blowing themselves to pieces or murdering cartoonists is a kind of variant on the cliché of sexually-frustrated young men seeking to gain access to the ‘virgins in paradise’ by blowing themselves up.

As is often the case with Johnson, it’s difficult to know whether he really believes in the onanism/terrorism connection or whether his statements were yet another expression of his seemingly endless need to get the world to take notice of him.  In the same week that Johnson described porn-watching as a security problem, Richard Dawkins appeared  to see it as some kind of solution, tweeting: ‘ Good idea to beam erotic videos to theocracies?   NOT violent porn, but loving, gentle, woman-respecting eroticism.’

It’s probably safe to assume that Dawkins didn’t mean the Vatican when he proposed to ‘beam’ erotic videos to ‘theocracies’ and I’m not exactly sure what he intends to achieve by it.

Anyway good luck with that one Richard.   And keep the ideas coming, but anyone who comes to this site looking for war porn: watch out, because I will be reporting you to the terror police for signs of radicalization.

 

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