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(Hatem Omar / Maan Images)

How a clueless “terrorism expert” set media suspicion on Muslims after Oslo horror


Immediately after news of the bombing of government buildings in Norway’s capital Oslo, the Internet buzzed with speculation about who might have done it and why. Most speculation focused on so-called Islamist militancy and Muslims. The urge to speculate after grave events is understandable, but the focus of speculation, its amplification through social media, its legitimization in mainstream media, and the privilege granted to so-called experts is a common pattern.

The danger of such speculation is that it adds little knowledge but causes real harm by spreading fear and loathing of Muslims, immigrants and other vulnerable and routinely demonized populations, and whether intentional or not, assigns collective guilt to them.

“Experts” who supposedly study this topic — almost always white men and very often with military or government backgrounds — direct suspicion toward Muslims by pointing to claims of responsibility on “jihadi” web sites that only they have access to. Notorious attacks invariably inspire false claims of responsibility, or false reports of claims of responsibility, but this apparently doesn’t discourage the media and experts from giving them undue attention.

From the “experts” to The New York Times to the world…

The New York Times originally reported:

A terror group, Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami, or the Helpers of the Global Jihad, issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, according to Will McCants, a terrorism analyst at C.N.A., a research institute that studies terrorism.

In later editions, the story was revised to read:

Initial reports focused on the possibility of Islamic militants, in particular Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami, or Helpers of the Global Jihad, cited by some analysts as claiming responsibility for the attacks. American officials said the group was previously unknown and might not even exist.

The source is Will McCants, adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University. On his website he describes himself as formerly “Senior Adviser for Countering Violent Extremism at the U.S. Department of State, program manager of the Minerva Initiative at the Department of Defense, and fellow at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.” This morning, he posted “Alleged Claim for Oslo Attacks” on his blog Jihadica:

This was posted by Abu Sulayman al-Nasir to the Arabic jihadi forum, Shmukh, around 10:30am EST (thread 118187). Shmukh is the main forum for Arabic-speaking jihadis who support al-Qaeda. Since the thread is now inaccessible (either locked or taken down), I am posting it here. I don’t have time at the moment to translate the whole thing but I translated the most important bits on twitter.

The Shmukh web site is not accessible to just anyone, so he is the primary source for this claim. McCants stated from the beginning that the claim had been removed or hidden, and on Twitter he even cast doubt on whether it was a claim of responsibility at all.

Embedded rich on Twitter

Embedded rich on Twitter

Embedded rich on Twitter

McCants later reported that the claim of responsibility was retracted by the author “Abu Sulayman al-Nasir.” Furthermore, according to McCants, the moderator of this forum declared that speculation about the attack would be prohibited because the contents of the forum were appearing in mainstream media. It does seem more than a little bit odd that genuine “jihadis” would post on a closed forum that a former US official and “counterterrorism expert” openly writes about infiltrating.

Embedded rich on Twitter

Embedded rich on Twitter

It’s too bad McCants didn’t exercise the caution and restraint that he says the forum moderator did.

All of this comes only from Will McCants. In his original post, he named the source and identified the organization (in Arabic) but provided no context. Did he know who the author Abu Sulayman al-Nasir was? Had he heard of this group Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami before? These are the kinds of answers a “terrorism expert” should provide.

How media amplified a false claim

The media also failed. They reported on the claims McCants disseminated because his position and perceived expertise gave these claims credibility. Would The New York Times have required multiple sources and independent confirmation of the existence of the posting and its contents if it had not come from someone with McCants’ supposedly solid credentials?

For hours after McCants posted the update that the claim of responsibility was retracted, BBC, the New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post were still promoting information originally sourced from him. The news was carried around the world and became the main story line in much of the initial coverage.

The threshold for a terrorism expert must be very low. This whole rush to disseminate a false, unverifiable and flimsily sourced claim strikes me as a case of an elite fanboy wanting to be the first to pass on leaked gadget specs.

In fact, much of the online discussion today focused on the notion of terrorism expertise, what it means and who has it.

Embedded rich on Twitter

Coincidentally, Andrew Exum from the Center for a New American Security posted his top 5 terrorism experts, and McCants was at the very top.

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Speculation hurts real people

A crucial absence in everyone’s concept of “terrorism expertise” is insight into the functioning of this knowledge in a sensationalistic, reckless media and political environment where Islamophobia is the norm. Even the Christian President of the United States is routinely suspected of being Muslim as if it were a crime, and accused of sympathy with Islamist “radicals” and “terrorists.”

Disseminating false, unverifiable information should be a blemish on McCants’ credibility, but what is more likely is that his failure will harm other communities elsewhere before it harms his career.

Embedded rich on Twitter

Embedded rich on Twitter

As the scale of the catastrophe to strike Norway was revealed, we also learned that Anders Behring Breivik, the only suspect to be arrested in the attack, had a history of disseminating anti-Muslim and xenophobic ideas on the Internet, and cited approvingly none other than Daniel Pipes, a notorious Islamophobe, Bush administration appointee to the United States Institute of Peace and self-described “terrorism expert.”

Comments

Appreciate the work behind this piece. As you say, "The threshold for a terrorism expert must be very low". Terrorism is big business for "experts" and "consultants", and governments have money to burn (while ignoring their own citizens that are being thrown out of their own homes).

Its really sad that whenever such incidents happen, the only community which are pointed towards are Moslem!!! And, the real culprits gets away with absolutely clean image.
Firs of all, lets accept this fact, that terrorism doesn't have any religion. It is the result of certain misguided people in the name of various revolutions. The history is witnessed that in the past the people from every major religion were involved in certain brutalities. But is it that what religion teaches??? No, never!!! If I am misinterpreting the cause of my religion, then its not its fault but only mine.
Its high time now, we should try to understand what exactly is happening, whats the result, whats the reason behind all such activities. May be then we will be able to arrive on the real facts and figures.
Lets strive for Peace and make our World, the better place to live in for us and everyone and the generatiosn to come!!!

Just to add to this excellent piece, here are two tweets posted by Blake Hounshell, four hours apart. I guess this is how he thinks journalism works:

@blakehounshell: Yup. RT @JimArkedis: You can speculate, but make sure to caveat.

@blakehounshell: @will_mccants concur. Not your fault btw if others dropped your caveats.

http://twitter.com/#!/blakehou...
http://twitter.com/#!/blakehou...

Give the guy a break. All he did was translate something he read on the forum. Blame belongs on the shoulders of the media who took what he wrote and ran with it. Mcants is reasonable, and knowledgable, and your ad hominem attacks against him are just unnecessary. Your article looks more like a flame than journalism, and it's not the type of reasonable writing I've come to get used to at Electronic Intifada.

So Will, don't like the scrutiny?

On reading this piece I was surprised and a little shocked by the tone taken, it did not jibe well with my recollection of the commentary on yesterday's tragic events. Reading back through what was written on twitter and at http://www.jihadica.com/ at the time I still find Will McCants's remarks responsible and as accurate as I am able to verify.

If the really believes that those who study and report publicly on this and allied subjects are "almost always white men" then he is ignoring a number of experts who do not fall into that population.

Is the author asking those with the knowledge, ability and access to refrain from commenting the until some official statement is made? If so surely he must realise that this can only result in uninformed speculation, the more information that is placed in the public sphere the better. Mr McCants seemed to me to be very careful to place what he was writing in context and to include important caveats throughout. In short he did what should be expected of someone reporting primary sources.

The misuses that media outlets put such reporting to are not and should not be the responsibility of those studying a particular subject. to place responsibility at their door is requiring them to self censor to a ridiculous degree and to restrict public access to information. It is by placing as much information as possible in the public domain that we liberate ourselves from official interpretations and enable people to make up their own minds, something that is vital in a healthy society.

i saw only hours of tweets saying, it is not known who did this...

The palestinian president is in norway for a meeting, someone sets a bomb off, the washington post claims GADDAFI did it, while supporters of a certain middle-east democracy claim it was islamic extremists????

Who would most benefit from either killing the palestinian president or stopping the meeting? I WONDER.....

Israel

It will also be interesting to see how the media talks about Breivik's politics in the upcoming days/weeks/months, i.e. they will probably be downplayed. While if it was someone who was associated with the Middle East or Islam, their politics would be the central focus and the means by which people would understand and conceptualize the situation.

That NY Times article mentioned here (I think it is the same one, or at least a recent update of it) is also interesting because it identified Breivik as the perpetrator (and only gave one paragraph or so about his politics) but then ended the article talking about the "threat" Norway was allegedly under by "Islamic terrorism," even though by that point it was widely known that "Islamic terrorism" had nothing to do with. So way the article continued to mentioned it is unfathomable.

Here is the article I am referencing : http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07...

I read that blog at the time, the Times blogger continuing to repeat and justify the morning's ignorant speculation about Islamist violence AFTER he knew Breivik was the terrorist. I could barely believe how lazy, how intellectually bankrupt it was. What the Times wrote all morning had been horse-manure, but he didn't want to waste the verbiage, so he wrote some more horse-manure to excuse leaving it in. Media people they think they are informed because they read what other people just like them write. They can barely believe any fact that doesn't fit the standard story they repeat day in and day out.

Another amazing article was published by you, thanks a lot for this thoroughly analysis. This is exactly what we need, please carry on at these steps and never look at the discouraging comments. Let us hope that this (expert) will come to read this analysis, and to think carefully before publishing lies. I have a question to those who are critiquing this article, why there only experts in Islamic (terrorism)!!!!

That's just silly. Of course one should always look at both sides of an issue.

I would also question how anyone can be an "expert" when they base their knowledge on crap people post in internet forums. Anyone can say anything in those things, and they do.

Let's just make it simple:

1) There is a reason why the finger is usually pointed at Muslims in the wake of a terrorist attack. In the UK a couple of decades ago it would have been pointed at the Irish. In both cases, such a reaction merely reflects a sad reality.

2) As long as Jihadi sites rush to claim responsibility for attacks (and historically, many of these claims have proved to be accurate), people are going to pick up on them. McCants, if anything, has excercised restraint in not reproducing for the delectation of the NYT or WP readership the tidal wave of joy that the attack engendered on Jihadi sites accros the web

Actually it's not the same as that.

It would be the equivalent of claiming that Catholics/Protestants did it, not the irish.

Muslim is a religion, not a terrorist group, nation or political party; it's far more wide reaching than that.

TERRORISTS did it, would be the accurate claim; as I find it hard to believe this event wasn't in aid of causing terror; the religion of the terrorists is 95% irrelivant.

Terrorists come in many flavours - but talking about non-muslim terrorists doesn't get the military budget increased and enable us to extract more oil out of the middle east. It may be cynical, but it's hardly like the government/media doesn't have an agenda - and focussed fear is a huge part of it.

You seem to have missed the point, which is a simple one: The rush to judgement merely reflects the sad fact that in recent years attacks of this nature have generally been carried out by a certain group. If Buddhists had spent the last decade threatening to bring terror to European capitals, and sometimes succeeding in doing so, the finger of suspicion would undoubtedly have been pointed at them.

Your suggestion that talking about non-Muslim terrorists does not enable us to "extract" oil from the Middle East (by which I assume you mean purchase, at a very high price) is, of course, ridiculous.

"reflects the sad fact that in recent years attacks of this nature have generally been carried out by a certain group."
I think what you mean to say is :

"reflects the numerically-incorrect impression that attacks of this nature have generally been carried out by a certain group."

Just in general, if there is a terrorist attack somewhere in the world outside of a Muslim-majority country, the chance that Islamic fundamentalists are responsible for it is less likely than you might think.
In particular, mass shootings like this are very common all over the non-Muslim world and the perpetrators are almost never Muslim. Domestic mass-shootings directed at specific political parties in northern Europe have around a 0.0% of being perpetrated by Islamic radicals. One of the very first things confirmed by the reporting was that the target was the Labour Party, at which point any cogent person who reads the news regularly was equipped to understand that this almost certainly wasn't Islamic fundamentalists.

You will doubtless recall that it was not at all clear initially that the target was the Labour Party. The reports were in this order. 1)2.30pm Large bomb in centre of Olso. News Flashes begin. 2) 3.45pm first confirmed reports of fatalities . 3) 5pm Police confirm 2 fatalities. At this stage the world has had 2.5 hours to react. Others have catalouged the threats made against Norway as a result of its presence in Afghanistan and its recent expulsion of a Islamicist - I shan't repeat them here. The attack, at this stage, has all the hallmarks of a 'spectacular' that has long been promised by AQ (and AQ wanabees). While the terrorism stats which I presume you refer to include the actions of groups such as Basque seperatists and anarchists, the placement of large amounts of explosives in city centres has become the exclusive preserve of Jihadists in recent decades. Now, at around 5pm reports of shootings at an island youth camp start to come in. Even now, we have not necessarily left the AQ modus operandi (since Delhi we have been told to expect more shooting attacks). It quickly emerges that it is a Labour Youth camp, and shortly afterwards the first eyewitness reports detailing a tall man of Nordic appearance come in. I think it is fair to castigate anyone who is positing AQ as the likely culprits AFTER this time. But not before it.

That's wrong, the MO of 'bombing a building' is just as consistent with any number of non-jihadist terrorist groups as it is with AQ. The MO of 'mass shooting in northern Europe' isn't their normal modus at all. The country doesn't have a significant Arab population. AQ's ability to stage attacks in Europe at this point is pretty limited. Norwegian nativist groups have been increasing their organization and activity. Within less than two hours it was established that the target was a Labour Party office and a youth camp run by the Labour Party. I'm sorry, none of this points to AQ, and I knew that, and I'm not an 'expert'.

"While the terrorism stats which I presume you refer to include the actions of groups such as Basque seperatists and anarchists, the placement of large amounts of explosives in city centres has become the exclusive preserve of Jihadists in recent decades"

no, the eta has planted bombs both large and small in various city centers for years now and that is pretty much what they are famous for. off the top of my head I remember a major bombing in durango in 2009 that I believe was on the same scale as this one. alqaeda on the other hand hasn't been able to launch a successful attack in europe for a few years now. the statistical likelihood that this attack was alqaeda was pretty small from the word 'go' guys.

Meanwhile, in the world of reality, of 294 Terrorist attacks attempted or executed on European soil in 2009 as counted by the EU, a grand total of one -- 1 out of 294 -- was perpetrated by "Islamists."

http://www.dangardner.ca/index...

http://www.salon.com/news/terr...

It is clear that you seem to be missing the bigger point--the one about fact vs manufactured deception! Your entire comment is based on your own fantasy, not on facts. A recent report indicates that out of 294 terrorist attacks in the European Union, only ONE was committed by a muslim group. You continue to perpetuate the false belief that all terrorist attacks are committed by muslim groups, that has been patently disproven!
From Glen Greenwald's latest article on this: "in the world of reality, of 294 Terrorist attacks attempted or executed on European soil in 2009 as counted by the EU, a grand total of one -- 1 out of 294 -- was perpetrated by "Islamists."
From Dan Gardner's blog: "The European Union's Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2010 states that in 2009 there were "294 failed, foiled, or successfully executed attacks" in six European countries. This was down almost one-third from the total in 2008 and down by almost one-half from the total in 2007.

So in most of Europe, there was no terrorism. And where there was terrorism, the trend line pointed down.

As for who's responsible, forget Islamists. The overwhelming majority of the attacks- 237 of 294 - were carried out by separatist groups, such as the Basque ETA. A further 40 terrorists schemes were pinned on leftist and/or anarchist terrorists. Rightists were responsible for four attacks. Single-issue groups were behind two attacks, while responsibility for a further 10 was not clear.

Islamists? They were behind a grand total of one attack. Yes, one. Out of 294 attacks. In a population of half a billion people. To put that in perspective, the same number of attacks was committed by the Comité d'Action Viticole, a French group that wants to stop the importation of foreign wine."

I'm sorry, but it's you that is missing the big picture. Just how many of the 294 terrorist acts committed in Europe in 2009 were national tragedies of this order? ETA has been staging dozens of attacks a year since 1961 - sure. But for the large scale slaughter you have to think of Madrid 2004, London 2005 etc. These acts, and threats of more to come, I'm afraid are what led to people to point the finger at Islamists in the Oslo case. I do not for a moment suggest that Islam has a monopoly on terrorism, but it doesn't take much to see why people look to Jihadists when they first hear of a major atrocity in a European capital.

And to the earlier responder who posited ETA's bomb at Durango in 2009 as an event of similar scale - there weren't even any injuries in that case. A ridiculous statement.

Bottom line. Muslims have every right to feel aggrieved at the reaction of the world's press, but their beef is with their fellows who leap to claim responsibility for such attacks (two seperate organsiations in this case), and cheer from sidelines in a variety of online forums. As well, of course, those who have perpertrated the massive 'spectaculars' in recent years that have been seen in major Western cities.

Such a reaction merely reflects a sad reality, where racists like you believe everything FOX news and their buddies dish out.

Back in the real world, the Europol's EU Terrorism Situation and Trends Report 2010, shows that of the 249 terror attacks committed in the EU, only 3 of them were by "Islamist" groups. That's right. 3 out of 249. In 2009, it was 1 out of 294.

In the West, terrorism is only committed by Muslims. If some white christian fascist kills 90 people, that's just "extremism."

But heh, what would Europol know, right?

https://www.europol.europa.eu/...

Your entire contention is based on your own fantasy of who is committing terrorist attacks. When you claim that "historically, many of these claims have proven to be accurate", your claim is based on what exactly? Here are some facts you might want to familiarize yourself with before spewing more lies!
"The European Union's Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2010 states that in 2009 there were "294 failed, foiled, or successfully executed attacks" in six European countries. This was down almost one-third from the total in 2008 and down by almost one-half from the total in 2007.

So in most of Europe, there was no terrorism. And where there was terrorism, the trend line pointed down.

As for who's responsible, forget Islamists. The overwhelming majority of the attacks- 237 of 294 - were carried out by separatist groups, such as the Basque ETA. A further 40 terrorists schemes were pinned on leftist and/or anarchist terrorists. Rightists were responsible for four attacks. Single-issue groups were behind two attacks, while responsibility for a further 10 was not clear.

Islamists? They were behind a grand total of one attack. Yes, one. Out of 294 attacks. In a population of half a billion people. To put that in perspective, the same number of attacks was committed by the Comité d'Action Viticole, a French group that wants to stop the importation of foreign wine."

So, by this logic everyone should have leapt to the conclusion that leftists were the culprits?

Statistics can be very misleading, can't they?

People don't remember the hundreds of cases of leftie nutters shoving squirrel heads through letter boxes, which Eurpol would count as terrorism. Attacks with massive fatalites bring to mind New York, Madrid, London, Mumbai, and so on...

I was also wondering where all the al-quaeda mentions in the media after this attack came from.

will mccant may have not throught about what he was doing but he clearly started speculating and making assumptions based on his own BIASED beliefs that it had to be the work for Islamic Fundamentalist and so he sought out information to support that. That he would think that he would find it in a site that he had access to but that supposedly was only for Islamic Fundamentalists is crazy. that even he admits his translation might be wrong but he still PUBLISHES it is even more ridicious. So he was just putting on his website and tweets to NOT get noticed and spread his ideas? He made a choice, it was the wrong choice, he needs to think before he claims beliefs as facts.
How many Muslims in Norway and around the world will be physically harmed because of his website, just look at the comment on the very post where he even says his claims were a 100 percent wrong. people are still calling for the killing of muslims in retribution.

If you were familiar with McCants you would know he frequents the websites in question. He merely translated what was written on one of them. Explain to me why that's wrong? Especially when he responsibly updated the site to reflect the news as it broke. He even indicates he didn't believe the information to be true. I can't think of how he could have been more responsible. EI usually publishes excellent articles, how did this one slip by the editor?

Journalism isn't done in a cultural vacuum. If he were truly a terrorism expert, he would've been looking among the Norwegian political right, not the Muslim world. As the article and other commenters have explained, the geopolitical context of the moment suggests this. What this shows is that McCants is not a terrorism expert; he is an anti-Muslim propagandist, and this is what propagandists do: They search for leads related to the target and use whatever economically meets the information market's demands. This ontology requires the kind of on-the-fly translation that you celebrate and assume automatically amounts to journalism about terrorism. Were McCants a journalist specializing on violence as a political speech act, he might tweet an on-the-fly list of possible extremist/terrorist groups in the region and possible motives. Aren't lots of white people in Norway? Any hate-filled white supremacist groups? *Are there* "jihadi" groups in the area? The one cited had obviously never been heard of by anyone ever. A "terrorism expert" has either heard of a cell or hasn't and exercises restraint when hearing of one for the first time; an anti-Muslim propagandist, however, transmits the quickest information available in order to meet the propaganda market's immediate demands -- so in this last way and in this last way only does McCants lose any agency. He still made the choice though. He was flat-out wrong to look to the Muslim world; he didn't exercise journalistic restraint; he went with the fake jihadi cell's bogus claim to responsibility; and ran with an altogether unfounded assumption that the act came from the Muslim world.

"The European Union's Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2010 states that in 2009 there were "294 failed, foiled, or success...fully executed attacks" in six European countries. This was down almost one-third from the total in 2008 and down by almost one-half from the total in 2007.

So in most of Europe, there was no terrorism. And where there was terrorism, the trend line pointed down.

As for who's responsible, forget Islamists. The overwhelming majority of the attacks- 237 of 294 - were carried out by separatist groups, such as the Basque ETA. A further 40 terrorists schemes were pinned on leftist and/or anarchist terrorists. Rightists were responsible for four attacks. Single-issue groups were behind two attacks, while responsibility for a further 10 was not clear.

Islamists? They were behind a grand total of one attack. Yes, one. Out of 294 attacks. In a population of half a billion people. To put that in perspective, the same number of attacks was committed by the Comité d'Action Viticole, a French group that wants to stop the importation of foreign wine."
http://www.dangardner.ca/i​ ndex.php/articles/item/90-​remember-that-eurabian-civ​il-war

I know Dr. McCants personally, and he is far from being anti-Muslim. Journalists clearly ignored his caveats.

As a fiercely pro-Palestinian activist, it really upsets me that so many EI readers didn't get the facts before launching into these ridiculous tirades. It hurts our cause when we're irrational and don't check the facts. McCants posted before anyone knew anything, other than the location of the attack. Personally, I find him to be extremely credible. He takes nothing at face level and is really good about checking his facts.

You contradict yourself. If it were true that "he takes nothing at face level and is really good about checking his facts", the he WOULD NOT have posted before "anyone knew anything, other than the location of the attack"!

I would never call myself "an expert" on anything, but I am a doing a PhD in political science specialising in the area of Muslim immigrants in Europe and their reception among the general population. Knowing what I know as a result, as soon as I heard about the Oslo bombing I was sure the perpetrators were as likely to be a domestic far-right group as an Islamist one. As soon as news of the shooting emerged, my suspicions turned to certainty!

There is no reason why Islamists would specifically target a left-leaning political party which strives for understanding and social inclusion of Muslims, strongly supports Palestinian rights and even has diplomatic relations with Hamas. It makes no sense. However, for all these reasons, it is the perfect target for the Islam-hating far-right which has become increasingly vocal and militant in Scandanavia as it has elsewhere in Europe and "the West".

Even if McCant is indeed a "credible" expert on Islamic terrorism (I am not familiar enough with his work to make this judgement), he is clearly utterly ignorant of the broader political situation in Europe - given this, he should have kept his mouth shut until everyone knew more, rather than fanning the flames of more hatred and terror through his myopia and unsubstantiated claims! (Among other incidents, the British far-right, anti-Islamic EDL - which Breivik himself had contact with and greatly admired - used the lies he helped spread as an excuse to attack a mosque!)

I've just gone through the muck and the mire of the gutter and sewer that is the +230 comments on the Michelle Malkin Right Wing Hate Speech site that are posted on this story and it's all:

"SEE! SEE!!!

WE TOLD YOU SO!!!

Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam, Jihad, Islam..."

Right up until the moment when it turns out that the shooter has pretty much an *identical* (right down to the political *and* religious), psychological profile that is practically an exact match to that of 99% of the Posters and Commentators on the heinous and nasty Malkin Hate site.

Oops.

The best that they can muster up for themselves right now, and I am *not* making this up is...

QFT:

___

"#230

On July 23rd, 2011 at 12:07 am, Hiraghm said:

Why are we assuming he’s a “right wing” extremist, just because he may not be (MAY not be) a Moslem?

#231

On July 23rd, 2011 at 12:24 am, zorro said:

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord,
And let Perpetual Light shine upon them.
May their Souls
And the Souls of all the faithful departed
Through the Mercy of God
Rest in Peace.
Amen.

#232
On July 23rd, 2011 at 1:08 am, frontierguy said:

He was later identified as Anders Behring Breivik and was characterized by officials as a right-wing extremist.

Where is Sarah Palin?

I’m sure she is behind this, with all of her right wing rhetoric it had to have caused this Breivik guy to kill children.

“When asked about other connections he might have, they seemed to dodge the question."

IOW…

There is a connection they don’t want you to know, cause if he was angry at the libs in power, they woulda shouted that from the rooftops.

I took a terrorism class a few years ago. The instructor said that OBL had sought permission from the mullahs to target American children.

He was granted permission to kill one million American children. The instructor said we should be on the lookout for terrorists targeting children.

Not saying this guy inspired to be an islamic terrorist, but….

He blows up a building then heads over and takes out kids?

Weird.

#233
On July 23rd, 2011 at 1:12 am, old goat said:

Michelle thank you. This is the most information on the event in Norway I have found tonight.

My sis used to live in Norway many years ago–says that at least then, only info approved by the gov’t is allowed out on the gov’t news (the only news).

Since they are left wing I can’t imagine them saying anything else about the guy. Sort of like us only having PBS to go to for information...

---

I imagine the cognitive dissonance and exploding heads of denial must be completely overwhelming the American Right Wing Hate-o-Sphere right now, but I'll leave that to others that are made of Sterner Stuff than I to expose themselves to that much psychosis and utterly brain-dead Sociopathology.

You've got an axe to grind and a larger point you want to make, and you've decided to make Will McCants your object for this exercise. It might have been better to just make that bigger point than to come off foolish by getting worked up over a bad example.

Two issues here. First, the NYT. why did they jump to report what they could not confirm. Other news outlets, bbc, guardian, washington post, were much more cautious. Now, rather than admitting dangerous and reprehensible failure of journalism, they're being cagey -and still including quotes on Islamic extremism.

Second. Who is will McCants? I found CNA easily enough but they don't seem to want to own Will McCants. He appears to be the proprietor of the website "Jihadica" and a Princeton Ph.D. When? With whom? on what?

Your assault on will McCants clearly shows you to have no understanding of the community of real experts you attacked and the importance of fact based journalism. Dr McCants did everyone a service by providing data from an inaccessible environment (jihadi forums). That you chose to attack him with bias shows you to be as failed in your profession as any other journalist who did not verify their story before going to press. McCants does a tremendous service to this community, and your reckless behavior risks damaging that. McCants is not a CT Huckster. Your anger should be directed at Walid Shoebat, et al.

As the story was breaking, I read the words "Labour Party offices" and "Labour Party-run youth camp" and it was pretty bleeding obvious that the perpetrators were domestic and had a specific beef with the Labour Party. I'm hardly an expert on either Norway or terrorism and I figured this out within less than a second. It didn't even occur to me to think of Islamic fundamentalists and I'm baffled why anyone, terrorism expert or not, would fail to draw that conclusion.

Is this McCant guy seriously publicly claiming he has infiltrated a secret Internet jihadist forum on the same Internet that the jihadists use? If that is really true, then he's either stupid or he thinks the rest of us are too stupid to notice how stupid that is, which itself would constitute him being stupid.

Beyond the irresponsible "journalism" that followed McCants "service", Andrew Black seems to not grock the possibility that the "jihadi forums" may be false as well. What is the likelihood? Extremely high.

Andrew Black seems to not grock the possibility that the "jihadi forums" may be false as well...

Since when is perpetuating hate and fear against a particular group of people that has already been unfairly villified by this country and the rest of the western world, become a "tremedous service to this community"? This so called hero of yours proved he is not expert on much, except of course perpetuating hate against Muslims! If he were an expert, he would have already known that the data clearly shows the overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks in the EU were committed by right wing christian extremists, and only one out of 294 terrorist attacks were committed by "Islamists"--hence, he would be looking at right wing christian extremist group "secret" websites for information, rather than jumping into some "secret" website that supposedly is populated by 'jihadists"!
Your so called expert did not provide any valid "data", he either made up or copied comments by fake group--a group the U.S. gov. has verified does not even exist!
It sounds to me that this "expert" is indeed an expert in promoting anti-Muslim sentiment, and you seem to be one of his avid followers.

The analysts worked with the most likely theory until it was proved wrong. What is the problem with that?

Norway contributes troops to ISAF and has been threatened in the past by Islamist terrorists: http://www.nefafoundation.org/... (See page 4 or search the document for Norway)

In 2006 the Norwegian embassy in Damascus was attacked after a Norwegian newspaper published the ‘Muhammad Cartoons’: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wor...

In 2010 there were suspected Islamist terrorists arrested in Norway who admitted to plotting attacks: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09...

Earlier this month a suspected Islamist leader of Ansar al-Islam called Mullah Kerkar was charged for threatening attacks on Norway if he were to be deported: http://www.google.com/hostedne...

Yesterday there was an attack in Oslo, reports at the time varied but most said it involved possibly several bombs and perhaps was followed by small arms fire. This sounded similar to the multiple bombings used in the Madrid attacks in 2004 and the London attacks in 2005, to the multiple bomb and small arms attacks used in the Mumbai attacks in 2008 and to several attacks made in Iraq by Islamist groups.

Then there was an online claim from an Islamist group which McCants reported, with caveats that it may be opportunistic hangers-on: http://www.jihadica.com/allege...

The analysts looked at the history of threats and attempts, looked at the, sketchy, details of the attack emerging as it happened, saw a claim of responsibility so highlighted it.

They were ultimately wrong this time, but that doesn’t invalidate them as analysts. After the Madrid attacks in 2004 the initial focus was on the Basque separatists group ETA not Islamists terrorists and after the London attacks in 2005 at first Islamist terrorists were not even considered, the initial blame was put on a power surge which caused several explosions on various underground lines.

Islamist terrorists aren't responsible for every attack, successful, failed or disrupted, but, like it or not, they have been responsible for a fair few of late so the analysis started by focusing on them. Wrongly as it turns out on this occasion.

And that, dear readers, is that. Seriously, thank you for the patient, resource-based, deconstruction of wild-eyed hyperbole. It had to be done.

" After the Madrid attacks in 2004 the initial focus was on the Basque separatists group ETA not Islamists terrorists "

Err...I thought the government attempted to blame the ETA since it was right before the election, aware that it was a jihadist attack. It was quite the scandal in Spain at the time.

"Yesterday there was an attack in Oslo, reports at the time varied but most said it involved possibly several bombs and perhaps was followed by small arms fire. This sounded similar to the multiple bombings used in the Madrid attacks in 2004 and the London attacks in 2005, to the multiple bomb and small arms attacks used in the Mumbai attacks in 2008 and to several attacks made in Iraq by Islamist groups."

As opposed to all the other terrorist groups, who are known to use knives and brass knuckles and judo throws during their attacks. "Blowing up buildings" and "shooting people" is the mode of pretty much every terrorist group extant on the planet today.

"Err...I thought the government attempted to blame the ETA since it was right before the election, aware that it was a jihadist attack. It was quite the scandal in Spain at the time."

ETA had made numerous attacks, admittedly on a smaller scale (see my point below), in Madrid and awareness of the potential for Islamist terrorism in Europe itself, as opposed to else where in the world like 9/11 or Bali, was fairly low at that point back in 2004. Thus wrongly ETA got the blame for the first couple of days, despite the unusual nature of the attack, until the Islamist connection became clear. The Spanish government didn't know who it was but thought that it was most likely ETA because Islamists hadn't really done a lot in Europe at that point in time whereas ETA had a track record.

"As opposed to all the other terrorist groups, who are known to use knives and brass knuckles and judo throws during their attacks. "Blowing up buildings" and "shooting people" is the mode of pretty much every terrorist group extant on the planet today."

Of course separatist, anarchist, Marxist, far-right and other terrorist groups use bombs and guns, but the nature of attacks is usually different.

Being from the UK I am most familiar with Irish separatist terrorism, but the same holds true across Europe in general for groups like ETA in Spain, the RAF in Germany, the Red Brigade in Italy, 17 November in Greece and so on.

For example a small bomb underneath a car aimed at killing the driver, such as the INLA attack which killed Airey Neave in 1979.

Larger bombings at night or early morning to minimise causalities and maximise disruption, like the 1996 Docklands Bombing which happened at night and killed only two despite doing an incredible amount of damage.

Attacks on infrastructure which do economic damage and cause disruption but kill few if any, such as the IRA motorway bombings in 1997 or the Shetland Oil terminal bombing in 1981 which killed no one.

Attacks very often preceded by a warning allowing for evacuation, such as the 1996 Manchester Bombing, massive damage but none killed (and in the Docklands example as well).

A focus on the security forces, with far more soldiers and police killed than civilians. How many Islamist terrorist plots in the 'West' have targeted the the security forces? Very few, most have been aimed at so called 'soft' targets.

Of course as a counter to this trend are things like Proxy Bombing which was used briefly by the IRA but abandoned because of the outrage it caused.

Non-Islamist terrorism in Europe has usually, but not always, been demonstrative terrorism which kills relatively few to prove a point and create fear so as to shift public opinion and thus alter political decision making, rather than aimed at inflicting mass death. When mass casualties have occurred, such as in Omagh in 1998, the backlash caused by the horror has usually destroyed what little support the organisation had, forcing them to declare a ceasefire, at least in the short term. More than that, with the example of the Omagh bombing, the bloodiest Irish separatist attack, the casualties were actually an accident. A warning was given and an evacuation begun, but the warning gave the wrong location so people were evacuated towards the bomb rather than away from it.

"Then there was an online claim from an Islamist group which McCants reported, with caveats that it may be opportunistic hangers-on: http://www.jihadica.com/allege...

Doesn't match up against the McCants timeline of tweets. He first assumed it was Islamic radicals, *then* started looking through various jihadist forums noting that there was "no claim of responsibility yet" and kept plowing on looking for one until he found it. After he is told that the target was the Labour Party (at which point us mere mortals realized this was probably domestic) he continues to pursue the Islamic extremist angle.

In his defense he posts a lot of caveats when he sees claims of responsibility that are retracted, and notes that they don't have inside information on the attacks (which they probably wouldn't even if it was AQ). And he doesn't strike me as necessarily racist or hateful to Muslims.

But it's entirely fair to accuse him of being one-minded about the Jihadist angle and missing the boat entirely on the obvious fact that it was a domestic attack, because he did.

...I think that confirmation bias is a real problem, and can see where it may have kicked in in this case, to be fair McCants' focus is violent Islamism not domestic Norwegian terrorism. He is well respected as an violent Islamist analyst, I have read his blog for several years and it has never struck me as racist or hateful, more just as a place to bounce ideas and put opensource information - he is an academic after all. He frequently has guest posts from equally well known analysts and is no charlatan.

But given the recent attempts last year in Norway, threats in previous years against Norway, the charging of Mullah Krekar earlier this month for threatening attacks in Norway and the unclear, at the time he highlighted the claim, but massive nature of the attack, which is very unusual for domestic terrorists in Europe who normally go in for smaller scale demonstrative terrorism, I can understand why he naturally focused on the Islamist angle.

No domestic terrorist attacks, that I am aware of, in Europe have come remotely close in scale, where as Islamist terrorist attacks have been bigger, Madrid, Moscow Theater, Belsan School, Mumbai in India and Bali in Indonesia were worse but, back in Europe, London in 2005 was smaller, with several mass casualty attacks foiled which would have killed perhaps hundreds, like the failed Tiger Tiger club bombing in London using multiple bombs in 2007, if not thousands, like the 2006 liquid bomb plot to bring down multiple passenger aircraft.

Another point that all seem to have missed (unless it was made and I didn't notice it) is that McCants isn't the only analyst with access to the Jihadi forums. Others, like Kohlmann, also highlighted Abu Sulayman 'claims'. I assume so did the paid for monitoring and translating services, but I read Arabic so don't subscribe and can't confirm. Plus am a broke postgrad student so couldn't afford it even if I wanted to.

Good post. You'll agree with me more when you absorb the fact that after he was told that the targets were Labour Party offices and a youth camp run by the Labour Party, and long after the media reports weren't particularly following any of the patterns you describe above, he continues to pursue the Islamic angle for quite some time.

I'm not saying he's a bad guy. I'm pointing out that if the 'terrorism expert' actually knows less about an ongoing terrorist attack than myself and various random people I discussed it with at the time, he's really not that much of an expert.

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