Moynihan investigates Islamic extremism on the web:
I decided to try an experiment: I would spend seven days creeping through the Internet using disposable IP addresses, inhabiting the milieu of radical sites and Facebook pages. In Manhattan coffee shops, on subway platforms, between tasks at work, I would take up residence in the darkest corners of the Web—and see what I could learn about the fetid swamps where self-made jihadists are allegedly born.
His big takeaway? It works – by numbing followers to violence:
The further I crawled down the extremist rabbit hole and the more caved-in skulls and headless corpses I saw, the more I found that my natural revulsion, usually an uncontrollable instinct, was easier to suppress.
And it wasn’t just my revulsion to violence that seemed to dull: the casual Jew hatred, homophobia (yes, there were references to the “sick” revelation that NBA player Jason Collins is gay), and sexism (“The beauty of a woman lies in her SILENCE rather than her SPEECH”) were so eye-glazingly common that after a week of uninterrupted consumption, I found myself scrolling past it without a second thought.
Americans were jarred by a gruesome—and now iconic—photo of Boston Marathon spectator Jeff Bauman being rushed toward an ambulance, one of his legs blown off below the knee. In the universe of electronic jihad, such images are banal. To be a social-media jihadi for a week is to be reminded of French essayist Alain Finkielkraut’s admonition: “Barbarism is not the inheritance of our pre-history. It is the companion that dogs our every step.”
My earlier take on the Boston jihad here.
(Screenshot from the al Qaeda magazine Inspire, supposedly an inspiration to the Boston bombing suspects.)