NEW YEAR’S DAY HEADLINE for the Independent Journal email newsletter was paranoia-inducing: “A Man Was Just Captured In New York Planning ISIS Attack on New Year’s Eve.” My immediate reaction was panicky: “Holy Schidt! ISIS in the Big Apple!! We’re under attack!!! It’s the end of the world as we know it!!!!” 1
Then I read the rest of the article attributed to Justen Charters; here are the first three lines: “Law enforcement has heightened security in a number of areas in anticipation for New Year’s Eve celebrations this week.”
This is as it should be and hopefully, such precautions were taken in urban areas throughout the US and the rest of the world where the Gregorian calendar is followed and New Year was celebrated this past Friday (yesterday). “As it turns out, their vigilance is with good reason. Reports claim a New York man was intending to hack restaurant/bar-goers with a machete tonight.”
Hey! It wasn’t ISIS!! It was one man who may or may not have talked to someone from the Middle East who may have some connection with ISIS!
Game-changer here: we have gone from a headline shouting “ISIS”—which encourages our imagination to see sleeper cells of nefarious ragheads with bombs and WMD and weapons-grade anthrax powder—to a lone man with a BIG knife. “The man, Emanuel Lutchman, was reportedly in contact with an ISIS affiliate in Syria.” 2
Huh?!!? Now our paranoia level can drop several decibels: it wasn’t ISIS, it was one man who may or may not have talked to someone from the Middle East who may have some connection with ISIS!
Read a little further and we find Lutchman has a history of mental illness and the man in the Middle East that Lutchman may or may not have had contact with may or may not have been associated with ISIS. 3
The accused is a serial Facebook abuser
We are then presented with a list of Lutchman’s “offenses,” which include an unholy obsession with ISIS—which he conveniently posted on Facebook. The type of thing one might expect from a “mentally ill” person.
The article closes with, “Lutchman is facing up to 20 years in prison and as much as a $250,000 fine, should he be convicted.”
Now I know it’s more complicated than my sarcastic tone above implies, but the source article is filled with “alleged” thises and thatses. And we are, in the end, dealing with an emotionally and intellectually unstable human being, one potentially capable of violence.
But that description applies to millions of Americans.
Hate-filled comments keep on comin’
The comments that follow are typical of rightwing articles, filled with hatred for Obama (“Your traitourous [sic] president encourages this behavior”), threats of violence (“cut off his head now and mail it to his mother in a box”), completely misunderstanding the situation (somehow thinking that the mentally ill American was an Ayrab in the desert with no need for a machete), yada yoda blah blah and etcetera.
And, as is par for the course, the comments are rife with misspellings, mis-punctuations, and a host of other grammatical errors. This only matters because the people making them think themselves competent enough in the art of writing to post written statements for public reading. And whether it is acknowledged or not, literacy skills are generally a reflection of reasoning skills.
It’s as if the people making the comments didn’t bother to read the article! Or if they did, they didn’t grasp that it was a SINGLE MENTALLY ILL AMERICAN threatening to do something stupid with a machete (which was somehow Obama’s fault)—not a group of devious, trained Middle Eastern terrorists plotting a well-executed mass murder with a dirty bomb (which would have somehow been Obama’s fault).
Oh well, I did read the article and I will sleep better knowing that this was an isolated incident that should have remained in a local newspaper …
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of the page was lifted from an article titled “What ISIS Really Wants” by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic magazine (March 2015). “The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior.
Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.”
1 You have to read the article to realize that ISIS here is used as an adjective (which it’s not) instead of a noun (which it is).
2 Think of that great scene in Crocodile Dundee: “That’s not a knife.” Now think a little bit bigger …
3 ISIS is an acronym from the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’ or ‘Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. It is not to be confused with Isis, who was “the first daughter of Geb, god of the Earth, and Nut, goddess of the Sky. She married her brother, Osiris, and conceived Horus with him. Isis was instrumental in the resurrection of Osiris when he was murdered by Set. Using her magical skills, she restored his body to life after having gathered the body parts that had been strewn about the earth by Set.
Isis was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the patroness of nature and magic. She was the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans, and the downtrodden, but she also listened to the prayers of the wealthy, maidens, aristocrats and rulers.” (Wikipedia)
The opaque title for this piece, “We Came To The Pyramids All Embedded In Ice,” is from Bob Dylan’s song Isis on the DESIRE album (1975).