So there was a plot to bomb the B.C. legislature on Canada Day, apparently. Two white fuck-ups, who may or may not have converted to Islam, planned to interrupt the festivities in Victoria with pressure cooker bombs. They were stopped, which is obviously a good thing.
The RCMP is claiming that they were "inspired by Al Qaeda,"
which is a problematic claim to make for a number of reasons.
I imagine that actual Al Qaeda would probably not want to have much to do with druggie homeless punks, but maybe they'll take anyone these days. But that's not what's bothering me. I'd rather talk about paintball and punk music, because that was the angle that woke me up this morning.
When a brown person commits an act of terror, there is seldom any attempt to question his motivations. (I feel like I've typed this sentence many, many times.) We can say "religious extremism"—or "American imperialism," if one is a certain type of leftist—and leave it at that. When a white person commits an act of terror, or tries to, there's a lot of discussion of motives, because white people have agency and brown people apparently don't. So while little is known about why John Nuttall and Amanda Korody allegedly tried to blow people up, that's merely an opportunity to speculate about all of the sordid details of their lives.
(I suspect there's actually not much in the way of motivation here. Walkom's article, the second link, is pretty sensible in that regard.)
Absent a clear manifesto (whatever happened to manifestos? I deplore the decline of literacy amongst violent extremists), the media has been left to its own devices, to report random details of the couple's lives, sans context and with a prurient overtone that suggests that anyone who engages in such activities is a potential terrorist. To wit, from the same article:
Nuttall’s tastes were for heavy metal. He posted four poor-quality recordings on a music website along with a picture of himself posing with four guitars. The undated songs include titles such as “The End of the World,” and “In League With Satan,” with the lyrics: “We are possessed by all that is evil, The death of your god we demand, We spit at the virgin you worship, And sit at Lord Satan’s Left Hand.”
In online postings, Nuttall identified himself as belonging to a band called No World Order, a Muslim punk band that was created in Victoria but moved to the Surrey, B.C., area in mid-August, 2011.
And then there's the paintball thing:
In an online paintball forum, Nuttall appeared to be quite active last year playing paintball on weekends. Nuttall posted comments in the forum using the name Mujahid, while Korody used the name PirateNinjaCat.
I guess these details might be interesting to some, but they're not really relevant, are they? As someone who lived through Tipper Gore's attacks on the music industry and the panic around D&D, I get my back up at the implication that playing paintball and liking heavy metal (or is it punk? do we know the difference anymore?) somehow leads to joining Al Qaeda or blowing up Canada Day revelers. It's impossible for me to read these sorts of details and wonder what the authorities would dig up on me under the wrong circumstances. Online searches about weapons and explosives (for writing purposes, naturally)? An iTunes library full of music with violent lyrics? Jokey posts about putting various enemies up against the wall come the revolution? A bookshelf full of political tomes, not all of which I actually agree with? A weekend spent LARPing? Those stories, lost to the pre-internet era, written when I was 12 about blowing up the school/Ontario parliament/whatever? It wouldn't take any effort to make me look like a terrorist in a newspaper article. "[Realname], who posted to internet forums using the name Sabotabby, used a default icon that read 'now serving Molotov cocktails' and ran around in the woods wearing cargo pants" and so on.
Me, or anyone. What frightens me about data mining is the sheer amount of available information that can be cherry-picked and taken out of context, and the ability to use said information to create fear where fear is misplaced. A generation ago, psychotic meth addicts might have drawn their boneheaded, and fortunately doomed to failure, terror plot from a BBS version of the "Anarchist Cookbook," but that's not to say that they drew their ideological inspiration from Emma Goldman. And, in a mad stampede to avert our worst fears from being realized, to what degree will various authorities attempt to extrapolate from said imaginary connections and predict who is likely to be a threat? Because you all know I'm not going to blow anything up, but neither was Byron Sonne, and neither the RCMP nor CSIS tend to deal much in nuance.
Everyone's committed thought crimes. Everyone's committed illegal acts. Everyone, in retrospect, will look like a problem waiting to happen.
Do I think that these guys did what they're accused of? Oh, almost certainly. But I'm not comfortable with the analysis of why they might have done so, not one bit.