We now know, as a result of an FBI announcement late this morning, that one of the San Bernardino attackers had “pledged… allegiance” to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
That’s the first piece of information we’ve had indicating that the killer couple had any sort of connection, direct or indirect, to radical Islamic groups.
That news broke about 6 hours ago. But before that, there was a remarkable number of people in this country who were so sure that this was indeed an act of Islamist terror that they were contemptuously dismissive of anyone who expressed anything other than absolute certainty on that point.
For instance, take a look at some of the Twitter reactions to a story that was in The Washington Post this morning (meaning that it was probably written last night, long before that FBI disclosure). The story was headlined, “Motive elusive in deadly San Bernardino rampage as FBI takes over probe.”
Which was certainly true when the story was posted. This was a weird case, and not only because it was the first potential terrorist attack that we had seen involving a married couple with a young child (so much for the stereotype of sexually frustrated young men). This couple had taken the trouble to amass a modest armory, had taken their child to relatives for safekeeping — and yet had not left the world any obvious message as to why they were doing what they did. It fit no known pattern.
But there are a lot of people out there these days who just know things without any evidentiary support, such as these:
… and so forth.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
Oh, how quaint.
Today, people are adamant that they are so entitled to their own facts. That’s why Donald Trump doesn’t implode no matter how many stretchers he may defiantly utter. There is a natural constituency that believes that truth is whatever they choose to forcefully assert.
I find myself suspecting that this is related to the rise of the Web. Since there are no barriers to publication, there are no standards. Anyone who believes anything can find an audience of people who believe him — and stand ready to amplify him — and that’s the only test one has to meet. The hordes of people who embrace this new state of affairs have been waiting for a man like Trump, and the moment has found its man.
Anyway, back to actual reality…
This case remains perplexing. Why would this woman have “pledged allegiance” to ISIL’s leader, but done so in such a backhanded manner? One of the cardinal rules of terror is that you kill and/or sacrifice yourself to send a clear political message.
Why has ISIL not leaped to claim even indirect responsibility, given the way they did so so quickly after Paris?
I’m interested to learn more so that I can understand what happened and why, and learn valuable lessons for heading off this kind of thing in the future. Yeah, I know. I’m hopelessly old-fashioned. I like facts…