Jonah Goldberg

Consider Hussain Osman, another of the alleged conspirators, Osman spent his youth as an enormous fan of all things American. "He had a fixation with America," his girlfriend explained, particularly with hip-hop. The Somali refugee went to the discos all the time and "worshipped" Tupac Shakur, the murdered rapper and son of a Black Panther. Now, it should be made clear that Mr. Osman is what some experts in the field call a "moron." Explaining to Italian authorities that he "preferred" not to be extradited to Britain - isn't that special? - Osman insisted that he was no "terrorist." After all, "We didn't want to kill, just sow terror."

But idiots are often very useful in illustrating the appeal of fascistic cults. Intellectuals are too good at covering their real psychological motivations with verbiage. It turns out that the famously "homegrown" terrorists of the London bombings were much more like John Walker Lindh or even the Patty Hearst types of the 1960s and '70s. Radical chic may be as a big a part of the story as radical Islam.

We've always understood this was the case to a certain extent. Osama Bin Laden's prattling about the Crusades, for instance, merely shows how poisoned Islamism is by Western Marxism and anti-imperialism. Muslims used to brag about winning the Crusades. It was only after the West started exporting victimology that Islamic and Arab intellectuals started to whine about how poorly they'd been treated.

To a certain extent, radical Islam in Europe has taken the place of Third World Marxism - hardly a big leap when you think about how many Vietnamese "revolutionaries" were trained in Parisian salons. It's all about fighting capitalism, American "imperialism," modernism, etc. Marxism no longer provides a workable model, but the Islamists think sharia might. At the same time, like fascism and communism before it, radical Islam provides a sense of purpose and meaning for losers and misfits who blame their misfortunes on "the system" (variously defined as the ruling class, the Jews, the capitalists, Col. Sanders, etc.). In this sense, Islamism is less about religion than ideology, and less about ideology than it is about alienation and low self-esteem.

This is just one reason why poverty is such a silly explanation for terrorism. Most of the 9/11 attackers, like the London bombers, were squarely middle class, and the leadership of Al-Qaida is downright wealthy.

My guess is that most of these losers would be miserable living in the utopia they're fighting for. And should it ever arrive, they shouldn't bother replying to the knock on their door by yelling, "I have rights!" Their kind of people don't bother knocking.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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