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On Self-Radicalization

November 19, 2009

The letter also said there appears to be significant ‘intelligence sharing failures that must be reviewed and addressed immediately’ in order to safeguard against potential attacks. Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the top republican on the panel said there was a ‘systemic failure’ by government agencies to detect the threat posed by Maj. Hasan, who Mr. Hoekstra said appears to have been ‘self-radicalized.’ Wall Street Journal Wednesday, November 18, 2009. A6. Cam Simpson and Siobhan Gorman.

What is self-radicalization?

The myth of the self-radical situates itself firmly within the concept of American individualism—that truth exists only within the self. The individual then, is a lifetime member of a community formed out of the family unit and the state apparatus. Devoid of any substantial socio-spatial context somewhere between the biological and the ideological, self-radicalization is a side-effect of unchecked freedom—hence the state’s penchant for criminalization, incarceration, and institutionalization.

The myth of the self-radical is a by-product of American ignorance, the potent tragedy underneath the veil of happiness and prosperity, a figment of the American imagination, a breach in the projection that the American dream is absolute, manifest in each individual. Self-radicalization—a supernatural conundrum propagated ceaselessly to provoke its own realization.

So Major Hasan was not “self-radicalized.” Rather, what Representative Hoekstra seems to indicate is that intelligence efforts could not have foreseen that Major Hasan would act alone to commit a radical and atrocious act of domestic terrorism. Maj. Hasan was indeed radicalized by forces exterior to his self—as a Muslim on a US military base, as a highly educated psychiatrist conditioned to question society, as an internet subscriber with access to extremist literature and media, and as an American citizen with a semi-automatic weapon store within a short drive. Self-radicalization—radicalization within the privacy of your own home.

Julia Robinson for the New York Times

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