What follows is a portion of an article from here exploring the relationship of guns, pornography and national security. It seems that those who would kill innocent people need to feel powerful. Is this the connection between porn, guns and terrorism? Jennifer S. Bryson is asking some important questions.
Jennifer S. Bryson
We may need to invest in understanding the impact of pornography on those who use it, particularly on those who also become obsessed with extremist ideologies. So, I wonder, is anyone in the U.S. government tracking and surveying the presence and types of pornography on these media? If we have access to the libraries of the personal pornography preferences of those who support and engage in terrorist violence, we may have a window into the dark corners of their minds. What lurks there? It may be to our own peril that we would ignore this information before us.
In seeking to understand terrorists, studying their ideas alone is not enough. We need to study and understand their minds—and in this day and age, this includes, in perhaps more cases than we are aware of, minds shaped by pornography.
Sometimes terrorists’ identification of their motivating ideologies can tell us more about who the terrorists aspire to be than who they actually are. Most significantly, if we want to understand modern terrorism in order better to prevent and counter it, we need to go beyond the surface level of what terrorists want us to believe about themselves and delve instead, to the extent possible, into the deepest levels of their actual lived reality.
Consider Abdo. In his words, he kept trying to portray himself as a man driven by righteous religious motivation. When he volunteered to join the military in 2009, he said, “I thought God would be proud of me.” Just a year later, he sought exemption from his Army unit’s deployment to Afghanistan on grounds of conscientious objection, again citing his personal religious motivation.
Contrary to his views of 2009 and contrary to the view of other Muslims, including Muslim jurists, Abdo claimed in 2010, “Any Muslim who knows his religion or maybe takes into account what his religion says can find out very clearly why he should not participate in the U.S. military.” Abdo wrote that instead of deploying to Afghanistan, he wanted to use his time to “revive the faith of the Muslim nation.” He also claimed, “I want to use my experience to show Muslims how we can lead our lives.”
Yet his words do not tell the whole story. As evidenced by Abdo’s possession of child pornography, he appears to have had interests other than—and in conflict with—just being a man who “knows his religion” or who takes his religion “into account.”
When there is dissonance of words and actions, words are not enough to explain behavior. What is needed is a comprehensive and authentic account of who an individual is. Focusing exclusively on ideology, as expressed in words, risks turning a blind eye to the internal reality of a person as expressed in his or her actions.
If we want to understand the inner workings of terrorists and would-be terrorists, we must seek to understand their entire person, including the relationship—or inconsistencies—between their words and actions. In the case of the 9/11 hijackers who visited strip clubs, and in the case of Abdo and among what seems like an increasing number of terrorists, actions include sexual perversions and pornography use that cannot be squared with what these ideological terrorists and their supporters espouse.
I do not know what link, if any, exists between terrorism and pornography, but I do think this question warrants attention. Since 9/11, we have investigated radical ideologies that claim their affirmation in Islam, and that terrorists have identified as their inspiration. Yet when terrorists adhering to such ideologies are found with pornography, we tend to look only at the terrorists’ words, not at the reality of their behavior.
Today, the lives of terrorists and aspiring terrorists often include the use of pornography. The pornography on their captured media and in their online activities is information that tells us something about them. What remains in question, however, is whether or not we will seek knowledge and understanding from this information.
With the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks staring us in the face, we already know that our failure to have an approach to security that is robust and accurate has dire consequences. Pornography has long circulated nearly unbounded due to calls for “freedom,” but what if we are actually making ourselves less free by allowing pornography itself to be more freely accessible?
Are there security costs to the free-flow of pornography? If so, what are they? Are we as a society putting ourselves at risk by turning a blind eye to pornography proliferation?
I wonder further: Could it be that pornography drives some users to a desperate search for some sort of radical “purification” from the pornographic decay in their soul? Could it be that the greater the wedge pornography use drives between an individual’s religious aspirations and the individual’s actions, the more the desperation escalates, culminating in increasingly horrific public violence, even terrorism?
As Bynum and Fair pointedly questioned, “Can being more realistic about who our foes actually are help us stop the truly dangerous ones?”
Here I offer only questions. I do not know their answers or what rigorous studies of these and related issues will yield. I merely think the time has come to suggest that our continued failure to ask these questions and to pursue their answers may be a mistake we make at our own national peril.
Jennifer S. Bryson is the director of the Witherspoon Institute’s Islam and Civil Society Project. This article has been republished with permission from Public Discourse.
Ironically, as I post this a visitor from Ankara, Turkey is reading a post about how Portland has become American's top porn city.