By now, you have probably seen the viral Internet post about a fictional conversation between an Islamic terrorist and a Western “progressive.” I’ve received it a number of times in my e-mail and on social media, and I only just recently tracked down what seems to be its origin.
It came from a Facebook post by Iraqi-born secularist Faisal Saeed al-Mutar, who attributes it to “my friend Joseph.” It’s told in the form of “a bad Monty Python sketch,” and here’s how it goes:
“We did this because our holy texts exhort us to do it.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Wait, what? Yes we did…”
“No, this has nothing to do with religion. You guys are just using religion as a front for social and geopolitical reasons.”
“WHAT!? Did you even read our official statement? We give explicit Quranic justification. This is jihad, a holy crusade against pagans, blasphemers, and disbelievers.”
“No, this is definitely not a Muslim thing. You guys are not true Muslims, and you defame a great religion by saying so.”
“Huh!? Who are you to tell us we’re not true Muslims!? Islam is literally at the core of everything we do, and we have implemented the truest most literal and honest interpretation of its founding texts. It is our very reason for being.”
“Nope. We created you. We installed a social and economic system that alienates and disenfranchises you, and that’s why you did this. We’re sorry.”
“What? Why are you apologizing? We just slaughtered you mercilessly in the streets. We targeted unwitting civilians — disenfranchisement doesn’t even enter into it!”
“Listen, it’s our fault. We don’t blame you for feeling unwelcome and lashing out.”
“Seriously, stop taking credit for this! We worked really hard to pull this off, and we’re not going to let you take it away from us.”
“No, we nourished your extremism. We accept full blame.”
“OMG, how many people do we have to kill around here to finally get our message across?”
As with so many things these days, we live in the era of Poe’s Law: Life imitates satire, except that al-Qaeda has concluded that it doesn’t need to kill more people to get its message across. Instead, it has decided it needs to be more careful about killing the right kind of people.
A guide to the “Orlando operation” issued by al-Qaeda’s online magazine advises “lone jihad” attackers in the United States to avoid targeting members of minority groups in order to avoid having their attacks mislabeled in the American media as “hate crimes.”
This was noticed by The Foreign Desk, which summarizes the advice:
[N]oting that killing gay people is ‘the most binding duty and closer to human nature,’ it suggests to ‘avoid targeting places and crowds where minorities are generally found in America,’ because ‘the federal government will be the one taking full responsibility.’
Just like in the parody.
No, really. Here’s the full version. First, the al-Qaeda guide complains, in somewhat broken and not-quite-grammatical English, about the American press.
The executer specifically chose a homosexual nightclub, and even though the killing of such people is the most binding duty and closer to human nature, but better than this is to avoid targeting areas where minorities are found. This is in order not to deviate the essence of the operation and letting it be termed as a small issue as the American media is trying to portray in the case of Mateen. The Western media focused on the testimony by Mateen’s father who said that his son hates homosexuals and that terrorist ideas had no place in his motives. The media reiterated this, saying that Umar saw some homosexuals kissing each other and that such a scene offended him. The media tried to portray the operation motives to be against a particular group of people in order to turn the American public away from the real motives of the operation.
That’s actually a pretty fair assessment. It then goes on to offer this advice to Islamic terrorists in the United States:
Most of the individuals present at pulse nightclub were Latino. We recommend — And Allah knows best — that it is better to avoid targeting places and crowds where minorities are generally found in America. knowingly that the federal government will be the one taking full responsibility. Therefore we advise targeting areas where the Anglo-Saxon community is generally concentrated. This class of the American community is the majority and it is the one that is in the American leadership.
Folks, you can’t make this stuff up. Or rather, you can make this up, but real events will quickly overtake you.
If this is the era of Poe’s Law — the idea that it is ultimately impossible to tell the difference between the sincere expression of an irrational idea and a parody of it — then perhaps we also need to identify the end stage of this phenomenon: the Poe Horizon, the point at which real life and parody seamlessly converge.
For example, in response to the latest terror attack in Turkey, a Twitter account with the handle @OnMessageForHer posted this:
In the wake of #Istanbul, it’s more important than ever to repeat these wise words over and over again to ourselves: pic.twitter.com/vtkuArncpk
— Hillary PR Team (@OnMessageForHer) June 29, 2016
Is that a parody account? Yes, but the original quote from Hillary Clinton is real, so who can tell the difference any more?
Our leaders’ determination to blind themselves to the very existence of Islamic terrorism, to remove it as an issue and replace it with their pre-programmed domestic agenda, has reached the point where it is beyond parody.
Follow Robert on Twitter.