November 16, 2015

Was there a "mastermind" of the Paris attacks?

It troubles me to see press reports that inflate the ingeniousness of terrorist attacks. In a post yesterday, I was critical of reports that called the attacks "well-coordinated" when it seemed to me that the attacks were "sloppily done and mostly unsuccessful."

Today, I'm seeing a NYT banner headline: "FRANCE SEEKS BELGIAN MILITANT AS MASTERMIND OF PARIS ATTACKS." Whoever participated in the attacks is despicable. Why glorify him as a "mastermind"? A "mastermind" is — I'm quoting the OED — "An outstanding or commanding mind or intellect; a person with such a mind" or — and this is most relevant here — "A person who plans and directs a complex and ingenious enterprise."

I don't see complexity and ingeniousness. The attackers didn't invent the communications systems or the modes of encryption that must have made it possible to say today's the day. They didn't assemble the crowds in the restaurants or concert hall or stadium. And they didn't figure out how to get anywhere near President François Hollande.

Why inflate the reputation of these people? Even if you respect the value of propaganda, how does it serve our interests more than theirs?

208 comments:

1 – 200 of 208   Newer›   Newest»
Pat said...

Agree 100%. Bravo.

David Begley said...

It glorifies The Prophet and his followers.

They invented algebra and put a man on the moon. Don't you know?

mccullough said...

It makes for a better story to have an identifiable villain. It also makes it seem like the authorities can solve the problem.

robother said...

As I said yesterday, its equal parts police defensive spin and media hyping the story, looking to keep eyeballs on the screen for a few more days as they scroll late-breaking developments in the search for the Mastermind.
If MacLuhan is right that the Media is the message, then the message is always the same: stay tuned.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Even if you respect the value of propaganda, how does it serve our interests more than theirs?

1) Nobody respects the value of propaganda more than the New York Times.

2) I'm not sure who "our" is referring to. I don't see much of an overlap between the interests of the New York Times and the interests of the American people.

3) One of the Times' interests is in selling newspapers. That is enough to explain their efforts to make the story sound more interesting and exciting than it really is. That explains much of the media's approach to much of the news.

Gahrie said...

Why inflate the reputation of these people? Even if you respect the value of propaganda, how does it serve our interests more than theirs?

It doesn't. It serves the interests of government and politicians.

MarkW said...

Politicians like to claim that the attacks were 'sophisticated' and the planner a 'mastermind' to A) eliminate any culpability on their part ("surely nobody could have been expected to foil such a diabolically clever plot by a criminal mastermind!"), and B) to suggest that because the attacks were so hard to pull off, there's no reason to fear another one soon. In reality, of course, these attacks had all the sophistication of an underpants gnomes business plan: 1) acquire weapons, 2) drive to Paris. And the only reason there won't be another similar attack next week and the week after is that -- fortunately -- ISIS just doesn't have enough raving fanatics on the ground in Europe who are ready and willing to carry out similar suicide missions.

EMD said...

FRANCE SEEKS BELGIAN ASSHOLE BEHIND PARIS ATTACKS has a nice ring to it.

khesanh0802 said...

Would you really expect anything but sloppy use of the language from the NYT?

Trashhauler said...

They use mastermind way of explaining why such attacks cannot be prevented. After all, if terrorists are merely criminals and should be "brought to justice" through normal police procedures, we will have to put up with the occasional spectacular event engineered by some mastermind. As the rationale goes, we only need better intelligence to separate the evil ones from the gullible Muslim population. This prevents us from considering the possibility that terrorists rise naturally from the primordial soup of beliefs that is Islam.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I agree with the Professor on this one. Corporals in the U.S. military are expected to (and do) plan, coordinate, and execute plans just as if not more complicated than this one. And the people they are planning the operations against aren't unarmed civilians.

Anybody hoping to be commissioned as a 2nd LT in Combat Arms is going to have to demonstrate the ability to plan a simultaneous attack on multiple targets, assigning teams and material and coordinating the teams actions. Quite often with only a few hours to prepare and rehearse the mission and while suffering a sleep deficit and while making sure that their men are getting fed, cleaning their weapons, and trying to ensure that the men get some sleep. Usually in adverse weather conditions as well.

Yet I've never heard a ROTC cadet or West Point cadet called a "mastermind."

rhhardin said...

I'd look for a hideout.

tim maguire said...

I'd also note that inflating the difficulty trivializes the threat.

Skeptical Voter said...

Well you could avoid the use of the term "mastermind" and simply call him the evil bastard who planned these attacks.

But one derisive term for somebody who can't organize or plan things is to say, "He's not smart enough to plan a two car funeral in a small Texas town." But there were more than two cars here--and it led to a lot of funerals.

Tactically speaking the guys who did the killing at the two restaurants showed some smarts. They threw firecrackers on some of the tables--which made the diners stand up in surprise--which then made the task of mowing the diners down easier.

So there were what--three sets of targets that we know about. They achieved their goals at the restaurants and the concert hall; but they didn't get into the stadium. So for known targets, they batted .666(no coincidence that that's the Sign of the Beast--for they were in his service at least as far as Islam goes).

If you're faced with someone who's willing to die (or to send others to die) to kill you, you have to bat 1000 to keep from getting hurt. And of course the clueless twit who metaphorically stands in the Oval Office batters box to defend us refuses to believe that the pitcher will actually throw the ball. That's a recipe for whiffing--which he's pretty good at on any number of topics.

rhhardin said...

The attacks are militarily insignificant. They're done for the news coverage.

The news coverage in turn is done because it's entertainment and pulls ratings.

There's the business arrangement between masterminds.

BDNYC said...

The future must not belong to those who slander the soldiers of Islam.

Rick said...

Why inflate the reputation of these people?

The same reason people pretend there's an epidemic of racism in our country, or that global warming is an existential threat. People define themselves in part by the obstacles they overcome, but in the western world most truly difficult obstacles have been greatly reduced or removed altogether. We're driven to match the great accomplishments of the past (civil rights struggle, WWII, defeating communism) and if the opportunity doesn't exist we'll invent it.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I mean, has this supposed "mastermind" ever put together a 5 paragraph operation order?

http://www.armystudyguide.com/content/Leadersbook_information/leadersbook_items/sample-5-paragraph-operat-2.shtml

or instruct his men in proper over watch technique?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overwatch

Maybe so, but so do NCOs and very, very few of them are considered "masterminds."


Jupiter said...

... it seemed to me that the attacks were "sloppily done and mostly unsuccessful."

You wouldn't see it that way if they had taken place in Madison.

bbkingfish said...

Why?

Ebola. That's why.

Theranter said...

Program Manager?

Nonapod said...

FRANCE SEEKS BELGIAN ASSHOLE BEHIND PARIS ATTACKS has a nice ring to it.

How about FRANCE SEEKS BELGIAN FLYBLOWN SHITBAG BEHIND PARIS ATTACKS?

B said...

Why inflate the reputation of these people?

Do you prefer Obama's strategy of deflating their reputation? Calling them the JV team or calling them contained?

Or how about we just be honest and not fret about reputation. ISIS downed a plane, cooked up a sophisticated but volatile explosive, smuggled in assault rifles and fake refugees, and avoided detection from a very competent French security force that was on high alert.

It was a sufficiently sophisticated attack.]

Unknown said...

Seems to me that this could happen anywhere. Soft targets all.

JAORE said...

"The attackers didn't invent the communications systems or the modes of encryption that must have made it possible to say today's the day. They didn't assemble the crowds in the restaurants or concert hall or stadium. "

Those items are currently, and readily, available. I would argue the leader of the attacks was an imbecile if he felt the need to invent those items. That may not make him a mastermind, but you standard is a bit silly.

R. Chatt said...

Underestimating the enemy is also not helpful. The so called mastermind, "Abdelhamid Abaaoud, in his late 20s, was once a student at one of Brussels’s most prestigious high schools... What’s more, one French official told The Associated Press, Abaaoud is believed to have links to earlier terror attacks that were thwarted: one against a Paris-bound high-speed train that was foiled by three young Americans in August, and the other against a church in the French capital’s suburbs." Times of Israel

Anonymous said...

Why do you suspect encryption had anything to do with this? The principal actors lived within driving distance of each other. The could have met at Denny's and said "tomorrow night, be there at 8 sharp."

SteveR said...

"I am Costanza, Lord of the Idiots" is what we are talking about here"

These people are very dangerous and very evil, but they are stupid and ignorant.

J Scott said...

Agreed. It irritated me so see some of 60 minutes where they interviewed civilians and asked for their opinions on how well trained they were. Anyone can learn to shoot and reload smoothly in a couple hours. They aren't soldiers.

Nichevo said...

Could somebody find a photo of a woman who's been hit in the face with a bludgeon repeatedly, so Ann can see what is waiting for her? I don't think she gets it.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

@B

I would say their ability to acquire explosives and weapons while remaining undetected by the French Security Forces does show a certain amount of sophistication, but the overall plan, to go where people are and shoot and/or blow them up does not rise to the level of requiring a "mastermind."

Given access to explosives and weapons and sufficiently fanatical people, anybody with a modicum of military training could have planned this. The most important being the fanatical people.

The Cracker Emcee said...

My mind originally read that as "Belgian migrant". I wonder how many others did as well.

Nichevo said...

The killers were unlucky, not lucky. If nothing else, anybody here with any operational background or interest can readily suggest how the attack could have been improved and could have succeeded in causing far more damage.

As I hear it, the French are bombing nameless training camps somewhere in the desert, I wonder if there's even a point to that. Other than pounding the table. If the French are reduced to pounding the table after a blow to the heart of Marianne, I think they're a little f***ed.

Objectively this is a good result for them. 7 or 8 of them vs 20 times that of the enemy, i.e. us. And they can do this all day.

B said...

Not just access to explosives. They cooked the stuff. And it may not be incredibly complicated, but it's very very volatile. The fact that they cooked it and packaged it in vests without an accidental explosion hints at a lot of training.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

anybody with a modicum of military training could have planned this

And that is the problem. ISIS is training people on how to plan terrorist operations. Lots of people.

Levi Starks said...

I think creating a "mastermind" deflects criticism away from the obvious Muslims are trying to kill us. It's much more convenient to have very smart lunatic as an object on which to heap our anger and frustration, than to ask and answer the question of why there is a significant grassroots movement among a group of peoples who March under the banner of Islam.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

The fact that they cooked it and packaged it in vests without an accidental explosion hints at a lot of training.

I was unaware that they manufactured the explosive. Agree that took a lot of training. And my guess is that ISIS is giving a lot of people that training.

J Scott said...

I don't even think acquiring explosives and weapons is all that difficult in Europe. Albania, the former Yugoslavian states, Romania, opportunistic types that squirreled away weapons after the fall of the Berlin wall in all the eastern states. Smuggling from the Crimean region, from Turkey.

buster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

coordinator
organizer
arranger
promoter
facilitator
administrator
supervisor
head honcho
leader
controller
director
manager
developer
comissioner

BUREAUCRAT

Michael K said...

"Do you prefer Obama's strategy of deflating their reputation?"

I'm with B on this. They are learning to avoid our security with the help of the NY Times, which revealed the SWIFT program and several other methods. They are evolving. One reason why you take antibiotics for seven days even though you felt better after three is that it is important to eradicate the infection before the organism develops resistance.

That is exactly what is happening with Obama's public relations campaign. He is not killing them off. He is putting enough pressure on them cause them to evolve and find better methods, like using Playstation 4 chat function. This is worse than leaving them alone. He is pretending to attack them to create newspaper stories like this in the LA Times and the NY Times.

Another example is the CNN reporter hiding in the bushes and broadcasting live the police attempts to enter the concert hall. If the terrorists were monitoring TV, and you must assume they do this, they will see what the police are doing and where. This is another sign that the media and Obama, who is nothing if not a creature of the media, are interested only in atmospherics and are not serious about eradicating the enemy.

The left is not willing to do what is necessary. All you have to do is read HuffPo and see how they are willing only to pretend.

The left half of the West is still not over the suicide wish.

Achilles said...

These islamists are pathetic clowns. It was like fighting retarded kids. There were some smart ones, but intelligence and cowardice were strictly corellated.

The losers in Paris probably considered halo training.

Sebastian said...

"The attackers didn't invent the communications systems or the modes of encryption"

Well, isn't that unsophisticated of them?

The Russians didn't even invent the atom bomb, either. (Sakharov helped a bit, but still.)

So?

"Why inflate"

For law profs whose main concern is to tone down the rhetoric, I have just the candidate for you. Two, in fact. They'll deflate and deflect for four yours as much as you could want.

buster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gerry said...

Althouse does well to channel the narrative into the one describing successful amateur/lone-wolf successes.

Curious George said...

"sloppily done and mostly unsuccessful."

What would you define as success? They wanted to go into Paris, kill a bunch of people. Paris looks like a ghost town. Mission accomplished.

And as long as we have idiots in this country that are more worried about gay and abortion rights than security, they can be sloppy.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

I'm guessing the first widespread, modern use of "mastermind" was in comic books. A bit of bombast when referring to "dastardly" villains-- just the kind of thing 9- to 13-year-olds would love! The problem is that the folks working at the NYT are former (or current) comic-book nerds and they failed to question their affection for the term! Kinda like when newscasters improvise and say, "Well, it looks like it's HIS TURN IN THE BARREL!" Whoops. Totally forgetting (or never aware) of the origins of the expression. It's just bad editing. Or no editing.

The Drill SGT said...

The Muslim smuggler caught last week on the Austro-German border moving AK's and Semtex (C-4) from the Balkans to Paris fits this model.

As for the general level for competence for 2LT's :)

I used to tell mine that what they needed to do was:
1. know where they were.
2. answer the radio when the boss (me) calls
3. be able to take my 5 para field order and craft it into their part
4. Let their NCO's do their jobs
5. start the operation on time

Barry Dauphin said...

Perhaps Monty Python can help:
"Prejudice" Host: Well now, the result of last week's competition when we asked you to find a derogatory term for the Belgians. Well, the response was enormous and we took quite a long time sorting out the winners. There were some very clever entries. Mrs Hatred of Leicester Said 'let's not call them anything, let's just ignore them'. And a Mr St John of Huntingdon said he couldn't think of anything more derogatory than 'Belgians'. But in the end we settled on three choices: number three ... 'The Sprouts', sent in by Mrs Vicious of Hastings... very nice; number two..... 'The Phlegms', from Mrs Childmolester of Worthing; but the winner was undoubtedly from Mrs No-Supper-For-You from Norwood in Lancashire... 'Miserable Fat Belgian Bastards'!

Jupiter said...

Michael K said...

"The left half of the West is still not over the suicide wish."

If only it were so simple. The rest of us would be happy to help the Left commit suicide, if that was their desire, but it isn't. In fact, what the Left desires is not their own death, but ours. They regard the Muslims as allies, in the only struggle that concerns them. We could handle the Muzzies in a heartbeat, if we didn't have the dead weight of the Left hanging on our sword arm.

Roughcoat said...


buster @12:25 PM:

Agree. This is literally an academic discussion, essentially pointless (if well-meaning).

Which is not to say that language isn't important. "Naming is the mother of 10,000 things," say the Vedas. We should clearly identify the enemy. "Give it a name." But we should guard against falling into what is merely an exercise in semantics. As for "Mastermind": forget about it Jake, it's just journalism. You can't change it.

eric said...

There are probably many facts we don't know. I'll reserve judgment for now.

traditionalguy said...

Do we know if the Koch Brothers were in Brussells.

chuck said...

Perhaps you underestimate the difficulty of running an attack? Not everyone works at the level of the SEALS or SAS and has their resources, and the members of those forces are highly trained over years.

J Scott said...

I think the thing that has prevented a similar Mall style shooting here is the people smuggling drugs and weapons to the US are largely not muslim (Nigerians being the exception but they have to fly in their drugs, so no heavy weapons or explosives.).

David said...

You "inflate the reputation of these people" because it sells papers.

Curious George said...

Whatever you may think of their plan, or execution, they figured out a way to get eight guys to go on a suicide mission. They secured weapons. And explosives. Got those eight not so smart bombs and weapons into France undetected. And initiated a simultaneous attack on multiple locations in Paris.

The hit both highly populated sites like the stadium and concert, but also smaller sites like a cafe. Whether by design or not, the message that there is no where you are safe was sent.

Time for a jihad of our own and eradicate these vermin completely.

Larry J said...

rhhardin said...
The attacks are militarily insignificant. They're done for the news coverage.


An attack can be tactically insignificant but strategically very important. A famous example from history was the Doolittle Raid in 1942. Sixteen B-25 bombers, each carrying one ton of bombs, took off from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier and bombed Japan. The damage they did was insignificant, but it had major strategic impacts. These included forcing Japan to station many squadrons of combat aircraft to protect the home islands and prompting Japan to attack Midway. The Battle of Midway was the turning point of the Pacific War.

We're told that there are roughly a billion Muslims. We're also told that 99.99% of them are peaceful and want no part of jihad. Even if we accept both numbers at face value, that means there are 100,000 Muslims who are waging jihad against us. Based on the size of ISIS and other groups, that number seems low. If you look at the 9/11 attacks, 16 people were directly involved and perhaps a couple dozen more were involved in planning and support activities. I doubt if the entire operation cost a million dollars, with much of that being spent to train the pilots in US flight schools. That attack caused about 3000 deaths and had a trillion dollar economic impact on the US, plus we spent a lot more on the wars that followed.

This attack in Paris was smaller in scope, number of participants, number of casualties, and cost. It seems there were 8 people who actively participated in the attacks and maybe a few others who planned and coordinated everything. That 100,000 number suggests they could conduct thousands of such attacks around the world. It's something to think about.

Achilles said...

Curious George said...

"And as long as we have idiots in this country that are more worried about gay and abortion rights than security, they can be sloppy."

These attacks will be confined to gun free zones in the US. Just like all the other mass shootings. Amd progressives will try to make more gun free zones because they want more mass shootings.

I watched a couple football games and there were extended segments on the "special secutity" arrangements and the quiescence of the fans basically being strip searched.

Michael said...

Well this "mastermind" is not a sad old man in a housecoat hunkered down in a Pakastani shithole waiting for the brave Obama to have others pull the trigger.

J Scott said...

The worst thing about the NFLs security procedures is the current terrorist with a suicide belt just wants a large group of people to attack, he doesn't need to be INSIDE the stadium. They will attack the throngs of people AT the security checkpoint.

Quaestor said...

FRANCE SEEKS BELGIAN FLYBLOWN SHITBAG BEHIND PARIS ATTACKS?

Real Belgians would object. The flyblown shitbag is merely in Belgium and not of Belgium. (Probably not anymore, given the EU's non-existent border control he's likely scarpered to Sweden or Norway by now.)

Watch and weep, my friends. This is the end result of multiculturalism, which used to mean just bad culture, like Die Zauberflöte performed mariachi-style. Now we can see that the real aim is the extinction of European culture. The left hates the West, always has. We sometimes think they just hate America, but Europe as an entity has always been Big Hate No. 2.

"Mastermind" is relatively accurate when viewed in contrast to the masterminds of the EU's immigration policy. The ISIS "mastermind" (in Belgium or wherever) can rightly say he achieved his goal on 11/13. Do you suppose Dimitris Avramopoulos would admit to achieving his?

Todd said...

It troubles me to see press reports that inflate the ingeniousness of terrorists attacks. In a post yesterday, I was critical of reports that called the attacks "well-coordinated" when it seemed to me that the attacks were "sloppily done and mostly unsuccessful."

People died, other people panicked, yet other people scratched their heads and asked "what did we do wrong to deserve this / how did we upset them now / what can we do to appease them?".

It was all quite successful, in certain circles...

Coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Drill SGT said...

Todd said...
It was all quite successful, in certain circles...


This old soldier would have been reasonably proud of the attack. The Army has a saying that fits here:

An 80% solution, implemented on time and with vigor always beats

The perfect solution, implemented late and timidly.

quite successful

gerry said...

One reason why you take antibiotics for seven days even though you felt better after three is that it is important to eradicate the infection before the organism develops resistance.

Which is why, especially for topical infections, a disinfectant that is destructive of all cellular life that it touches, rather than an antibiotic that affects mere metabolic or reproductive mechanisms of sensitive organisms, may be preferred.

Ann Althouse said...

I wouldn't use the word "mastermind" even where the attack is complex and ingenious, like 9/11.

There are plenty of alternative and properly pejorative words, like "villain" and "malefactor."

Monster, savage, miscreant, fiend, evildoer, wretch, brute, devil, coward.

I'm not mentioning the obscenities that are available for writing beyond the fit-to-print level to which the NYT aspires.

jacksonjay said...

All I need to know is that Imam Swaggy Obama has once again warned us about labeling ISIL (his preferred moniker) as Muslim. Like keeping the "extremists" locked up in Cuba, calling these savages Muslims will only cause more Muslims to join up. I think that's what he said.

Alexander said...

It has to be a mastermind. Because if you come out and say, "basically any group of Muslim males with an ounce of patience could pull off this exact same thing, time and time again, raking up a 10:1+ bodycount" then people might look at the hoards of Muslims coming into the country and have a second thought.

Much better to tie everything to ISIS and some brilliant strategist. Then we can maintain the idea that it's a one-time thing, won't happen again because now we are 'officially at war', and the stream of hostile colonizers is merely incidental.

Ann Althouse said...

"'... it seemed to me that the attacks were "sloppily done and mostly unsuccessful."' You wouldn't see it that way if they had taken place in Madison."

It doesn't matter that something close to me might distort my perspective. But I would not give these evildoers a label I think they are proud of and will flaunt and use to recruit more to their cause.

Saying "mastermind" or "well-coordinated" should not be a way to express how terrible you think the acts were. Clumsy, stupid, crude, brutish acts can do a lot of harm. If it makes you feel better to deceive yourself into thinking something like shooting up a concert hall or restaurant is sophisticated and requires meticulous planning, who am I to deprive you of your comforts? I am only someone who cares about: 1. telling the truth and 2. defeating the enemy in the long run.

What these terrorists did is similar to the Newtown murders or the Aurora theater shoot up. The young men who hit those obviously super-soft targets were not geniuses. They were just people interested in and willing to do it. They thought of something the rest of us don't think of, but our failure to think of it isn't because we're dumber! It's because we have morality and no desire to advance a cause by hurting civilians.

EMD said...

"FRANCE SEEKS BELGIAN FLYBLOWN SHITBAG BEHIND PARIS ATTACKS?"

Depends on how many column inches you have.

Brando said...

The simplest answer is probably the correct one. The media exists to sell news, and news of a sloppily planned series of attacks that could have been launched by any group of thugs is not going to get quite the pageviews as news of a sophisticated, well-planned coup by an evil mastermind.

I don't know if the word "mastermind" is necessarily positive--my first image goes to a James Bond villain. But I agree that these particular attacks weren't very sophisticated, and that's the scary part--it's much easier to replicate than say 9/11 (which can never happen the same way simply because people will assume Arab hijackers want to crash the plane rather than take hostages, and will rush them) and thus harder to prevent.

Maybe we need to do a League of Nations thing and hand out mandates of territory to our allies to take over. This experience with self-determination has been more a failure than not.

EMD said...

"Saying "mastermind" or "well-coordinated" should not be a way to express how terrible you think the acts were. Clumsy, stupid, crude, brutish acts can do a lot of harm."

I kind of agree. Of course, for the most part, the left has always romanticized the "struggle" and the "freedom fighter."

Network feels more and more like a documentary.

Larry J said...

J Scott said...
The worst thing about the NFLs security procedures is the current terrorist with a suicide belt just wants a large group of people to attack, he doesn't need to be INSIDE the stadium. They will attack the throngs of people AT the security checkpoint.


Exactly. Any place where you have crowds, you have targets. It could be at airport or sporting venue security checkpoints. The security procedures actually increase the crowds. It could also happen in subways like what happened in London years ago or at crowded shopping centers. It could involve a "lone wolf" or a coordinated attack by two or more people. The goal of terrorists is to terrorize people into changing how they're willing to live.

Gahrie said...

If it makes Obama and the Democrats feel better to deceive themselves into thinking something like shooting up a concert hall or restaurant is sophisticated and requires meticulous planning, who am I to deprive them of their comforts?

FTFY

Rocketeer said...

It doesn't serve our interests at all. But it serves the interests of our fey leaders to be able to deflect from their idiot "refugee" policies and general incompetence by pointing at a "mastermind," which implies a genius that no one could have foiled in advance.

Gahrie said...

There are plenty of alternative and properly pejorative words, like "villain" and "malefactor."

But that would require the Times to make a value judgment about someone other than a Conservative or Republican, something that must never be done.

Sammy Finkelman said...

I think a "mastermind" means only the person in charge. You can have an incompetent mastermind also.

What other word would you use? Co-ordinator? General?

J Scott said...

Ringleader? That's fairly neutral and descriptive. Cell leader works too except it's two words.

Jupiter said...

Ann Althouse said...
"It doesn't matter that something close to me might distort my perspective. But I would not give these evildoers a label I think they are proud of and will flaunt and use to recruit more to their cause."

I don't think they give fuck zero what we say about them. And if the elements of our response we regard as critical involve nomenclature, we are even more fucked than I think we are. But while we are on the subject, it was your "mostly unsuccessful" that really set me off. I figure the attacks resulted in about 10 tons of dead human beings. Imagine 10 tons of dead human beings, piled up in one of the lovely public spaces with which Madison is blessed. If that is mostly unsuccessful -- actually, you are probably right. They can, and will, do a lot better. Soon.

traditionalguy said...

ISIL is said to be a hierarchy command from a Caliph who was once a Sunni Iraqi Military Commander that must have fought the Iranians and the Americans over his career.

He is attacking, and attacking, and attacking. That shows a military mind rather than a politician's approach.

Too bad we have gotten rid of our attacking type military minds...unless fighting Feminist Grievances and Imaginary CO2 effects qualifies as military fighting experience.

AllenS said...

When in war, you want to inflict the most damage on the enemy when they are the most vulnerable, and that's when they are not expecting it.

That's why ambushes are such an ass kicker.

I'm not sure what you expect these people to do, Althouse. Stand up and challenge well armed people to a shoot out?

Ridiculing what name is given to the higherups is a complete waste of time, but if it makes you feel better, go on ahead.

The Drill SGT said...

A few more attacks on Paris and our Friends the Frogs may be tempted to do what we as a super power can't.

e.g. Turn Raqqa into a glassy bowl.

The one bad thing about calling a place your Capital means that its destruction calls into question the inevitability of your empire...

DanTheMan said...

I think Ann is right in this case, but Alexander adds the missing element:

Calling them "masterminds" allows us to pretend there aren't thousands, if not tens of thousands, of young men in France who would do exactly the same thing, if they could get their hands on some AK's and TATP.


The Drill SGT said...

LOL,

I think AllenS and I are twins, separated at birth :)

traditionalguy said...

The Professor's approach is correct. Media opinion leaders have no business being the force multiplier for the intended Terror Levels designed to make us surrender to Islam out of the useless emotion called fear of death.

The Muslims know fear of death well. It is a tool that ISIL has ramped up against other Muslims.

It is time that we made them fear our resolve to kill them all.Right now they are laughing at Obama and feeling sorry for us that we let his lies control us.

Steve Uhr said...

Mostly unsuccessful is not how I would decribe the attacks. 150 dead and 300+ dead. That it could have been worse doesn't seem to be the appropriate test for success. They accomplished what they set out to do --spread terror so no one feels safe.

The Drill SGT said...

AllenS said...
When in war, you want to inflict the most damage on the enemy when they are the most vulnerable, and that's when they are not expecting it.


Very few operations fail because too many troops or to much explosive is used...

Steve Uhr said...

300 wounded, many critical

The Drill SGT said...

Steve Uhr said...
Mostly unsuccessful is not how I would describe the attacks. 150 dead and 300+ dead


We certainly don't call 911 unsuccessful because only 3 of 4 planes hit targets and the death toll was 3,000 instead of the 30,000 it might have been it the towers had imploded immediately...

Michael K said...

"They will attack the throngs of people AT the security checkpoint."

This was used repeatedly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The "mastermind" is the bomb maker. Those are hard to build and failures are usually fatal. They are very valuable as a result and Obama is about to pardon the bomb maker for the FALN so he can come home from Cuba where he has been living openly since he was freed by Joanne Chesimard and members of the black liberation family.

Clinton pardoned the rest

Greg Hlatky said...

In fact, what the Left desires is not their own death, but ours. They regard the Muslims as allies, in the only struggle that concerns them.

And when the great victory comes, the more naive among them will die screaming like the Old Bolsheviks, "What for?" while the wiler ones will convert and become the most furious of imams themselves.

Ann Althouse said...

"But while we are on the subject, it was your "mostly unsuccessful" that really set me off."

Did you go back and read the earlier post substantiating my position? I'm going to guess you did not. Check it out and get back to me.

The Drill SGT said...

Michael K said...
"They will attack the throngs of people AT the security checkpoint."

This was used repeatedly in Iraq and Afghanistan.


and the double bomb

1 bomber to cause destruction

then a second bomb to attack the responders


Ann Althouse said...

"Mostly unsuccessful is not how I would decribe the attacks. 150 dead and 300+ dead."

How many people were in the concert hall?

How many people were in the stadium? How many were killed in the stadium? Was Hollande a target? How close did the self-exploding assholes get to Hollande?

Ann Althouse said...

"Mostly unsuccessful is not how I would decribe the attacks. 150 dead and 300+ dead."

You don't mean 300+ dead, obviously. You mean injured.

Lydia said...

A June 2015 report done by the Center of National Security at Fordham Law, says that ISIS's rapid growth "can be attributed, in part, to an abundance of foreign fighters joining the cause, which recent estimates number at roughly 20,000." In the U.S., 61% of those who aspire to join ISIS are 21 or younger. "Mastermind" would certainly appeal to them.

Anglelyne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

Inflating the amazingness of this attack is a self-defensive urge, but it's not an effective one.

The urge is to believe you are safer than you are. How many masterminds can there be? There don't need to be any. A gang of idiots can do damage like this. These are completely soft targets and they were attacked pretty haphazardly. The only planning was to have groups on call to act when they got the go-ahead. A message went out and they acted. By the way, maybe more got the message and failed to act. Why not 100 restaurants? 4 restaurants?!

walter said...

I have thought for some time that minimally coordinated, relatively low to medium impact..but completely unpredictable (type and location) acts of terrorism here would be very disruptive.

Anglelyne said...

Nichevo: The problem is, Ann, that you seem to think that quibbling over words will save you.[...]

Like when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, when you deal in words, everything looks like a word problem.


Beat me to it, Nichevo. The notion that newspaper hacks and babbling Western intellectuals are controlling the course of events merely by "bigging up" the attackers, or speaking and writing of them with contempt, is delusional.

The media has been awash with variants of this kind of magical thinking ever since the attacks. Your having a low opinion of these guys' atrocity-organizing skills exerts about as much control over their, and their supporters', beliefs and actions as putting a tri-color filter over your facebook avatar does.

Christopher said...

Did you go back and read the earlier post substantiating my position? I'm going to guess you did not. Check it out and get back to me.

It's an abuse of language to call this "mostly unsuccessful."

I don't mean offensive. I mean embarrassing.

Go back to analyzing word origins from the (unlinkable) OED.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm seeing news reports claiming that the targets needed to be cased in advance. But how hard was it to find restaurants? The plan could have been just that on the day when you get the message to go, walk down the avenue and pick a restaurant to shoot up. How hard is that in Paris?

Mark Caplan said...

The NY Times meant the attack took a rarely seen quantity of brainpower for Muslims.

Jupiter said...

"When in war, you want to inflict the most damage on the enemy when they are the most vulnerable, and that's when they are not expecting it."

The reality, is that Western societies are vulnerable almost everywhere. We are a target-rich environment, one gigantic soft underbelly. Over centuries, we have developed institutions based upon the assumption that the vast majority of us are willing and able to resolve our differences without recourse to violence, and the few who are not willing can be controlled. Althouse is a skilled technician of those control mechanisms, so I suppose it is hard for her to see how flimsy they are, and how much they depend upon the nature of the society and the populace in which they operate. Bringing savage Muslims, who can't even get along with each other without violence, into our living space isn't asking for trouble, it is demanding it.

Michael K said...

" How close did the self-exploding assholes get to Hollande?"

I imagine he needed a change of underwear and that was enough for the purpose.

They are obviously still in a learning phase, as is the case in most wars.

Ann, you might read a bit about John Boyd and the OODA loop. The ISIS guys are inside our OODA loop. Read about it and get back to me.

Ann Althouse said...

"It's an abuse of language to call this "mostly unsuccessful.""

The stadium attack was not just mostly but massively unsuccessful and it was the main target. The president was there!

It's easy to just shoot up 4 restaurants. No access is even needed.

As for the concert, many people escaped. It wasn't carried out in a methodical way, just chaos.

CJinPA said...

how does it serve our interests more than theirs?

There are no "our" and "their" interests. We are world citizens. No culture is better or worse than another. That's what we've been told.

"The West is shy about its values. It doesn’t speak up for classical liberalism, which gave birth to centuries of organic growth — legal, cultural, artistic, and political. ISIS is bold, defined, empowering. It knows who it is and what it stands for."
-- Shiraz Maher

walter said...

If it creates a reaction..that's a success. Exact body count not super relevant. Though..more is better.

walter said...

But fortunately we cab funnel that energy into combatting CAGW. The c"crazed sex poodle" has a few days to tie it all together in his opener.

furious_a said...

These are completely soft targets

The President of France and his security detail were at the football match.

they were attacked pretty haphazardly.

President of France, above and the Bataclan theater had until two months ago a Jewish owner who was known to sponsor pro-Israel events at the venue.

You sound like Obama saying the Hebdo attacks on a kosher supermarket on a Sabbath Friday were just "against random folks".

Only "mostly unsuccessful" because one stadium bomber failed to gain admittance to the seating areas. Had he done so, the blast would have triggered a stampede for the exits where the other two suicide bombers were waiting for the outflow. The Bali bombers did this, triggering a primary blast to drive the intended victims (mostly Australians) toward the more lethal secondary blasts.

That is, if the stadium attack wasn't planned as a decapitation strike against Pres. Hollande.

Curious George said...

"Ann Althouse said...

The stadium attack was not just mostly but massively unsuccessful and it was the main target. The president was there!"

I highly doubt that their target was Hollande. Of course I doubt know. And frankly neither do you. So this is just a guess. Which is better than this:

"As for the concert, many people escaped. It wasn't carried out in a methodical way, just chaos."

This is just stupid. What do you think happens in a venue with hundreds of people and three gunmen. Chaos. And chaos is kinda the point. Death. And chaos.

traditionalguy said...

The ISIL Mastermind issued a Press Release today that his next surprise attacks were going to be made in Washington, DC. He is showing off to the Muslims world wide that they can do anything if suicide missions are used.

The last time we faced a suicidal murder Army we nuked their cities. To bad about all those deaths guys.






Michael K said...

"where the other two suicide bombers were waiting for the outflow. "

Yes, this may well have been double bomb plan.

AllenS said...

Having a conscience never won a war, you have to kill.

At the present time, there is only one side willing to kill, and to kill indiscriminately.

They don't care what you or the NYT calls them. Our foreign policy at the present time is to use the limp wrist approach, and that ain't cuttin' it.

clint said...

I suggest the word: Culprit.

"FRANCE SEEKS BELGIAN MILITANT AS CULPRIT OF PARIS ATTACKS."

It's about blame and responsibility -- not competence.

exhelodrvr1 said...

The primary goal was not to kill X number of people, it was to sow terror.

It was EXTREMELY successful.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Larry J,

Exactly. Any place where you have crowds, you have targets.

But we've known this forever. Where do all the Iraqi suicide bombings take place? In crowds, that's where. Markets. Police recruitment stations. Checkpoints.

If you want to be safe, you need to shun crowds. But it's really, really difficult to do that in a country with so many crowded bits.

Ann Althouse said...

"This is just stupid. What do you think happens in a venue with hundreds of people and three gunmen. Chaos. And chaos is kinda the point. Death. And chaos."

A well-planned or "masterminded" attack on the theater would have at least trapped people inside and created a hostage situation drama.

You're defining their goal for them: just chaos. Well, that makes my point that it wasn't masterminded, but if you're quibbling with "mostly unsuccessful," then of course you can win that argument by purporting to know what their real goal was. I'll call that the Pee Wee Herman argument: "I meant to do that."

Jupiter said...

Ann Althouse said...

"Did you go back and read the earlier post substantiating my position? I'm going to guess you did not. Check it out and get back to me."

Hmmm.... OK. They didn't get Hollande. Just ten tons of useless Frenchmen, so, yeah. Much ado about nothing. Wake me up for the next one.

"What's scary isn't that the attacks are sophisticated, but how easy it is to hit a bunch of soft targets in one city, and how big a deal it is even when it's sloppily done and mostly unsuccessful. That's how it looks to me."

I guess we are in substantial agreement there, except that what you don't seem to grasp, is that this looks exactly like success to the Muslims. "Had a wonderful time, let's do it again soon!" They don't need to read about themselves in our papers to be "recruited". They learned with their mothers' milk that our societies are not just imperfect, but morally wrong and an offense to God,and it is their sacred duty to kill us. What encourages them is not our respect for their abilities. It is our craven weakness. From their point of view, it is evident that Allah wants them to win, because we aren't even fighting back. We support their half-dozen wives on welfare while they teach their kids how to kill us.

sparrow said...

The attack likely had other goals beyond murder such as instilling fear and that probably worked. The real master mind behind this is Satan, and his days are numbered.

khematite said...

Hearing the term "mastermind" depresses the boys at Scotland Yard, so they prefer to refer to the brains behind a crime as a "mindermast."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUrhdIxTJSA

AllenS said...

It's this simple:

Mastermind is the person who buys and then passes out the guns, ammunition, maps and suicide vests. Provides lodging, food, transportation, targets and walk around money.

This person has no rank.

DanTheMan said...

Ann, I think you are assuming that their "goal" was to kill everybody in the stadium, or the president, and was therefore not a "success". If you go by the fraction killed, it was tiny, I agree.
But what if their goal was to spread panic, and kill hundreds of people in one of the world's most famous cities? By that measure, it would be a success.

You can't proclaim it a failure until you know what they were trying to achieve. However evil it may have been.

Michael K said...

I would suggest that those of us who are alert, avoid crowds this and next month.

Two things stood out for me. One was that the attacks in Paris were coordinated by a cell operating from a neighboring country. The attackers were divided into two groups, one that was assigned to suicide missions and one that was assigned to escape. That’s not the normal M.O. and the cops are asking why the change. Several did escape. At least one got to a neighboring country. The logical conclusion is that the escapees were being saved for “the next big thing.” The high profile attacks, one at the Eiffel Tower and one at the stadium, both failed.

Two, IS has aspirations to strike Western targets between now and Christmas: airports, seaports, and large, crowded venues in the Christmas commercial period preferred. The European intelligence people are trying to figure out whether these intentions are aspirational or operational at this point.

furious_a said...

Excuse me... The Bali bombers did this, triggering a primary blast that drove the intended victims (mostly Australians) toward the more lethal secondary blasts:

At 11:05 pm a suicide bomb exploded in Paddy’s Bar, a locale frequented by foreigners, especially Australian youth. The bar’s patrons, some of whom were injured by the explosion, evacuated into the street. Within seconds, another, more powerful car bomb exploded in front of the Sari Club, near Paddy’s. A third bomb was detonated in front of the U.S. consulate on the island of Bali, though no one was injured in that attack.

Sebastian said...

"The stadium attack was not just mostly but massively unsuccessful and it was the main target. The president was there! . . . As for the concert, many people escaped. It wasn't carried out in a methodical way, just chaos."

This is why we do not put law profs and lecturers in charge of anything important.

Or -- oh well. Too late.

Derp said...

Bernie Sanders was a sixties radical who applied for conscientious-objector status during the Vietnam War, because he was, according to a statement from his campaign spokesman earlier this year, “a pacifist.”

So on Saturday night, at the Democratic debate, in Des Moines, Iowa, it was jarring to hear Sanders, the first Presidential candidate to speak before a national audience in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, declare forthrightly, “Together, leading the world, this country will rid our planet of this barbarous organization called ISIS.”
- The New Yorker.

I wonder if he swore to that statement that he was a "pacifist" and if he did, shouldn't that disqualify him? Naah. Hanging out with a bomber who regretted nothing but his technical failures to kill more Americans didn't hurt Obama.

To be fair though, if it weren't for global warming, none of this would be happening. It had nothing to do with Hillary's plan to destabilize Syria and Libya, producing waves of refugees, NOTHING.

Beach Brutus said...

These frustrating events just show how fragile the concept of "civilization" is, and how truly precious and valuable Western Civilization has been. I can drive on two lane roads and never give thought that one of the the dozens of cars I encounter will not stay on its side of the road as we pass one another at a combined speed of 120 mph. I do not have to (not yet anyway) pay a price premium in every store I shop, to finance a platoon of pervasive armed security to discourage lawlessness. Whatever our differences, we have a lot of real world trust in one another.

Ours has been a society, a civilization, that promotes individual liberty because we up hold the concept of individual self control. We are moral actors with a free will, and we were once schooled on right and wrong and encouraged to choose right over wrong. These terrorist don't see themselves as actors with a choice, they are roboticly carrying out the Prophet's will, they are Automatons for Allah. They don't care what they destroy, even if it is the base line trust humans must have for one another in order to have a functioning society.

Dan Hossley said...

Mastermind also means "to plan or direct a difficult activity" (Cambridge dictionary). Six attacks, occurring at roughly the same time, all with AK-47's and all with the same explosive belt. Looks like someone put this together and avoided detection from the French and Belgium security services.

Derp said...

What Bernie should have said if he wanted to be honest was that he didn't want to fight in Viet Nam not because he was a "pacifist" but because he was a "communist."

Curious George said...

"Ann Althouse said...
"This is just stupid. What do you think happens in a venue with hundreds of people and three gunmen. Chaos. And chaos is kinda the point. Death. And chaos."

A well-planned or "masterminded" attack on the theater would have at least trapped people inside and created a hostage situation drama.

You're defining their goal for them: just chaos. Well, that makes my point that it wasn't masterminded, but if you're quibbling with "mostly unsuccessful," then of course you can win that argument by purporting to know what their real goal was. I'll call that the Pee Wee Herman argument: "I meant to do that."

Oh bullshit. First, my rebuttals have been about your position that it was "Mostly unsuccessful. I give a rats ass abut the mastermind position, as does ISIL. Second, I stated I didn't know if they were after Hollande. I doubt it. Nothing points to it. You are the one that declared that they were after Hollande...with no more than the fact he was there as proof. As far the rest of your supporting positions. Why not 100 restaurants? Because the operation gets too big. Discovery in advance becomes too likely. I really believe they specifically went after the targets, large and small, to send the message that no where is safe. There is a great value in having your enemy wondering if he is going to get offed going to the grocery store, or having a coffee, or any of the myriad acts of daily living.

The goal was to kill a lot of people and spread fear. They were successful.

Derp said...

Mastermind in ISIS I guess equates to about V.P level in a corporate environment. You get a budget, you can sign stuff, and you are often given projects to get done and don't bother higher ups to much about how.

Triangle Man said...

More of a "community organizer" really.

Michael K said...

The "mastermind" was the bomb maker who escaped.

Bomb makers are very valuable to terrorist groups because those who make mistakes often go to Allah

On New Year’s Day 2014 a powerful explosion and fire occurred at 514 Cedar Avenue South in Minneapolis, in a predominantly Somali neighborhood of the city.

The building was gutted by the blaze. Two bodies were found in the rubble, and fourteen people were hospitalized, one of whom died later. Within 72 hours, the building had been pulled down into a heap of rubble by a backhoe.

Two days after the blast, before any real investigation occurred — which could never be conducted, anyway, with the potential crime scene destroyed — Greg Boosalis, the supervisory special agent with the FBI in Minneapolis, told the press that there was “no evidence of terrorist activity”.


Yes, nothing to see here. Not anymore, anyway.

Sigivald said...

when it seemed to me that the attacks were "sloppily done and mostly unsuccessful."

That's an ... interesting perspective.

I'm with Curious George - the goal was most plausibly [I mean, I suppose we can't read their minds] "successfully kill a lot of Frenchmen and show that they could do so, and presumably could do so again".

You know, sow terror. As terrorists do.

Sloppily done? Well, it sure seems effective given the resources at hand; did we expect a movie-style choreographed attack? Not in the real world.

(Remember, also, "I don't see complexity and ingeniousness. The attackers didn't invent the communications systems or the modes of encryption that must have made it possible to say today's the day. They didn't assemble the crowds in the restaurants or concert hall or stadium. And they didn't figure out how to get anywhere near President François Hollande."

MAstermind of the attacks requires that one plan the attacks, not "invent modern technology and found Paris". Nor is there any particular reason to think they'd care about targeting the President; why would they? He's not especially important in an "the entire West is our enemy, and especially the French because Crusades!" worldview, is he?

Seriously, how is this even an argument against the choice of terms?

If one person was in charge of planning and co-ordinating the attacks in Paris [a big if, to be sure], "mastermind" seems fair.

I mean, M-W defines it merely as "a person who plans and organizes something"; you don't have to be Blofeld to qualify.)

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Coordinating attacks, handling the logistics (making/procuring/readying "homemade" explosives, smuggling in weapons & ammo), dealing with OPSEC in an open-ish environment...that's complex. I understand the instinct to not give these murderers any more credit than possible, but it's not possible to pretend it wasn't a relatively complex operation that largely succeeded in the goal of killing lots of innocent people and spreading fear.

Even if it wasn't a successful operation we might still talk about the "mastermind," so I don't think your equating that word with the idea of someone successful reflects the way the word is commonly used.

At this point I'm just glad we're not calling this workplace violence--after all these were commercial locations...

Anglelyne said...

Sigivald: Seriously, how is this even an argument against the choice of terms?

Forget it, Sig. It's Clown World.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...What these terrorists did is similar to the Newtown murders or the Aurora theater shoot up.

No ma'am, those are bad examples--those are single individuals operating alone in places they already live, with weapons to which they already have access. Law enforcement and state security agencies were not actively looking for those people, either, as no one viewed them as as a threat. Those differences make these attacks much more complex.

The Columbine attack is a closer example, and I'd have to look but I'll bet people talked about those murderers as "masterminding" that attack.

rhhardin said...

"Beyond the Fringe" has a famous bit involving a "mindmaster." (rhymes with wind)

I don't see it on youtube.

walter said...

Bernie Sanders ‏@BernieSanders Nov 14

We have to combat anti-Muslim bigotry and all forms of discrimination in our country and in our world. #DebateWithBernie

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...How many people were in the stadium? How many were killed in the stadium? Was Hollande a target? How close did the self-exploding assholes get to Hollande?

I'll echo another commenter's comparison to 9/11--how many people were in the towers that morning, vs. how many died? Was the Capitol building a target? How close did Flight 93 get to the Mall in Washington DC?

Ann Althouse said...Inflating the amazingness of this attack is a self-defensive urge, but it's not an effective one.

Objection, argumentative. Many here don't see using the word "mastermind" as inflating or even acknowledging the attacks as "amazing;" I for one don't find them amazing but I don't object to "mastermind" in the way you do. You're ascribing motivation to your commenters, and we're disagreeing. Continuing to assume we have that motivation and offering more arguments that rely upon that assumption won't convince us.

Peter Casas said...

Pretty sure Obama fits the bill...

HoodlumDoodlum said...

I appreciate the effort to "tell the truth" and use language with precision in a way that doesn't glorify horrific acts by terrible people. I disagree that the word "mastermind" does that, though. Would "organizer" or "planner" work better? Probably.

In the interests of accuracy, though, I hope you can be convinced that this particular action is quite a bit more complex than a single local/native shooter situation wherein one murderer (with prior access to weapons) acts alone in his own neighborhood.

furious_a said...

In an Althouse national security world, nobody plans for the worst-case because recognizing their tradecraft for what it is might give the killers too much credit...or something. And then they are "shocked and saddened" at next week's terrorist outrage.

And "Isis is not Islamic" and "They're so Junior Varsity" and so on and so forth.

Jim said...

It isn't that the men who did this terrible act were or are masterminds. Its a dumb argument to have-parsing words.
The point is that the leaders of the West all believe in open borders, open societies. and refuse to admit what is actually happening.
They(islamic fanatics) want to kill us, all of us. Destroy our entire civilization. Not just some of it. All of it. Every trace, every building, every person.
They have been working on doing this for generations. Talking to them, appeasing them, fencing them out- none of it will work.
None of our leaders will admit this fact. None of them.
This is a war. Like it or not, it is here, has been here, and will be here for generations to come.
We kept troops in Europe after WW2, to avoid what is now happening in Iraq, et al. We still have troops there. Its been 70 years.
This isn't going away anytime soon.

walter said...

Well..considering we can't seem to decide whether to call them ISIS, ISIL or DAESH..a bit of Altparse seems par for the course.

furious_a said...

How close did the self-exploding assholes get to Hollande?

They only have to get lucky once.

The attackers didn't invent the communications systems or the modes of encryption that must have made it possible to say today's the day. They didn't assemble the crowds in the restaurants or concert hall or stadium.

Like the old BASF commercial: the 9/11 highjackers didn't know how to make skyscrapers, they knew how to make them disappear.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

If we're wasting time worrying about what to call these people, we've already lost the fight.

Curious George said...

I would guess that they didn't even know Hollande would be at the game. Just a guess, but typically advanced schedules are not provided for this very reason. I mean you know Obama will be on a golf course, but WHICH golf course.

furious_a said...

MOAR Althouse: I don't see complexity and ingeniousness. The attackers didn't invent the communications systems or the modes of encryption that must have made it possible to say today's the day.

They got others to to invent their weapons for them, in faculty-lounge speak: "cultural appropriation". Seems pretty damn clever to me.

Like the Mongols, who couldn't take walled cities until they appropriated siege-engines and press-ganged siege-engineers from conquered Chinese territories.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...I don't see complexity and ingeniousness.

Well there's definitely complexity so we'll note that you used the word "and" and go after ingeniousness. Looking at the common definitions of that word you see and emphasis on originality, and you can certainly make a case that these attacks weren't very original. They were the first of their kind to hit Paris, but other than that we've seen similar attacks before. The synonyms for ingenious, though, include resourceful and enterprising, and those arguably fit the attack/attackers, so it's not really true that "ingenious" is way off the mark (since at least a few common synonyms for ingenious would apply).

If a mastermind's plan has to include both complexity and ingenuity and you're arguing that by the strict definition this attack wasn't ingenious (outside of its target(s)) then you have a case, but not a super-strong one. Your subsequent argument that we shouldn't consider the choice of target ingenious because it's only surprising because we normal people don't think in the same way these evil people think misses the point--it doesn't matter why they're able to "outsmart" the defenses, it just matters that they were. Also militating against that read is the fact that these attacks were so shocking and unexpected--if the people of Paris had said "oh it's terrible, but we all know we're in danger of attacks like this anytime we're in a crowd," etc, then you'd have an argument that the attack wasn't wholly unexpected and although they didn't have specific defenses that was on purpose (that they'd concluded being in danger was preferable to a security state), but that wasn't the reaction.

The attack was complex and carried out in an unexpected, "original" way. That argues for calling the planner a "mastermind" under your preferred definition of that term. As I said, if you want to argue otherwise you should acknowledge "complex" and attack "ingenious."

Michael said...

The OED notwithstanding, I generally hear the word "mastermind" ironically. As in "who is the mastermind who thought this up."

Tibore said...

"Why inflate the reputation of these people?"

It's been happening for years now. For example, to this day, I'm still aghast that people - including some in government - continue to characterize 9/11 as either a technically or technologically advanced attack. My God, all they did was buy plane tickets! Their use of electronic communication was most definitely not sophisticated, and so much of their planning took place in face-to-face meetings. The most sophisticated element of the attack was for the terrorists who managed to take flight training, and that is certainly not out of the grasp of educated individuals (remember: The 9/11 hijackers were college educated. One of them even had an advanced degree and had a paper published!). It certainly shouldn't be touted as something above the level of the average educated citizen of the planet, let alone anyone in the targeted nation (the US). None of the plot was outside any given educated person's intellectual capability (moral capability is something else altogether...).

That said, I don't know if the writer of that particular headline actually meant to inflate reputation. Seems to me that this specific case could just as easily be a case of a person trying out a synonym for "leader" or "head terrorist". I get the Professor's complaint in general - heck, I share it - but in this particular case, there's a simple explanation that is also valid.

Quaestor said...

Anglelyne wrote: The media has been awash with variants of this kind of magical thinking ever since the attacks. Your having a low opinion of these guys' atrocity-organizing skills exerts about as much control over their, and their supporters', beliefs and actions as putting a tri-color filter over your facebook avatar does.

Well put. I have refused to apply the tricolore to my avatar, for which I have received the ire of typical scolds who are quick to display their hearts for being in the "right place." Displaying solidarity with France is as useless and self-serving as Michelle Obama's "bring back our daughters" selfie campaign against Boko Haram. Hearts in the right place matter not a whit. Boots in the right place do.

furious_a said...

They don't have to discover and bottle nuclear fission in order to trigger a nuke inside a Western city.

walter said...

Do you feel that the president was accurate in stating ISIL has been contained?

H: Like..in tupperware?

furious_a said...

The most sophisticated element of the [9/11] attack...

...was getting inside the OODA loop of every security agency and everyone on those planes. Until the planes hit we thought it was a highjack/hostage scenario.

Except for the people on Flight 93.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Beach Brutus said...I do not have to (not yet anyway) pay a price premium in every store I shop, to finance a platoon of pervasive armed security to discourage lawlessness. Whatever our differences, we have a lot of real world trust in one another.

Ours has been a society, a civilization, that promotes individual liberty because we up hold the concept of individual self control. We are moral actors with a free will, and we were once schooled on right and wrong and encouraged to choose right over wrong. These terrorist don't see themselves as actors with a choice, they are roboticly carrying out the Prophet's will, they are Automatons for Allah. They don't care what they destroy, even if it is the base line trust humans must have for one another in order to have a functioning society.


Yes, that's an excellent point, Brutus--it's EXPENSIVE to live in a low-trust society in ways that most of us have a difficult time imagining. There's a reason such societies have historically (through today) been stunted w/r/t technological and cultural advancement compared to high-trust societies. It's not worth making long-term investments when someone can come along and steal your stuff at any time. It's not worth venturing out and trading with, or learning from, others if doing so has a good chance of getting you killed. One of the reasons conservative-type people oppose the Left's insistence on multi-culturalism (as opposed to the more traditional "melting pot" vision of assimilation) is precisely that it makes us less homogeneous w/r/t core beliefs about (and respect for) the "American" way of life/national identity. I don't care if the person who loves and understands America the way I do is the same race, gender, or religion as me, but we'll have that base level of trust and understanding that will make us get along even when we disagree. Strong beliefs in the "American creed" for lack of a better term seems to me to be important as a baseline for the continuation of our nation and society, and thus I oppose the Left's efforts to diminish that belief (through the academy, through their policies on things like illegal immigration, etc).

I'll note in passing that many of the high-trust nations the Left likes to point to as examples to be emulated (due to their "democratic socialist" ways) like Finland, Denmark, etc, are by our standards incredibly ethnically (and racially/religiously/many other measures-ly) homogeneous. Probably just a coincidence.

Michael K said...

The people on flight 93 got outside information by cellphone and made a quick decision to resist. There will never be another successful plane hijacking.

We already have several examples of passenger successful resistance. The shoe bomber and the underwear bomber are two.

Obama's feckless "bombing campaign" is giving them time to adjust. They are learning. I hope we are, too.

Obama has pretty well decapitated the US military senior commend by getting rid of the war fighters who disagree with him. I hope we have a lower echelon of colonels who can take over once he is gone.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

I spent many an hour as a kid playing Mastermind, so maybe that colors my thinking.

Probably available through Amazon! Hell, there's probably an electronic version by now.

Ken B said...

Well I might as well see Ann and raise. The 9/11 attacks failed in their objective too. They tried to kill 100,000 but the buildings were too well made. What if they had collapsed in 10 minuts? Those were more expertly planned. Ann makes a good point.

I like the word evildoers. Ann used it, but I recall a president roundly mocked on the left for using the word.

Nichevo said...

Ann:


-What was wrong with my post that Angelyne quoted? (hammer, nails, words) Or was it a Blogger blip that it is gone? I wasn't sure I had posted correctly till I saw myself quoted.

-What would pass in your notions as a mastermind? Multiple examples OK.

-If they had beat the stadium gate and got in and ran around in the stadium as they did in the concert hall, and killed the President of France or maybe just wounded him or killed some of his suite, how would this change your perceptions?

-Any reason this can't happen again?

-Any reason this can't happen here?

Tibore said...

"furious_a said...
The most sophisticated element of the [9/11] attack...

...was getting inside the OODA loop of every security agency and everyone on those planes. Until the planes hit we thought it was a highjack/hostage scenario.

Except for the people on Flight 93."


Not trying to start a fight or anything, and I say this with respect, but: I would argue that this wasn't particularly sophisticated at all. After all the news stories trumpeting how hijackers usually did their deeds to take hostages and get flown somewhere, all that was really needed to figure that out was to read newspapers and watch news broadcasts.

Remember the actions they took: They disabled the jets transponders (except in one case, which is thought to have been mistakenly left on), and they put thugs in the aisles to cow the passengers. Their actions have less the intent of fooling a specific element of the US response and more just staying hidden from everyone until they got to their targets. To me, that's less sophistication and more the standard criminal intent of staying as covert as possible until they could get the proverbial knife-thrust in. The only sophisticated part of all that is the plane handling i.e. knowing where the transponder controls were... which again, is something within the reach of someone who's graduated high school and can read.

Again, though, my opinion. I'm happy to hear opposing arguments.

Richard Dolan said...

"Why inflate the reputation of these people?"

Pulling off this attack involved a bit more than Althouse is willing to concede. Same with 9/11. But that's hardly the point. No one cares much about the reputation of the killers. Some may be concerned, however, about the complacency with which the threat has been taken. Very difficult to get through to those who think these Islamofascists are the JV team who've already been contained, and anyway the real security threat is climate change(!).

Who was it who said, never let a crisis go to waste?

Birches said...

What these terrorists did is similar to the Newtown murders or the Aurora theater shoot up. The young men who hit those obviously super-soft targets were not geniuses. They were just people interested in and willing to do it. They thought of something the rest of us don't think of, but our failure to think of it isn't because we're dumber! It's because we have morality and no desire to advance a cause by hurting civilians.

I think there's a little too much Annhate here from some of the commentariat to see she is absolutely correct, especially on the point highlighted above. Funny how most of the DO SOMETHING!!!1!!1!!! after Newton or Oregon have been oddly silent for Paris. Wonder why...

Is 125 dead the price we pay for a free society? Perhaps. Perhaps, we ensure the West can keep their society free and open by taking the fight to the jihadis' turf. But those of you who are talking up the body count, just remember, the Bloombergs of the world do the same thing anytime anyone shoots up a school.

Big Mike said...

Related thoughts:

(1) "Mastermind" is a term usually applied in the context of criminal activities. To me the word connotes leadership and planning of a nefarious enterprise, not necessarily analytical brilliance. Perhaps I'm influenced by a TV show back in the day named "Masterminds" or something like that, and the criminals they profiled were only bright in comparison with the sort of guy who tries to rob a gun store armed with a knife.

(2) In technology, we equate words like "ingenious" and "elegant" with the word "simple." Simple plans tend to work; complex plans tend to have more ways to go wrong. The notion that the terrorists' plans were not ingenious because they were not complex, is misguided. Simpler is better.

(3) Assuming that all of the attackers meant to die in the attacks, which seems to be a reasonable assumption at this point, the only part of the plan that failed was the attack at the stadium. The attack at the Bataclan concert venue was unfortunately very effective.

paminwi said...

Planned attack: They found a night where there was a televised soccer game on at the same time there was a concert in what was a Jewish owned concert venue playing heavy metal music.

ISIS:outlaws sports
ISIS:outlaws music
ISIS: outlaws alcohol consumption

Think these venues were just chosen by random at a particular time?

And how tragic for Ann that chaos ensued instead of people just standing still waiting to be shot at or that hey didn't cut in an orderly fashion.

The concert venue had been sold just a few days before this attack because the owners said they had been targeted in the past.

Sammy Finkelman said...

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/11/16/paris-mastermind-told-isis-magazine-that-bungling-police-officers-let-him-escape.html?via=newsletter&source=DDAfternoon

Sammy Finkelman said...

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/11/15/confessions-of-an-isis-spy.html?via=newsletter&source=DDAfternoon

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Timbore said...Again, though, my opinion. I'm happy to hear opposing arguments.

I'd argue in opposition to the notion that the 9/11 attacks weren't complex or sophisticated by pointing out that they involved a relatively large number of people over a relatively long time acting in a relatively hostile environment and were relatively successful. It's all relative, I know.
Anytime you have a conspiracy you immediately have problems keeping your plans and goals secret. This is doubly true if you're someone law enforcement and/or state security is already looking at. Part of the sophistication comes from the organizational structure that allows you to operate at all. It's not technically difficult to use a "cell" style organization, but it takes discipline and involves costs (in terms of time, communication difficulties, etc) and being willing and able to bear those costs is mark of a more sophisticated organization. In the case of the 9/11 attacks these guys has to recruit, train, and pay for a number of different people, bring them together at the right time, and execute a plan that was made quite a while earlier. The individual parts, as you say, didn't require any individual to be all that smart/possess specific knowledge or skills the average person didn't get. The organizational capability and insight to pull all of that together, though, isn't easy in general and certainly takes skill, talent, and luck to pull off in the context it was (ie by senior members of known terrorist organizations who had to assume they were under more-or-less constant surveillance). Criminal organizations get penetrated by law enformenent/enemy agents/turncoats all the time, and preventing that fact from ruining a plan when the plan involves coordination between a large number of people across the globe isn't easy.

The Stuxnet cyberattack was a sophisticated, ingenious attack in a way that the 9/11 attacks weren't. That doesn't mean the 9/11 attacks were easy to pull off (considering the attacks from planning through execution), though, nor that they weren't "sophisticated" in comparison to the normal types of terrorist attacks--the organizational methods and (terrorist) tradecraft needed to achieve their goals can be considered sophisticated.

Rusty said...

You're taking this much too literally, Althouse.

There was a leader, a planner. Someone to coordinate the logistics and the timing.
Was he/she a mastermind?
Probably not in the evil genious sense.
But, hey.
They sure put the fear of terror in the hearts of Europeans.
So They accomplished what they set out to do.

Largo said...

One definition of mastermind is "a person who originates or is primarily responsible for the execution of a particular idea, project, or the like".

In this sense 'mastermind' may be applicable without denoting any particular high level of cunning.

Jim S. said...

I agree Prof. Althouse. The terrorists somehow managed to set their watches to about the same time. This falls below "evil genius" level. Terrorists are morons.

Quaestor said...

The Stuxnet cyberattack was a sophisticated, ingenious attack in a way that the 9/11 attacks weren't.

Stuxnet for all its sophistication failed. Iran is still on track to go nuclear sometime in 2017 or 2018, thanks to Obama, Kerry and the NYT. 9/11 was at least 75% successful in spite of it relative crudity.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...There are plenty of alternative and properly pejorative words, like "villain" and "malefactor."

Monster, savage, miscreant, fiend, evildoer, wretch, brute, devil, coward.


People who subscribe to the NYTimes won't allow "evildoer," Professor. We had a President recently who used that term, and the NYTimes crowd never tired of pointing out that he saw the world in terms of black and white, with us or against us--he was an unsophisticated cowboy who didn't understand nuance, remember? Villain fails for the same reason (comic books have villains).

Monster and savage are probably right out, as they imply something unhuman, and that's "othering" quite a bit too much.

Devil's too tied up with supernatural belief, and coward invites Bill Maher-style counters ("the US is the coward, shooting cruise missiles from afar, the 9/11 hijackers weren't cowards" to paraphrase).

Miscreant is much too tame.

furious_a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rusty said...

Jim S. said...
I agree Prof. Althouse. The terrorists somehow managed to set their watches to about the same time. This falls below "evil genius" level. Terrorists are morons.

Somebody may have said this already.
Someone managed to smuggle arms and explosives into a country where private firearm ownership is rare.
They knew the entrances and exits of all the venues. In other words they did their homework.
They knew when their target sites would have the most people. So again they did their homework.
They managed to get themselves and their equipment on site without being noticed.
They knew the police couldn't coordinate a response for some time.
Thiis wasn't some"Hey. Lets take our Kalashnikovs and go shoot up Paris!"
These guys planned well.
They planned for the greatest impact.
All of Europe is now afraid.
That's what terrorists want.
You to be afraid.

furious_a said...

...many of the high-trust nations the Left likes to point to as examples to be emulated (due to their "democratic socialist" ways) like Finland, Denmark, etc, are by our standards incredibly ethnically (and racially/religiously/many other measures-ly) homogeneous...

...for now. Until their next allotment of fighting-age Middle Eastern males. And Denmark is skeptical.

DanTheMan said...

>>Displaying solidarity with France is as useless and self-serving as Michelle Obama's "bring back our daughters"

You are assuming that I, and others, have changed avatars to have some effect on ISIS. I have changed mine to show compassion for those who lost their lives in Paris.

Matt said...

It's a trivial pursuit to nitpick this one headline.

Marc Snyder said...

Have to be a mastermind to overcome measures already taken , otherwise authority is incompetent.

Fabi said...

One of the Paris terrorists worked in an immigration office in Belgium, according to the mayor of his hometown.

Mark said...

Was there a "mastermind" of the Paris attacks? . . .
Why inflate the reputation of these people?


It's not about inflating reputations. It is about trying to delude people into thinking that the problem is just one or two people and if we eliminate them, problem solved.

Yeah, tell that to Jihad Johnnie and Osama bin Laden. They're both dead, so the war is over.

Big Mike said...

@Rusty, was it you who had a friend in Paris that lived across from one of the attacked restaurants? Did you hear from him yet? Is he safe?

BTW, I concur with your comments.

hombre said...

Why? Because if there isn't a mastermind and it wasn't well-planned, the sheeple might start asking embarrassing questions of the government.

You know, questions like, "Why have we let thousands of military age Muslim men walk into our country? I mean before they were only killing Jews. Now they're killing EVERYBODY!"

Curious George said...

"DanTheMan said...

You are assuming that I, and others, have changed avatars to have some effect on ISIS. I have changed mine to show compassion for those who lost their lives in Paris."

So it's all about you. Got it.

Rusty said...

Yes Mike. He is OK.
Hung over, but OK.



Some more food for thought.


http://nypost.com/2015/11/15/the-jihadis-master-plan-to-break-us/

clint said...

"Michael K said...
I would suggest that those of us who are alert, avoid crowds this and next month.

Two things stood out for me. One was that the attacks in Paris were coordinated by a cell operating from a neighboring country. The attackers were divided into two groups, one that was assigned to suicide missions and one that was assigned to escape. That’s not the normal M.O. and the cops are asking why the change. Several did escape. At least one got to a neighboring country. The logical conclusion is that the escapees were being saved for “the next big thing.”"

Recruiting.

They'll go on tours of extremist mosques telling the youngsters about how they tweaked the nose of the Number 3 Satan and lived to tell about it.

Curious George said...

"Jim S. said...
I agree Prof. Althouse. The terrorists somehow managed to set their watches to about the same time. This falls below "evil genius" level. Terrorists are morons."

That piece is as dumb as Althouse's, and not suprisingly follows the same MO:

1. Here is what I think
2. Therefore it is fact
3. With that in mind, here is my argument.

Her: The stadium attack was not just mostly but massively unsuccessful and it was the main target. The president was there!

(There is no evidence to suggest that Hollande was a target, or if they even knew he was there. Typically high profile targets do not make public schedules for the very reason that it allows planning)


Him: Another thing: if you're planning to fly the plane into things, maybe the Pentagon wasn't the wisest choice. I mean, first of all, planes tend to fly in the air, and five-story buildings tend to be very close to the ground. In order to crash the plane into it, you're almost certainly going to bump the plane on the ground, which will significantly decrease your forward momentum enough that you'll do much less damage. In order to avoid this, you'd have to be very careful, meaning you'd have to slow down of your own accord ... and do much less damage.

(Maybe they just wanted to target high profile buildings representing America. The fact that they did hit it, killing 125 people, and had pictures of it burning, was more than enough.)

narciso said...

well had Mohammed Quahtani gotten on flight 93, there might not have been a Capitol Building,
or White House on September 11th,

Michael K said...

"Stuxnet for all its sophistication failed."

The most successful effort of that type is one that most people don't even know about. It was a software mod that blew up the Soviet's big gas pipeline to Europe.

The guy who authorized it ? Reagan.

A CIA operation to sabotage Soviet industry by duping Moscow into stealing booby-trapped software was spectacularly successful when it triggered a huge explosion in a Siberian gas pipeline, it emerged yesterday.
Thomas Reed, a former US Air Force secretary who was in Ronald Reagan's National Security Council, discloses what he called just one example of the CIA's "cold-eyed economic warfare" against Moscow in a memoir to be published next month.
Leaked extracts in yesterday's Washington Post describe how the operation caused "the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space" in the summer of 1982.
Mr Reed writes that the software "was programmed to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to pipeline joints and welds".
The CIA learned of Soviet ambitions to steal the software via a French KGB source, Col Vladimir Vetrov, codenamed Farewell. His job was to evaluate the intelligence collected by a shadowy arm of the KGB set up a network of industrial spies to steal technology from the West.


Those were the days when we were mean as a junkyard dog. Now we are just junk.

narciso said...

the attack was on the representatives of financial, military and political power, they got 2 out of 3.

Laslo Spatula said...

The United States of America doesn't even have a Mastermind.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

I am attributed all Islamic Violence to Snidely Mohammed.

We must stop Snidely Mohammed.

And everyone within Ground Zero of him.

I am Laslo.

Big Mike said...

@Rusty, very good.

DanTheMan said...

>I have changed mine to show compassion for those who lost their lives in Paris."

>>So it's all about you. Got it.

How do you possibly get that from my statement? You have it exactly backwards.

After 9/11, the French honored our dead by declaring "Today, all are Americans".

Was that the French saying "It's all about us?"

sane_voter said...

Obama says ISIS is not Islamic. the leader of ISIS has a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies. I suspect very few Muslims can listen to Obama and not think he is a fool.

sane_voter said...

Politifact has rated Obama's statement that ISIS is contained as "true". Pathetic

sane_voter said...

Whether or not the Paris attacks were Masterminded, I would say causing the chaos that results in hundreds of thousands of Muslims to flood into the west (with untold numbers of trained terrorists among them) has been spectacularly successful from their point of view. How would you have masterminded something more successful than that? Even our pathetic President and the Democrat candidates are tripping over themselves to bring this Trojan horse into the US.

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