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Mock the Vote

Oct 10, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 04 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Times are indeed tough for the magazine industry—advertising is down, subscribers are aging, young readers prefer the online and the free, and few print organs have made their online versions -really work. But none of that is why Inspire looks to be joining the likes of Gourmet, George, Sassy, and Talk in the dustbin of failed periodicals. Inspire’s editor Samir Khan wasn’t fired because he spent too lavishly on the publication’s Hollywood parties, or because he crossed swords with the wrong Newhouse. Khan was caught in the crosshairs of an unmanned drone last week in North Yemen, alongside his pal Anwar al-Awlaki. Inspire, by the way, is the English language tract sponsored by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Dispatching Awlaki, a 40-year-old American-born Yemeni cleric and member of AQAP, was a major achievement for the Obama administration in its campaign to bring AQ officials to justice. In May, Navy SEALs put paid to Osama Bin Laden, and at the end of August AQ’s Number Two, Atiyah abd al-Rahman, wound up on the wrong end of a drone in Pakistan. Khan, it seems, was a bonus. The 25-year-old Saudi-born New Yorker was probably just riding in the wrong convoy at the wrong time.

In a sense, you have to hand it to Khan. Most editors never really want to get too close to their subjects. Try to imagine Vogue’s Anna Wintour schlepping fabrics across Seventh Avenue. But Khan lived the life. He wasn’t afraid to embrace his subject—which of course was jihad.

Khan’s audience was English-speaking Westerners disenchanted with the Zionist-imperialist conspiracy to destroy the umma and looking for tips on how to bring it down. The purpose of Inspire was to guide and encourage these young jihadists.

Some of Khan’s editorial choices were derivative, to say the least. Aside from the bad rhyme in the headline, “How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” was little more than a reworked version of Andrew Kopkind’s infamous 1967 New York Review of Books story with the diagram showing how to make a Molotov cocktail. We wonder what was in the works—a profile of the new al Qaeda emir titled “Ayman al-Zawahiri Has a Cold”?

To be frank, The Scrapbook was never entirely sure who was reading Inspire—outside of Western intelligence services. Pretty much anyone who logged on to its website must have had his name filed away in some pretty sensitive places. And that loss to intelligence-gathering is the only reason to miss Khan, whose sad misspent life had only a slightly longer run than his evil publishing empire.

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