One of the stranger episodes of recent weeks is the reported death of an American who died fighting in Syria with the Islamic State. Stranger still is the Washington Post profile of this homegrown jihadist, Douglas McAuthur McCain, whose unlikely name was probably the most interesting thing about him.
McCain, so we learn from the Post, had led a life that was “one slice of Americana after another: He followed the Chicago Bulls, was a fan of Michael Jordan, watched ‘The Simpsons’ and developed an affinity for Pizza Hut. . . . ‘He was a goofball in high school,’ one classmate told NBC News.”
But of course, not every fan of The Simpsons runs off to Turkey to join up with terrorists in Syria and kill infidels. McCain’s slice of Americana seems to have turned sour some years ago, Pizza Hut and the Chicago Bulls being traded for chronic truancy and unemployment, persistent run-ins with the law, and, in due course, radical Islam. Sad to say, this is not an unfamiliar trajectory in the Age of Terror: Aimless, feckless, angry young men, devoid of adult guidance or marketable skills, soon find themselves vulnerable to their darker impulses. In McCain’s case, those seem to have been an alienation from his native land and attraction to jihadist violence.
All of this appears to have been reflected in social media, where McCain’s growing allegiance to radical Islam is faithfully recorded on Facebook and Twitter. “Ya allah,” he tweets at one point, “when it’s my time to go have mercy on my soul have mercy on my bros.” And on another occasion: “It takes a warrior to understand a warrior. Pray for ISIS.”
What intrigues The Scrapbook is the Post’s perspective on all this. Reporter Terrence McCoy seeks to describe the convert’s devotion to Islam and his rising fervor for jihad. But he does so by characterizing McCain’s Twitter evolution in this way: “His tenure . . . began innocuously with a late 2012 dispatch.”
The operative word here, in The Scrapbook’s opinion, is “innocuously,” for here’s what the abovementioned “dispatch” had to say:
I’m not feeling this Twitter sh— . . . wallahi I wants fried chicken. . . . Watching the Help [a movie] starting to make me hate white people. . . . Ok its official f— white people.
This is innocuous? We can only guess at what the Post would say if somebody else’s Twitter feed revealed a racial animus expressed in such unmistakable terms. There is nothing innocuous about such racism, especially when so easily provoked by a movie. And so while the Post may not see it, Douglas McAuthur McCain’s journey from Twitter bigot to real-life terrorist was appropriately swift.