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#JeSuisParis: Justification for mass casualty violence

On Monday, March 26, the University of Maine hosted a presentation on the hypocrisy and the rationalization of mass casualty violence in Dunn Hall. The presenter was Karyn Sporer, a professor of the sociology department at the university.

Sporer’s current research focuses on violent extremism and justifications for mass casualty violence. The research is in collaboration with the University of Nebraska and is funded by various institutions including the Department of Homeland Security.

In her presentation, Sporer took a look at recent terrorist attacks such as the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Boston Marathon bombing, the attack in Nice, France and a few more. Her presentation mainly focused on the hypocrisy surrounding those events as well as the impact the internet has had on terrorism around the globe.

“The Internet has inadvertently aided violent extremist organizations because of inherent characteristics with anonymity, instant access to worldwide audience, limited regulation,” Sporer said. “A real quick rapid flow of information. With just a quick click of a button, you can send propaganda across the world in any language you want.”

Sporer spoke on what exactly terrorist organizations are teaching people over the internet, saying, “They’re sharing ideological messages, propaganda, various training modules. It’s not just learning how to create a bomb in your mom’s kitchen, but also learning how to make your phone more private, like hiding your IP address.”

One of the more common platforms used by terrorist groups and terrorist sympathizers is Twitter. Since the number of tweets from accounts linked to terrorist groups spikes within the first 24 hours of an attack, Sporer wanted to see what the content of those tweets was.

Looking at multiple tweets, Sporer found some consistent themes. One of those themes is the idea of there being a “God-sanctioned war.” Sporer went on to explain, saying, “For many of the members of the Islamic State and those who have been radicalized, this is a God-sanctioned war. They are going to inevitably win. They are appealing to this higher loyalty.”

She continued, “Even though they just killed 80 civilians or concert-goers, it’s just part of the deal. They are actually going to be rewarded with martyrdom because they sacrificed their life.”

The next theme Sporer spoke about was the idea of retaliation, saying, “There’s an emerging theme that the attacks themselves were simply retaliation to the coalition forces,” Sporer continued, “There’s counter-terrorist strategies like drone strikes. Their response to being attacked in the Middle East was predictable.”

The last theme that Sporer mentioned was the idea of hypocrisy.

“Muslim hypocrites, unsympathetic, hypocrisy, and condemnation is really this idea that the West, Europe, but really, in America, no one really cares what’s happening in the Middle East, so how dare us judge them for fighting back,” Sporer said.

“There’s a sense that no one is really paying attention to mass civilian casualties in the Middle East, especially with our drone strikes, with what Assad has been doing, not just here in Iraq, but North Africa. They have really focused in on this idea of hypocrisy,” Sporer continued.

Overall, Sporer broke the theme of her talk into four sub-themes, where she touched upon the silence of Westerners on civilian casualties in the Middle East, anger and animosity, distinctions between who is and who is not a Muslim, and the idea that Westerners do not think of their lives as being equal to one another.

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