Victim : A Function of Distance and Attraction
In this model the victim doesn't exist in his or her own right. The victim is an abstraction, a projection of the worldview adopted by Ahmed, with support from his group and guidance from his leader.
Distance from Victim
The issue of distance between Ahmed and his victim can be understood as a kind of mathematical formula where, as the physical distance between killer and victim decreases, the emotional distance must increase in order for killing to occur. Physical distance, as Grossman describes it, can be provided not only by space, such as a bomber who sets his bomb off with a cell phone from a safe distance, but also by technology, such as the use of a backpack bomb which the jihadi has only to detonate, or by the use of a gun instead of a knife. These are not issues that concern us on the Internet. Online, the distance that is created is emotional. Cultural, moral, social, and ethnic differences are all emphasized on jihadi websites, and the jihadis have a very long list of people whose lives are forfeit: impious Sunni Muslims, Shiites and Sufis, Christians and Jews, Pagans, and so on.
Attractiveness of victim
The victim's attractiveness to the killer is in large part a function of their relevance, which in turn is a product of the emotional distance created in jihadi discourse. The likelihood of success is an assessment that Ahmed will have to make with his group, based on whatever training and experience they may have acquired either online or preferably (for them) at a training camp. This assessment does not have to be realistic to have the necessary affect. Closely linked to their assessment of the likelihood of success is their measure of the enemy's loss. It matters only that they believe the enemy suffers a loss. What Ahmed gains from killing will range from the satisfaction of striking terror into the hearts of his enemies, to the rewards of Paradise in the event that his attack is suicidal in nature. A great deal of effort is made by jihadis online to honor the memory of the martyrs and instill in the living a desire to follow the same course of action.
This essay is much more of a beginning than an end. It is an attempt to explore the applicability of Grossman's model to my studies of jihadi activity online. As with any model, it is a tool to assist in understanding the data, rather than a 1:1 map of a particular landscape. As such it seems to have much to offer, both in terms of online activity in support of global jihad and the limits of same.
The Big Picture
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 This part of Grossman's model is derived from his reading of Shalit, B., 1988, The Psychology of Conflict and Combat.Posted on 15 March 2009 @ 15:16