#82- The End of the World According to ISIS A Conversation with Graeme Wood

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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15 June 2017 10:15
 

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Graeme Wood about his experience reporting on ISIS, the myth of online recruitment, the theology of ISIS, the quality of their propaganda, the most important American recruit to the organization, the roles of Jesus and the Anti-Christ in Islamic prophecy, free speech and the ongoing threat of jihadism, and other topics.

#82- The End of the World According to ISIS A Conversation with Graeme Wood

This thread is for listeners’ comments.

 
sfw
 
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sfw
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16 June 2017 02:18
 

Great discussion, however it still amazes me that Sam just can’t help himself and bag Trump but never addresses the Obama/Clinton contribution to where we are now.

 
jcam
 
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jcam
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16 June 2017 03:57
tomsimone
 
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tomsimone
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16 June 2017 05:31
 

Interesting podcast.

But in my mind you overplay the importance of some stuff written in a book in motivating Jihadis.

And you underplay the fact that America dropped 26, 171 bombs in 2016 - including white phosphorous last week - and kill staggering numbers of civilians.
eg
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/us-coalition-air-strikes-isis-russia-kill-more-civilians-march-middle-east-iraq-syria-network-for-a7663881.html

I don’t think someone would need to be directly be affected by this to be drawn to Isis ideaology.

Of course Isis starts from a religious basis, but it is the violence in Iraq, Syria, etc which acts as the incubator to create isis terrorists.

Very few of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims choose to interpret and act on the violent passages of the koran, just as very few Christians take the bible literally word for word.

 
tomsimone
 
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tomsimone
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16 June 2017 07:14
 

Ok, you address these points a bit more in the second half of the podcast, which I hadn’t got to when I posted my previous comment.

 
11thStory
 
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11thStory
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16 June 2017 14:05
 

As a content creators we appreciate your comments at the beginning of your podcast. 

It seems that followers of ISIS are subject to narcissistic thought disorders wrapped in idealism and supported by religious texts. This mental or brain state has convinced them of violence and martyrdom for a cause. Nationalism can also provoke people or politicians to justify violence in the name of idealism with the support of a supreme being. Narcissism, idealism and violent language also seem like the hallmark for most social media exchanges. This problem of violence is deep within our roots. The sacred book for Jews, Christians and Muslims all contain justifiable violent acts in the name of an idea, cause or direction of a god. If these were labeled as self help books for ancient peoples we could root out the good from the bad, but the majority of believers think it is written or inspired by a god. Modern Jews, Christians and Muslims are not at the point of adding the disclaimer; “Beware: Written by humans, subject to error”

My only other comment is not all types of speech are protected by the 1st amendment.

 
notAbookwarm
 
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notAbookwarm
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16 June 2017 15:19
 

Thoroughly enjoyed the podcast. Graeme Wood is a great speaker!

My highlights:
- The antichrist story was super entertaining. (1:09:30~)
- Graeme’s insight into how ISIS thinks about losing territory. (1:19:00~)
- How he tracked down this american guy in ISIS was cool (56:00:00~), this leads to discussion about how these intelligent people raised in well off families can go crazy and Sam’s thesis about the power of Ideas (~1:03:00~)

I completely agree about the idea theory, it’s not just about lack of education or poor circumstance. The question is how do we fight with these ideas that can have “bad” consequences without fringing on Free Speech? (1:34:30~) I appreciate that Graeme was candid about not having an answer to this and discussed aspects of this dilemma.

Sam, it seems to me, is going through an internal conflict with this question. In many episodes he emphasizes how he is a stout, Free Speech fundamentalist/purist. I don’t doubt this, but the questions/concerns he poses challenges this belief a lot. He’s plaing the devil’s advocate but in doing so I think at times he becomes the devil himself, contradicting his values.
I think this explains why he’s often misunderstood. I’m not being critical, in fact I think it’s a sign that he is engaging with the issue. It’s just interesting to observe.

———
As for the issue about payment, whoever thinks that they’re never gonna pay for digital content is just immature. If you don’t pay that means someone else is paying and they get to influence. I for myself have been paying on per-episode, treating it like a cup of coffee and pay (more) based on the content.

@Sam: I find it very motivating to pay when you remind us how being ad-free gives you this freedom that almost no one else has. It is possible just to reiterate this in every episode and keep you afloat, without making any pay only content? Can you get a statistics on how much ppl give when you say this and when you don’t?
This is a typical case of collective responsibility. Is it possible to make a plot of how much each episode make and how much they cost? Surely, if people find the podcast worthwhile they’d pay if they find out that you’re losing money or could make it better if you reached X amount (to provide gears to your guests etc). Maybe you can disclose these details periodically (every X month).

 
Marten123
 
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19 June 2017 00:52
 

A comment and a question:

1. On the free speech discussion I think there must be a distinction made re time of war and statehood. Would it be acceptable (eg without legal implication) during world war 2 for people in America to espouse nazi Germany sympathies even to the point of hoping Americans die and/or lose the war? I highly doubt that don’t you? This is not to say that I believe we should curtail free speech in America in any way but it is to say that we should compare apples to apples with the sacrifices our nation makes regarding the free speech dilemma. I think it is not an insignificant fact that free speech for nazis is far less contentious since there is not a formal or a genuine attempt to make a formal nazi state in the world today. And so we are far more comfortable with making free speech concessions to such awful ideas. I also don’t think the state of Isis today and of jihad in general can be aptly compared to free speech for nazis today for this reason of statehood and war even though both viewpoints are equally barbaric and awful. Does this analysis seem accurate and applicable and if so does it materially alter our views on the free speech dilemma one way or another? What are your thoughts on this?

2. It seems in this podcast the net is being cast very specifically around “Isis supporters” however based on my understanding of Islam today I feel this is misleading regarding the “tiers of fundamentalism” we find in the Islamic world today. In other words I understand most studies to show that although Isis supporters in particular may be small in the Islamic world percentage wise, the ideas of Islamic rule and domination are not insignificant precentage wise. And so my question is what do we find to be the major distinctions in beliefs from Isis supporters versus fundamentalist Islam versus moderate Islam today? My sense is the distinctions are not that significant when practically compared to our lives in the west (i.e. Separation of church and state, human rights, slavery or discrimination, etc). Is this correct or not? Also to what extent is it true that Saudi Arabia is funding Isis and if at all how do we know that?

As always thanks Sam and take care!

 
Brad777
 
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Brad777
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20 June 2017 06:08
 

I’ve only begun listening to the podcast but by coincidence am about 2/3 of the way through Graeme Wood’s very fine and extremely depressing article about Richard Spencer entitled “His Kampf” in the June Atlantic Monthly.

From what Sam said at the beginning of the podcast about what subjects are covered, I take it the article is not among them. 

I think Sam should have Graeme back on the podcast ASAP to discuss the issues raised in the article. These issues would include how in the digital age a non-productive pseudo-intellectual narcissistic nobody can band together with others of his or her ilk to help spread asinine religion-like ideologies containing idiotic ideas about human nature and government, and consequently lay the ground for substantial harm.

Spencer and his fellow morons are, in my view, currently sort of an impotent secular version of ISIS. But both the far right bowel movements in Europe and the tenor of Trump rallies here in the U.S. show that impotence is a relative and not necessarily permanent situation.

All of these things are sadly pertinent in today’s America and are right in Sam’s wheelhouse for podcast discussion.

Sam, please have Graeme Wood back to talk about this!
(And as a compliment to all your discussions, I’m still hoping for Sebastian Junger…)

A final thought - Sam’s response to the Reza Aslan firing were spot on and much appreciated in this corner.

 
tertullian
 
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tertullian
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20 June 2017 09:46
 

At one point Graeme Wood suggests that some American-Islamic scholars and theologians are making a serious attempt to honestly confront the doctrines of Islam that fuel terrorism, and to reinterpret them to produce (so to speak) a Reformed Islam.  Wood mentioned Hamza Yusuf, who is all over YouTube.  I watched a couple of his videos, which did not support Wood’s assessment.  Indeed, one of them repeated the very mantra that so irks Sam: “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam.”

 
Nicko W
 
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Nicko W
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23 July 2017 03:08
 

I found this episode to be - as I find the podcast more generally - interesting.  I suppose the thing that disturbed me most about this podcast episode was Sam’s opinion that the way forward for Islam was for it to renounce the doctrines of martyrdom and Jihad.

As a strategy going forward, this seems to me to be so obviously a non-starter, that I’m perplexed as to why Sam thinks he’s onto something here.

Sam has stated on numerous occasions that Islam can only be reformed from within.  I agree.

But a potential reformer simply cannot use denial of martyrdom and Jihad as a strategy.  How would it work?  Say some reformer does come along and suggests doing away with the doctrines of martyrdom and Jihad.  Can anyone imagine any response from the faithful other than this person is clearly a heretic, probably an apostate?  You can’t reform a faith from within when your opening gambit places you outside the faith in the conception of most believers.  It’s like trying to reform Scientology by making the argument that L. Ron Hubbard was a pathological liar: true of course, but unlikely to gain traction.

So, while I agree that these two doctrines are at the core of the Islamist threat, a different tactic seems wiser.  Happily there is one.

Instead of trying to persuade Muslims that martyrs don’t go to Paradise (when the scriptures clearly say they do) and that Jihad is not an Islamic duty (when the scriptures clearly say it is), it seems to me that a reformer would be better off making the case that suicide bombers et al. are not martyrs and terrorism cannot be considered a form of Jihad.  It certainly seems to more effectively undercut the arguments Wood cites recruiters using.  The task of Muslim reformers should be to make the case that those who carry out suicide attacks against civilians are not martyrs on a fast-track to Paradise but suicidal murderers on a fast-track to Hell.  To make the case that terrorism as a tactic is not an effective means of defending the faith - the function of Jihad -  but opens it to attack both literally and figuratively.

I’m not saying that this would be by any means easy, just that it’s at least possible.

 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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23 July 2017 06:46
 
Nicko W - 23 July 2017 03:08 AM

I found this episode to be - as I find the podcast more generally - interesting.  I suppose the thing that disturbed me most about this podcast episode was Sam’s opinion that the way forward for Islam was for it to renounce the doctrines of martyrdom and Jihad.

As a strategy going forward, this seems to me to be so obviously a non-starter, that I’m perplexed as to why Sam thinks he’s onto something here.

Sam has stated on numerous occasions that Islam can only be reformed from within.  I agree.

But a potential reformer simply cannot use denial of martyrdom and Jihad as a strategy.  How would it work?  Say some reformer does come along and suggests doing away with the doctrines of martyrdom and Jihad.  Can anyone imagine any response from the faithful other than this person is clearly a heretic, probably an apostate?  You can’t reform a faith from within when your opening gambit places you outside the faith in the conception of most believers.  It’s like trying to reform Scientology by making the argument that L. Ron Hubbard was a pathological liar: true of course, but unlikely to gain traction.

So, while I agree that these two doctrines are at the core of the Islamist threat, a different tactic seems wiser.  Happily there is one.

Instead of trying to persuade Muslims that martyrs don’t go to Paradise (when the scriptures clearly say they do) and that Jihad is not an Islamic duty (when the scriptures clearly say it is), it seems to me that a reformer would be better off making the case that suicide bombers et al. are not martyrs and terrorism cannot be considered a form of Jihad.  It certainly seems to more effectively undercut the arguments Wood cites recruiters using.  The task of Muslim reformers should be to make the case that those who carry out suicide attacks against civilians are not martyrs on a fast-track to Paradise but suicidal murderers on a fast-track to Hell.  To make the case that terrorism as a tactic is not an effective means of defending the faith - the function of Jihad -  but opens it to attack both literally and figuratively.

I’m not saying that this would be by any means easy, just that it’s at least possible.

I agree. 
Ridicule and criticism by outsiders of a religion will not be heard by ‘devout’ followers of that religion.  Insiders of the religion (especially senior clerics?) must promote a humane interpretation of their own doctrines.  We have seen this happen with other religions; there is no reason to think it cannot happen with the religion of Islam.  But you’re right, it won’t be easy.

[ Edited: 23 July 2017 06:50 by Jan_CAN]