What I want to focus own though is not how he did it, but who is is, and do so by looking at his writing and the magazine. There is no doubt that the magazine is technically sophisticated and shiny and an appealing, easy read. There are a lot of exciting pictures of explosions and short articles and little nuggets of infotainment*, which can suck in an internet-addled mind. I think that is the point of this: despite its sophistication, it is childish and patronizing and seductive to people who desire to be told what to think.
There is a little picture, for example, of President Obama, clipped and ragged to look like it was cut out of a magazine, with a quote by him saying "Our enemies are al-Qaeda who are trying to kill us but who have killed more Muslims than just about anybody on earth", followed by a parenthetical comment that he is "(speaking as if America hasn't killed more than a million Muslims in Iraq (before the invasion) and don't have blood on their hands from Afghanistan, Palestine, Sudan and elsewhere.)" Underneath that, looking like it was tacked on, in what looks to be like a psuedo-Arabic comic font, is the addition of "JUST RIDICULOUS!" The whole page smacks of a combination of office bulletin board and irritating, shrill political blog.
This is the point, though- it isn't for sophisticated jihadists, or even for people with particularily well-developed minds. They aren't the potential recruits in America or the West. The recruits are people who are bored, pathetic, juvenile, and lonely. The kind of people who watch Fight Club and see themselves in it, desperate for some excitement. They blame society for rejecting them, and take their outsider status as proof of greatness, even though they generally lack any ability or inspiration that creates real, artistic or political outcasts.
You can see this pretty clearly in Khan's writing. There is a lot of inflated self-importance mixed with classic teenage-like, petty-reactionary bullshit. There is a railing against people who work 9-5 jobs, who define themselves by what they buy or what they do. There is a pervasive feeling of "I'm better than you", which you can find in all sorts of unformed and scared minds, whether they take solace in Atlas Shrugged or On the Road (though the people who take only that message from On the Road are reading it wrong- as I did the first time, and as millions do. Khan's take is Kerouak as read by Qutb). I understand the appeal of this kind of thinking. I was 17 once as well. We live in strange times, and people want to latch onto something.
There is an easy correlation between these thoughts and violence. The desperate mind looks to violence as a way of making yourself greater and finally shaking off the shackles imposed on you by the norms and the Rotary Club and all those fucking jocks. I'm going to quote some of Khan's writing, which I think goes a long way of showing the child-like infatuation with violence that is inherent in most radicals, and particularly jihadis.
I am acutely aware that body parts have to be torn apart, skulls have to be crushed, and blood has to be spilled in order for this (a caliphate) to be a reality. Anyone who says otherwise is not prepared to make sacrifices that heroes and champions make.
One has to say: come on. Skulls have to be crushed? This is not a serious person, but rather one with deep-seated issues and a desire to be remembered no matter what. Heroes and champions? Please. Throughout the article he uses the a language mashed-up from comic books and revolutionary tracts, with talk of blood-suckers and parasites and the glory of violence. Of course these people are dangerous, but they are not super-terrorists.
This is also illustrated in what has been a much-discussed section of Inspire, the Open-Source Jihad, which gives tips to people in America who want to act on their own. The tip this issue? I wish I was joking when I said it was for "The Ultimate Mowing Machine". The picture is of a huge Ford pickup roaring through a storm, awesomely lit by lightning and looking for the world like it is just going to burst through your screen and drink your beer and take your woman, you Vespa-riding pansy. I am willing to bet it was taken directly from Ford- death to America, indeed.
Anyway, the tip is to attach some kind of blades to the front and just plow right the fuck into a crowd of people, mowing them down. No doubt this would be scary if someone could get it to work. But come on: this isn't how to sneak plutonium in though Canada. This is something a 9th-grader doodles while thinking about gym class. This is just stupid violence-porn, the kind of thing that Dylan Kliebold and Eric Harris might dream up. It is sick and twisted and simple enough to work, maybe (I don't know how exactly, but then I feel a sense of pride when successfully changing a tire, so what the hell do I know?). But we really can't afford to spend too much time worrying about al-Awlaki or Khan or Inspire helping people bring us down from the inside. Fighters and real jihadists are far more worrisome than the sugar-high ravings of outcasts. Just give them some time and they'll find out about The Doors, and their minds will be open, man.
(Note: there is of course a real threat, particularly from disaffected Muslims, especially in this strange time of Muslim-baiting by the right, but for terrorism to work you have to be terrified, and Inspire is more ridiculous than anything.)
*It is strange to me that spell-check accepts "infotainment" but rejects "derring-do". There is a broader point here, but it mostly makes me sad as an old-timey kind of guy.