Now that we’re 27 hours on from the bombing in Chelsea last night we both have more information and still don’t know a lot. Law enforcement has now confirmed that both devices were improvised explosive devices (IEDs) using pressure cookers packed with shrapnel and wired with Christmas lights and cellphones. No one has claimed responsibility and local, state, and Federal law enforcement are working on trying to determine who was responsible, the motivation behind the attack, and if there is any linkage to the near miss and malfunctioning pipe bombs at a charity race in New Jersey earlier yesterday. An online posting claiming credit earlier today has been debunked as a hoax.
Myles Millar, a reporter for NY1, has reported out via twitter that:
And Corey Johnson, the NY City Councilman for the district that includes Chelsea has just tweeted out the following information:
State Senator Golden has confirmed Councilman Johnson’s information:
CNN has now reported (12:02 AM EDT) that the FBI has questioned several people at a traffic stop near the Verrazano Bridge, but that no arrests have been made. Also, based on surveillance video they have identified a person of interest, but are still pursuing numerous leads.
And the NY Daily News has now reported that the FBI has arrested several people in possible connection with the Chelsea bombing. Specifically five people arrested who were traveling in an SUV and who are tied to a bomb cache of “three pipe bombs and two smaller devices” at a train station in Elizabeth, NJ.
All of this current/breaking information is still provisional and it remains to be seen how it plays out as the investigation proceeds.
There are some interesting things about what occurred last night. The first is that no one has come out and claimed credit. If this was tied to any of the big international players we would have had some confirmation by now. As a result it is likely that this was done by someone who has self radicalized and that increases the possible reasons for doing this. It could be, given the placement of the first pressure cooker device, that it was someone that had a personal grievance and motivation rather than an ideological/doctrinal (political, religious, ethno-national, etc) one. In this way it would have been like the Con-Ed bomber* that plagued metropolitan NY off and on for decades. This would make the bombing a solely criminal act, so it wouldn’t be terrorism, though with the recent arrests and the discovery of the cache of IEDs – pipe bombs and other devices – this now seems less likely. Or it could be a small group of people who have self radicalized and are acting out their subjective attachment to any number of possible ideological/doctrinal affiliations.
These days the news media has taken to calling these types of actors one of two things: lone wolves or terrorists. The differentiation seems to be whether they are (terrorist) Muslims or not Muslims (lone wolf). As I’ve mentioned here several times: words matter and ideas matter. This false dichotomy obscures that the process of radicalization is the same regardless of what ideology or doctrine one has internalized, identified with – subjectively or objectively, and is acting in support of. Moreover, it paints two exclusionary categories with very broad brushes that make all Muslims potential terrorists, while all non-Muslims can only be lone wolves. This is wrong. The reality of this type of behavior was for years referred to in the literature as leaderless resistance. Leaderless resistance, was first conceptualized by Louis Beam a white supremacist and member of the Christian Identity group Aryan Nations. Beam, linking the concept back to a Colonel Ulius Amoss, conceptualized leaderless resistance as:
An alternative to the pyramid type of organization is the cell system. In the past, many political groups (both right and left) have used the cell system to further their objectives. Two examples will suffice. During the American Revolution “committees of correspondence” were formed throughout the Thirteen colonies.
Two things become clear from the above discussion. First, that the pyramid type of organization can be penetrated quite easily and it thus is not a sound method of organization in situations where the government has the resources and desire to penetrate the structure; which is the situation in this country. Secondly, that the normal qualifications for the cell structure based upon the Red model does not exist in the U.S. for patriots. This understood, the question arises “What method is left for those resisting state tyranny?” The answer comes from Col. Amoss who proposed the “Phantom Cell” mode of organization. Which he described as Leaderless Resistance. A system of organization that is based upon the cell organization, but does not have any central control or direction, that is in fact almost identical to the methods used by the Committees of Correspondence during the American Revolution. Utilizing the Leaderless Resistance concept, all individuals and groups operate independently of each other, and never report to a central headquarters or single leader for direction or instruction, as would those who belong to a typical pyramid organization.
At first glance, such a type of organization seems unrealistic, primarily because there appears to be no organization. The natural question thus arises as to how are the “Phantom cells” and individuals to cooperate with each other when there is no intercommunication or central direction? The answer to this question is that participants in a program of Leaderless Resistance through phantom cell or individual action must know exactly what they are doing, and how to do it. It becomes the responsibility of the individual to acquire the necessary skills and information as to what is to be done. This is by no means as impractical as it appears, because it is certainly true that in any movement, all persons involved have the same general outlook, are acquainted with the same philosophy, and generally react to given situations in similar ways. The pervious history of the committees of correspondence during the American Revolution show this to be true.
Since the entire purpose of Leaderless Resistance is to defeat state tyranny (at least insofar as this essay is concerned), all members of phantom cells or individuals will tend to react to objective events in the same way through usual tactics of resistance. Organs of information distribution such as newspapers, leaflets, computers, etc., which are widely available to all, keep each person informed of events, allowing for a planned response that will take many variations. No one need issue an order to anyone. Those idealist truly committed to the cause of freedom will act when they feel the time is ripe, or will take their cue from others who precede them. While it is true that much could be said against this type of structure as a method of resistance, it must be kept in mind that Leaderless Resistance is a child of necessity. The alternatives to it have been show to be unworkable or impractical. Leaderless Resistance has worked before in the American Revolution, and if the truly committed put it to use for themselves, it will work now.
Again, words matter and ideas matter. What Beam described in 1992 is how a number of terrorist and insurrectionist groups have tried to mobilize its supporters. This includes everyone from the Aryan Nations’ own Order 1 and 2 to ISIL to a host of other ethno-national, ethno-religious, and political-ideological groups around the globe. And make no mistake leaderless resistance is a tactic of low intensity warfare: rebellion, insurrection, and/or terrorism. The failure of the news media to not fall back on this false dichotomy, as well as those who appear on TV and radio as subject matter experts that go along with the division of terrorists = Muslims and lone wolves = non-Muslims are not doing anyone any favors. Aside from misinforming the public as to the actual dynamics of what has happened it also plays right into the hands of ISIL in attacking and attempting to destroy the Grey Zone.
While we wait for further information, and hopefully clarity, as the FBI’s investigation proceeds, it is important to remember that anyone from any ethnicity, religion, and political ideology can be a terrorist. It is not just simply Muslim = terrorist, non-Muslim = lone wolves. Every extremist and terrorist group today tries to leverage leaderless resistance to achieve their strategic objectives and all of them are trying to destroy the Grey Zone – the civic space that all of us live in when we are not in private. The sooner we start keeping that in mind when dealing with these issues the better informed and off we will be in doing so.
* Interestingly enough James Brussel, the father of pyschological/behavioral profiling, claimed that he had successfully profiled the Con-Ed bomber and, as a result, solved the case. The truth was that his profile was completely off base other than the Con-Ed bomber was, indeed, a man. The actual hero of the case was Alice Kelly who had been assigned to go through Con-Ed’s files and had found letter after letter from a very angry and upset man named George Metesky. Metesky was the Con-Ed bomber, but Brussel claimed and because he did so, got the credit despite actually sending the police down numerous rabbit holes, while Alice Kelly is known only to a few as the person that broke the case open. Dr. Brussel was a great salesman, but a terrible profiler because, as the empirical criminological research shows, psychological/behavioral profiling doesn’t work.