I’ve tried several times to write this post at greater length. It keeps not working. So I’ll be more succinct. What strikes me most about what we’re now learning about the San Bernardino massacre is that it may not be either/or, work place violence or jihadist terrorism. It may be a hybrid of the two.
Based on what we know today we don’t have any evidence of jihadist terrorism beyond the suspects’ surnames and religion (not terribly good evidence) and their apparent stockpiling of pipe bombs (better evidence). If every guy with a few weapons and tons of ammo was a jihadist, we’ve have quite a few jihadists in the US – not to mention various lifestyle magazines to cater to them.
But let’s assume, for the sake of conversation, that subsequent investigations show contact with foreign jihadists and radicalization as a key motivator. Even with that, these sorts of attacks are not often targeted against coworkers -especially after what seems to have been an argument with a coworker at the party that was subsequently targeted. That sounds a lot like a workplace rage rampage.
And yet, it’s clear that even on the basis of what we know now, Farouk and his wife did quite a lot more planning than they could have done in the 20 minutes or hour it took Farouk to leave the party and come back in body armor with guns blazing. So clearly Farouk and his wife, whatever their motivation, had seriously considered and made elaborate plans for killing a lot of people. Guns themselves might not confirm that – given that this is the USA. Pipe bombs do.
And then we have the further disconnect. We didn’t they bring their pipe bombs? If the plan was always to attack the coworkers, why didn’t they bring them? Did they plan to get away and mount further attacks? Or had they planned some separate attack only to have Syed get angry with coworkers and jump the gun by shifting the massacre target to them?
We’ll probably have explanations for many of these questions soon. My only observation for now is that the various genres of DIY catastrophic mass violence we have become familiar with may not be as hermetically sealed as we imagine. A homegrown jihadist radicalized by some crazies in Yemen can also be a working stiff pissed off about work. I’m sure we’ll soon learn more.