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Why Do Individuals Enlist with ISIS? Ask Russell Brand!

It’s ‘progressive’ to self-loathe one’s Western culture

Russell Brand/Wikimedia Commons (
Source: Russell Brand/Wikimedia Commons (

In a recent YouTube clip, Russell Brand offered some factors that might explain why Mohammed Emwazi (aka ‘Jihad John’) became the notorious public executioner of ISIS, and why individuals have been joining ISIS in droves (see my YouTube rebuttal titled THE SAAD TRUTH_30: Russell Brand Explains Why Folks Join ISIS). Some of the possible “causal” factors that Brand offered include: alienation, loneliness, lack of participation in politics, losing a sense of community, need for belongingness, the financial crash of 2007-2008 (which he coined a form of “incremental murder”), free market radicalism, consumerism, and capitalism. Can you think of any conspicuously absent factor from Mr. Brand’s list?

When people feel alienated and if they are lacking a sense of community, they can satiate their need for belongingness in endless non-violent ways. They can join the Amish, the Hare Krishnas, a book club, the Justin Bieber fan club, a salsa band, a crochet club, or a recreational bowling league. It seems difficult to imagine how Emwazi, who may or may not have felt alienated, would decide: “OK, I feel lonely and angry at capitalism. It’s time to head off to the Middle East where I might behead some random people whom I’ve never met.” As far as the 2007-2008 financial crash is concerned, millions of people were affected by the devastating collapse of the US housing market, and few as much as residents of some areas of Southern California (e.g., the Inland Empire). Yet I don’t recall any Americans from Temecula or Riverside heading off to the Middle East to behead people as a response to their financial woes.

Let us examine the background of Emwazi’s family in light of Brand’s “analysis.” They are Kuwaitis who supported the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the early 1990s. Given Iraq’s eventual defeat in the Gulf War, the Emwazi family argued that they would be persecuted, and as such they applied for refugee status in Britain and obtained it in 1996. In the nearly two decades since, they have apparently received £400,000 in welfare support courtesy of the British taxpayers (damned infidels!). It would seem that the Brits were extraordinarily hospitable, generous, and kind to Emwazi and his family. Incidentally, ‘Jihadi John’ earned a Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems with Business Management from the University of Westminster so he certainly did not seem to be “alienated” from the educational system, the labor market, or the welfare perks.

Returning to Brand, he is a product of the far-left progressive mindset, which views all ills as being the product of one’s own cultural and societal shortcomings (on this issue, see my earlier Psychology Today article titled The Suicidal Culture of Self-Hate). A classic example of this form of thinking is Noam Chomsky’s unlimited capacity to blame the US military-industrial complex for every conceivable calamity (see THE SAAD TRUTH_29: ISIS, Noam Chomsky, and the US Military-Industrial Complex). To hold Emwazi responsible for his actions, and to lay blame on the clear religious convictions that drove him to join ISIS, is impossible for Brand and his ilk. This would be “gross and racist” according to Ben Affleck, another Hollywood luminary (see my earlier Psychology Today article as well as my appearance on the David Pakman Show wherein I discuss the Sam Harris-Ben Affleck exchange on Real Time Bill Maher).

If Mr. Brand did not command such a large following, his views would be irrelevant and unworthy of rebuttal. Regrettably though he does shape the opinion of millions of otherwise misinformed and misguided individuals. Hence, it is incumbent on all clear-thinking individuals to challenge such shoddy and delusional ramblings. We all have an infinitely important stake in this grand battle between competing ideas.

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