April 09, 2005

Brother Cattle Prod of Reasoned Discussion

There's a new threat on the horizon: the Unitarian Jihad.

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.

Close reading of the communiqué suggests that cult members take new "struggle names", consistent with a semantic grammar of the form "Brother|Sister <Weapon> of <Abstract-Noun-Connoting-Positively-Evaluated-And-Gentle-Property>". Other examples include "Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace", "Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity", and "Brother Gatling Gun of Patience". Demonstrating the role of the internet in fostering fundamentalist terrorism, Bill Humphries has set up a web page that assigns would-be UJ militants a suitable name. Accessing this page, I was assigned "Brother Cattle Prod of Reasoned Discussion", which I would object to, if I were a Unitarian Jihadist, which of course I am not. I appealed to the Name Assignment Committee anyhow, and got "Brother Pepper Spray of Desirable Mindfulness", which does not strike me as an improvement. I feel that shorter names involving less fussy weapons and greater alliteration might be more effective.

Anyhow, after a long list of blood-curdling threats

We will appear in public places and require people to shake hands with each other. (Sister Hand Grenade of Love suggested that we institute a terror regime of mandatory hugging, but her motion was not formally introduced because of lack of a quorum.) We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public. Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons.

the UJ communique ends this way:

People of the United States! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution.

I hope that Michael Chertoff can spare the time from announcing support for continuing rail hazmat placards to keep an eye on these dangerous extremists. One obvious step is to set technology against technology, countering Bill Humphries' web page assigning struggle names with a program to detect such names on weblogs and in web forums.

Posted by Mark Liberman at April 9, 2005 01:33 PM