I may be an expert in ISIS propaganda, but let me just tell you a bit of personal history, because I literally grew up in it.

But I wasn’t born in Iraq. I was born in Wichita, Kansas - and I grew up at the height, and heart, of terrorism in the name of Jesus: the abortion wars.
Throughout the 90s, in the Kansas heartland of “real America,” a militant religiously motivated terrorist group called the Army of God focused on Wichita as the battleground over women’s reproductive rights.

They attacked doctors, patients, and clinics with acid, bombs, guns.
This Christian terrorist campaign in Kansas took it digital before Al Qaeda or ISIS.

Army of God groups launched websites with “kill lists” - including patient, doctor, clinic volunteer photos, addresses, names, numbers, license plates, etc.

One was called “Nuremberg Files.”
My teenage feminist friends’ rite of solidarity passage: strapping on bulletproof vests as volunteer clinic escorts, trying to be buffers for women already terrorized and traumatized — in intimately painful and difficult situations.

Those sites even targeted us: teen girls.
You know the name Dr. George Tiller? The one Bill O’Reilly repeatedly called “Tiller, Tiller, Baby Killer?”

George Tiller was an abortion provider in Wichita, Kansas.

Know something else? He was a Republican - and a devout Christian.

They finally assassinated him in 2009.
Tiller’s reproductive rights clinic was firebombed for the first time - in the name of Jesus - when I was a little kid, back in 1989.

George Tiller kept going.

In 1993, Shelley Shannon shot Dr. Tiller twice - in the name of Jesus.

George Tiller kept going.
Typos - Shelley Shannon short Dr. Tiller five times, and the first firebombing of his clinic was in 1986 — I was really, really little.

In any case, Army of God tried to kill Dr. Tiller many times - in Jesus’ name.

And Dr. George Tiller - Republican, Christian - kept going.
Shelley Shannon went to prison (11 years) for “attempted murder” of Dr. Tiller - with added time for racketeering, firebombings, and acid attacks: all in the explicit name of Jesus.

No terrorism charges.
Well, guess what?

Shelley Shannon is a free woman today — and Dr. George Tiller, may he Rest in Power, is now dead.

Religious terrorists finally managed to assassinate Dr. George Tiller - in the name of Jesus - in 2009.

They shot him in his place of worship - Reformation Lutheran Church, while he served his congregation as an usher.

His wife was, meanwhile, was singing in the church choir.
An Army of God gunman enters a church, and shoots dead a doctor in the middle of a religious service - all in the name of God.

In the name of Jesus Christ.

In the heartland of “real America.”

In Wichita, Kansas.

In my hometown.
Shelley Shannon - who shot Dr. Tiller several times, many years before they finally assassinated him in church - received not a single terrorism charge. Today she’s a free woman.

The devout Christian, Republican doctor devoted to women’s rights over our bodies, is still dead.
I’m an expert on ISIS propaganda. I know political violence. I know terrorism. And it sure as hell isn’t specific to Islam or the Middle East.

I know because I grew up in it.

Wichita, Kansas: USA heartland and ground zero in the Army of God’s terrorism campaign “for Jesus.”
So before you pop off in my mentions with ignorant, bigoted shit about Islam, violence, the Middle East, and terrorism - best know who you’re dealing with.

In memory of Dr. George Tiller.

Rest in Power.
As a kid, I saw family friends in Kansas shot by the Army of God in the name of Jesus Christ.

As an adult, I saw friends in Syria beheaded by ISIS in the name of God.

Political violence isn’t religiously exclusive: best believe I know about what the fuck I speak — intimately.
Dr. George Tiller kept going through decades of terrorism campaigns aimed at him, his clinic, his volunteers, his patients — shootings, fire bombings, acid attacks “for Jesus.”

Their terrorism campaign succeeded - not just in finally killing him. Fear shut down other clinics.
Years later, miles away, raped and pregnant, I needed my own abortion.

No one makes that decision lightly. It’s far from the easy way out.

But during the procedure, some of my tears? They were of gratitude that men like Dr. Tiller defied terrorism to fight for women like me.
In sum, I’m not the person you want to try and lecture about “the reality of religious terrorism.”

I already know — and likelier than not, far more intimately than you.
Finally, I’ve been on Twitter long enough to know the types of replies heading my way. I’m hopping off so I can momentarily avoid the viciousness and bile sure to come.

Just remember - this thread is grounded in both professional expertise and life-long, intimate experience.
I didn’t expect people to read or care about this thread — and I’m touched. I’ll try to reply to you all later.

But I also have more to say about this heartland USA Christian terrorism campaign, because we now live in the aftermath — when “the terrorists won.”

First: coffee.
And please do note — while I sincerely appreciate the kind words of support, I’m by no means heroic or any stronger or bravery than anyone else. I promise you that.

This terrorism thread draws on my professional and personal experiences, sure, but the story isn’t about me.
Post-coffee I can be coherent, and then I’ll tell you: 1) how terrorism campaigns succeed; 2) how amnesia operates about “our” terrorism at home; 3) how to spot parallels between “their” / “our” political terrorisms — religious label or not, they operate the same.

Alright, y'all - you ready for the second half of the story? It's ok; I'm not sure I am either. But it still has to be told.

So buckle up. Let's get started.
Geography & chronology, height of this Christian terrorism campaign: Wichita, Kansas, 1980s - 2009.

I was 4 when Dr. Tiller's clinic was first firebombed.

I graduated from high school in 1999.

A decade later, in 2009, the terrorists finally killed him - in church.
(Personal flashback here for a moment, forgive me, but it's necessary - and you'll see why)

An older woman in my family, driving past a protest outside a clinic, with her best friend - who cheered and said "baby killers go to hell." My relative said nothing - that's important.
I was in that car. And I was disturbed as hell for many reasons, one of them being... that older, Christian relative of mine?

She had had her own abortion - before Roe v. Wade - yes, illegal and dangerous. It almost killed her. It was, and remains, her biggest dirty secret.
This older female relative was a devout Christian, raised among devout Christians - she identifies as "pro-life / "anti-abortion."

When she got pregnant, her "pro-life" community didn't give her a choice. They forced her to have an illegal abortion, again: pre Roe v. Wade.
This devout, anti-abortion, pro-life Christian woman wanted to have that baby. But she wasn't given that "choice" -- to be "pro-life." Nope. She was forced to have a back-alley, illegal abortion, and it damn near killed her.

Years later, she's still ashamed (of the abortion).
After the car ride, I said "how could you keep silent? How could you let your best friend cheer 'baby killer' after everything?"

She cried, and she said - "She'd think I'm not a real Christian, and she'd stop loving me."

That's how the shaming, the hypocrisy, and the weaponization of "religious rhetoric" in political debates cuts to the heart of family -- and the silencing of women, later translates into immense psychological issues.

Anyway, that's another story for another day. Moving on.
Flash forward, decades.

2009: Army of God terrorists finally succeed in the brazen political assassination of Dr. George Tiller, at his church, in the middle of a worship service, while his wife sang in the choir.

They did it "in Jesus' name."

So what happens next?
Army of God's decades-long firebombing, shooting, acid attack terrorism campaign against doctors, clinic workers, volunteers, and patients reaped dividends well before Tiller was finally gunned down.

Here's how that Christian terrorism campaign succeeded over the years:
Doctors get scared. Clinics get scared. Landlords get scared: they raise the rents, or they won't rent to women's reproductive care clinics. Why?

Real estate knows how expensive arson campaigns are, and how detrimental protests are to successful businesses next-door.

It works.
Clinics keep closing. People keep dying. The Army of God keeps mobilizing. Their "moderate" Christian supporters show up in "support" outside those clinics -- screaming at women coming in "BABY KILLER BURN IN HELL GOD HATES YOU." Catholic schools sent kids there on class trips.
Dr. George Tiller refused to stop.

Throughout this entire period -- for decades -- as clinic after clinic, doctor after doctor, is terrorized into closing, into stopping -- Dr. George Tiller fights on.

For women.
Eventually, Dr. George Tiller will operate one of the only women's health clinics in the entire state that offers (not just abortion) reproductive care.

One of the only clinics in the entire state, and eventually, the entire midwest.

Because the terrorism was working.
So, 2009: Terrorists acting in the name of Jesus Christ finally gun down Dr. Tiller as he worships at the Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas, USA.

He'd fought on through fire-bombings, acid attacks, having been shot repeatedly.

This Christian doctor did not cave to terrorism.
Not everyone is as brave as Dr. George Tiller.

Not everyone can know the cost to your life that political-religious violence actually has - and nonetheless, keep fighting.

2009, after his death: who's left to fight? Who's left to help women in need?
I might also remind you here - "moderate" Christian supporters came out in droves to support Army of God's ideology, even as "they" were "pro-life." "They" wouldn't support "killing a doctor," but maybe "just scaring him."

Terrorism isn't dependent on physical violence alone.
Meanwhile, media giant Bill O'Reilly throws gasoline on the fire, chants night after night "Tiller, Tiller, Baby Killer" on his nationally broadcast television show.

Much like, you know, a "radical Islamic cleric."

And the "good, moderate, pro-life Christians" are listening.
Between Bill O'Reilly, the "moderate pro-life Christians," and Army of God, this campaign of violent and rhetorical terrorism and intimidation works, culminating in Dr. Tiller's assassination at church in 2009.

And then -- his clinic finally closes its doors.
It took decades, a variety of strategies and tactics -- ranging from political violence to verbal intimidation, to harassment of landlords and business owners unrelated to reproductive rights."

It was Christian terrorism.

The terrorists won, and we live in the aftermath.
Post-2009 and the closure of Tiller's clinic, Wichita, Kansas (and many other places throughout the midwest -- and indeed, the rest of the United States) had virtually no reproductive care clinics offering abortion procedures.

And yet -- abortion remains LEGAL.
The first wave of this anti-abortion / allegedly "pro-life" campaign was called "Culture Wars" -- not "Christian terrorism."

Because you see, we're not terrorists. No, sir. We're God-fearing people unlike those subhuman demons who don't value life -- somewhere "over there."
Once the terrorists' violence succeeded in shuttering clinics -- we saw the first wave of the campaign's payoff.

Now, we move to the next, "normalized" / "acceptable" / "civilized" phase.

Abortion is still legal, but damn hard to get -- don't you dare forget why that is.
Violence laid the foundation for a war on women's bodies -- in the name of Jesus Christ -- that is now fought through legislative loopholes.

Terrorism set up the "civilized" next step: so-called "targeted regulations" that constitute the current phase: guttmacher.org/evidence-you-c…
Mike Pence is VP & Brett Kavanaugh is on SCOTUS.

Most of the US abortion debate is framed as "culture war," or "religious freedom."

But we forgot how we got here, and where it all started: terrorism campaigns in Jesus' name, actively aided and abetted by "moderate" Christians.
Here's the real victory of this all-American, Christian terrorism campaign: it's recent history. My entire childhood unfolded against its backdrop.

But now? We have cultural amnesia - as if we're "exceptionally civilized" in the realm of electoral process and public debate.
A few days ago, I did a mini-thread about the strategic playbook shared by Al-Zarqawi (Al Qaeda in Iraq) and Steve Bannon's white supremacists. It's relevant to this thread (maybe I'll dig & link later)

I have some more to add, but I need a quick coffee re-up and breather. BRB.
Okay, so now settle in for Part III - the connection.

I’m going to tell you how I wound up working on ISIS propaganda (the last thing I ever wanted to do), and how it completely changed the way I viewed the terroristic violence of my entire childhood (which I had “normalized”).
I left Kansas (for good) and went to Morocco at the age of 20. Most of my adult life has been spent bouncing around the Middle East and Muslim world(s), where I fell in love with all types of new (to me) forms of art and cultural life.
I wind up deciding to get a PhD, eventually hoping to teach about art & culture in North Africa, Middle East & Muslim world(s).

I wanted to teach American students (among other things) to decenter the singular lens of "violence" through which we're trained to view the region.
Confession: I always looked at most "Middle East terrorism" experts with thinly-veiled scorn - most of them had little connection to the region, slim to none linguistic proficiency, and zero awareness of the stereotyped tropes socialized into them.
(Yeah, yeah, I know this is one long ass thread, but believe me - this is the final part. And it is all very, very connected -- deeply, inextricably, and intimately intertwined. So thank you for your patience, if you're still reading.)
Anyway, I digress. Skipping over years of my life, and years of my research on a variety of topics in media, representation, art, and culture related to the Middle East, North Africa and Islam... something unanticipated (and unpleasant) happens that alters the course of my work.
Journalist friends go to Syria, to cover the escalation of events there from uprising in 2011 to the slide into civil war by mid-2012. They invite me.

I decline. I don't work on conflict (then). I don't work on Syria. It feels gross, voyeuristic.

It feels like war porn.
Those friends of mine disappear in Syria, kidnapped. Eventually, I see them again but not how I want to.

They resurface in ISIS videos, beheaded, made into explicit propaganda in the name of inciting a Christian West vs. Muslim World eternal conflict.
Ethically, what do I do? I'd dedicated my entire career to decentering the "violence lens" through which Americans view the Muslim world.

But ISIS' videos beheading my friends? They were brilliantly calculated to bait, provoke: EXPLICITLY by playing to OUR stereotypes of "them."
As an activist and academic committed to the ethics of decoding the weaponization of "representation" related to the Muslim world, I realize: I never wanted to engage in "the terrorism discourse."

But if I don't? My work means nothing. I've never stood for ANYTHING. So...
I start responding to calls from media, from the United Nations, the State Department, etc. asking me to use my regional, religious, and visual studies expertise to help them "make sense" of this so-called "ISIS propaganda" phenomenon.

Again, last thing I EVER wanted to do.
In the process, I become an "ISIS expert," particularly in regards to their complex and (disturbing, but true) brilliant strategic propaganda methods.

In it, as you know, media is absolutely critical, but what you (most) don't realize is how you fall for it: hook, line, sinker.
(Again, apologies for the length. I am very near the end. Almost done - with the thread, and likely, for the whole damn day.)
Working on ISIS - and their broader strategies for exploiting cultural and political divisions, in the Middle East and abroad - began to reveal deeply disturbing parallels with the rhetoric and strategies of hard-right wing "culture warriors" at home in the USA.
Cloaking violent campaigns (that have non-violent, rhetorical components equally critical) in the language of religion is a global phenomenon.

What's more, it relies on an opposite "other" to mirror it: these now "global culture terror wars" are, in fact, symbiotic extremisms.
Manichean narratives of "us vs. them," "good vs. evil," "black vs. white" are immensely persuasive in their ability to mobilize, both violent actors and tacit supporters.

Why? They're simple. Easy. Clear.

They're also bullshit -- and needed by both sides of the spectrum.
Those easy, clear, dualistic narratives of "us vs. them" (et. al) often deliberately weaponize religious rhetoric, but...

I'll tell you something else: the discursive veneer of religiosity, sincere or not?

It's very politically expedient. It works.

Don't ever forget that.
So, after years wanting NOTHING to do with "Muslim world terrorism expertise," it took watching friends get decapitated by ISIS -- and hysterical audience reaction unfold precisely as ISIS planned -- before I felt FORCED (and/or ethically compelled) into this line of research.
Similarly, as I watched the growing polarization of a (fictional) divide between "Islam" and "the West" embraced by media and politicians (fear sells a variety of agendas, folks - don't forget), I started to make sense my own past, to make deeply disturbing connections.
Every day, I am more horrified by parallel global trends that weaponize religious rhetoric for politically expedient campaigns aimed at terrorizing and polarizing the unaware -- towards an end of power consolidation. Everywhere.

Names are different. The phenomenon isn't.
It took that trajectory -- forced into unwanted "expertise" on ISIS terrorism in the Middle East -- for me (and good GOD, as a professional, I KNOW better) to finally arrive at some unsettling things about my city, state, country, and culture of birth.
Even if I "thought" I consciously knew better, it has taken my whole life to truly, viscerally deconstruct the assumptions that were socialized into me: "real terrorism" is "theirs." Ours is just "culture war," albeit horrific.

Again, I thought I knew better -- the whole time.
You see, why don't we see things (exactly) like ISIS here in the US from the hard-right "religious," bombing and acid attacking their way into political change?

They no longer need to (already did); that phase passed, and willful amnesia helps us forget. We shouldn't -- ever.
And that's how terrorism has bookended my life thus far.

ISIS helped me make sense of my entire childhood - growing up in the heartland of a terrorism campaign in Jesus' name, in the good ole "real America" of Wichita, Kansas, USA.
If you think this is "about religion," you've missed the point. Professionally and personally, I know "religious" terrorism and political violence -- painfully, intimately.

So before you hop into my @s on some bigoted ignorant shit, know this: I'm not the one to troll.
Hey there! Great timing as I draw this long thread to a close. The response in your logic here? Yeah, it's the same as ISIS. Identical.

You don't get to decide who "believes," or who lives or dies.

You're not God. So kindly fuck right off.
And that concludes my long rant in three parts on: political/religious terrorism, world-wide, how I was forced to work on it in the first place, and how my entire life story helps me contextualize what we're living through today.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your day. #PeaceOut
Listen, I know the thread is long, with complex and difficult issues for us all — no matter where you stand ideologically, politically, or religiously.

But if this is your takeaway, step back; please reread. I’m putting political “religious” violence in historical context.
In a minute, I’m going to post links to this thread that are posted individually, in its interlinked 3 parts.

I’ll also post a link to the entire thread I’m smoother, more readable format, once @threadreaderapp does me a solid.

Please “unroll.” Thanks, bot.
For the enraged religious right contingent “owning the libs” by noting “pseudo-commie” in my bio, have a cheat sheet on reading comprehension / nuance / jokes.

Finally, I really hate to disappoint your super cool projections, but — I’m not an atheist (not even close). ❤️
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Ms. Entropy / سيدة الفتنة
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!