When I heard that the Charlie Hebdo attackers had taken refuge - and hostages - in a kosher supermarket I rolled my eyes. If you set the climax of your Islamic Terrorism In The West movie in a Jewish store you would seem really heavy-handed. How on the nose are these guys? Then I remembered that they machine gunned people to death for fucking cartoons so nuance and subtlety isn't likely their strongest suit.
Which reminded me of Four Lions, Chris Morris' darkly comic jab at the state of modern jihad. When the movie played at Sundance a few years ago everybody agreed it was hilarious, and scathing and most of, true - these guys are largely fucking knuckleheads. Knuckleheads who happen to be fiercely devoted to their evil dogma and too stupid to truly grasp the consequences. But nobody wanted to buy the movie - were they afraid of offending the jihadists themselves, or were they afraid of offending the security fascists, who would see the takedown of the jihadis as an expose of their own overreaction? Either way, nobody wanted it.
So it was Four Lions that kind of birthed Drafthouse FIlms. Tim League decided he loved the movie, and that it should be seen. He had been kicking around the idea of releasing movies, and now there was a great opportunity. He bought the domestic rights and went on the road with Chris Morris to promote the film. Oh, I came along as well.
British readers won't have to be told that Chris Morris is a genius. I'm not sure how to get across the level of his genius to American readers, except to say that he's not just a comedic mastermind, he's also kind of next level intellectually in all ways - Morris just devours books, and he retains information in a way that feels passe in our Google indexed present. He's so fucking observant, and he has a mind that simply never stops turning. He's like Sherlock Holmes if Sherlock Holmes was an acerbic satirist instead of a detective.
On that tour I had the pleasure of getting to know Chris a little bit and getting to hear the stories of the serious research he had done. On the course of our trip we had dinner with a CIA agent and got a private tour of the NYPD's top secret (I seriously was not allowed to divulge its location) terrrorism operations base, all contacts Morris made while writing Four Lions. And again and again when talking to these intelligence experts the same things kept popping up, all leading to one conclusion:
Most of these jihadis are simply morons.
That isn't to say that the leadership is stupid (although they're petty as hell - look at current squabbles between Al Qaeda and Islamic State) but rather that the rank and file guys who carry out attacks tend to be dumber than your average bear. Morris loved telling the story of the jihadi who loaded up a rubber boat with explosives, planning to ram it into an American warship. He overloaded the boat and it sank at the dock.
Now that the Charlie Hebdo attackers have been annihilated - how I wish there was some kind of an afterlife just to see their reaction when they found out that, whatever it is, they were wrong about it - we need to remember that these weren't strategic masterminds or supervillains carrying out a careful chess match with the West. These were schmucks, tricked by a vile dogma spouted by men who are venal cocksuckers looking to gain worldly power. That these guys made it 24 hours is a miracle; that they ended their lives recreating the climax of Hot Fuzz but with lox and bagels on the shelves is kind of fitting.
So don't be afraid of these assholes (and there are more of these assholes out there, by the way). Watch Four Lions today and laugh at them.