There's a book floating around social media called How to Survive in the West: A Mujahid Guide. The 70 page PDF details how a budding Western extremist can survive and thrive in hostile territory. It lays out advice on how to search the internet privately, how to shoot, and how to fight.
"This book is a guide for the Muslims who are living in a majority non Muslim land," the book explained. "It will teach you how to be a secret Agent who lives a double life, something Muslims will have to do to survive in the coming years."
Various news outlets such as Breitbart reported that Islamic State had released the guide. That's terrifying, if true. The idea that Islamic State is training moles to move through the West and tear it down from the inside should frighten everyone. But a close reading of How to Survive in the West should calm those fears.
Islamic State media tends to be slickly produced and carefully managed HD nightmares. Talented propagandists craft its films and Dabiq — its official magazine — looks as if it came from a New York publishing house.
How to Survive in the West's author comes off as bored teenage terrorist fanboy who cobbled together his understanding of violent jihad from social media and movies. The Anarchist's Cookbook … this is not.
"The author of this book has been studying the global Jihad for 10+ years," the author claims. "So he has knowledge of the different types of Jihad groups in the world and how they achieved their losses and successes."
Notice the author does not claim to actually be an Islamic State fighter. He's probably not. The book is full of spelling, punctuation, and factual errors. Worse, the author's advice ranges from impractical to ridiculous, even downright wrong.
(AP Photo/ Hadi Mizban)
"Maybe you can ask a child cousin, or a friend to buy them for you," he wrote. "But do not buy anything like this from Online because if you are suspected, your credit and buying history will be searched and they will ask you why you bought toy guns."
So get a child to buy Nerf guns, and then use the toys to train for guerrilla warfare. Got it. What about hand to hand combat?
"The best fighting style to learn is Krav Maga," the author wrote. "This Israeli fighting style is really good because it not only teaches how to defend and counter attack quickly, but also teaches you how to disarm an enemy who might have a knife or gun."
But … doesn't Islamic State hate Israel? Besides, how is a potential jihadist supposed to learn such an intense and disciplined martial art? "A simple search on Youtube teaches you tutorials on how to fight using this style," the book stated.
The more you read the book, the more it's clear the author has little to no conception of how to fight, shoot, or sow terror. To conceal one's identity, the author suggests wearing disguises, and includes a photo of a man with a goofy fake mustache.
"Learning how to climb walls, and get off walls is also important," the book explained. Where do you learn these techniques? "Search: Wikihow.com on the perfect ways to jump."
The author wants potential jihadists to rely heavily on the internet for their training. But won't that leave a trail? Don't worry, the author has a solution for this, too. Here is where the handbook's inaccuracies really shine.
Under the section about internet privacy, the author explains that all browsing should go through The Onion Router network, a.k.a. Tor — a complicated method of staying anonymous on the Internet made famous by the illicit drug site Silk Road.
Great. So how does the author propose to get on Tor? It's simple. "Go on Tor.com and simply download the Tor browser."
Yeah. A, it's not as simple as downloading a browser and B, that URL is the website of science fiction and fantasy publisher TOR and not the home of the elusive Tor network.
"You can take that kind of material with a pinch of salt," Hassan Hassan, an analyst at the Delma Institute and co-author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, told War Is Boring.
"The problem with this, is low quality," he continued. "But also … it's out there." If this were a real manual, Islamic State would keep it internally and do its best to prevent its distribution across the wider web. It would be a playbook that reveals all the group's secrets.
"The fact that it's out there is an indication that it's made by an individual," Hassan explained.
"Sometimes [these individuals] try to mimic the theatrics of ISIS," he said.
How to Survive in the West is certainly an attempt to mimic those theatrics — one that fails hilariously. That would explain the Nerf guns, half-assed bomb diagrams, Krav Maga, silly disguises, and lack of any substantial information about Tor. Any aspiring extremist who follows the book's information will succeed only in making themselves look ridiculous.
"If you share this book with others," the manual concluded. "Rename it to something else safe (i.e. How to make cake, or something others will download like — An Islamic Book on Manners) … This will ensure it can never be deleted and can continue to be shared amongst Muslims. Always be one step ahead of the enemy through secrecy."
Then, a page later under a heading titled "Resources," the author presses readers to go to Tumblr and make their own blog. "They do not ban Jihadi blogs yet," he explained.
From drones to AKs, high technology to low politics, War is Boring explores how and why we fight above, on, and below an angry world. Sign up for its daily email update here or subscribe to its RSS Feed here.