January 21, 2006

Osama and Cognitive Dissonance

On January 19th, Osama bin Laden released an audio tape full of bluff, bluster, and outright lies. In his tape, OBL stated that Al Qaeda was ready to launch another attack or series of attacks on the United States, but, that we could escape our fate if we accepted a negotiated truce. In this so-called truce, OBL and company would rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq and we could leave the Gulf States and the Middle East to their kind and kindly ministrations. To seal the bargain, OBL stated that his faith prevented him from lying, subterfuge, and dishonesty; as if the hijackers on September 11 were open and aboveboard. ABC news reports, in part:

In the tape, bin Laden spoke in a soft voice, as he has in previous recordings, but his tone was flatter than in the past and had an echo, as if recorded indoors. He presented his message with a combination of threats, vows his followers can fight forever and a tone of reconciliation, insisting he wants to offer a way to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He even recommended a book for Americans to read - "The Rogue State," apparently a book of the same title by American author William Blum. He said it offers the path to peace - that America must apologize to victims of the wars and promise never to "interfere" in other nations - though it was not clear if these were conditions for the truce."

There is good reason for OBL to be so accommodating, and that is because he is losing his war against the United States, he knows it, but he has difficulty accepting it because all of his training, all of his experience (US Embassies, USS Cole, Mogadishu, Madrid, London, etc.) has told him that we cannot stand against him. Too, his radical and murderous form of Islam and his islamo-fascist advisors and sycophants tell him that there will be an ultimate victory by Allah via the likes of Al Qaeda. The differences between what he knows and what he can see has produced a significant cognitive dissonance.

In 1957, Leon Festinger published "A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance." This seminal work was based on observations Festinger and his associates made of a cult that expected the world to end by flood. Many in the cult became so enamored of the cult that they sold their homes, moved to the "headquarters" invested themselves heavily into the end-of-the-world dogma of the cult. Others were less enthusiastic, but believed none-the-less.

Festinger's observations, and subsequently his theory of Cognitive Dissonance arose when the predicted "end-of-the-world" did not happen when it was supposed to happen. The less "invested" one was in the cult, the greater the feeling that "I've been had." Indeed, and counter-intuitively perhaps, the greater the investment of time, money, self worth and deep belief, the more likely the person was to believe that they had not been taken in and in fact, because of their efforts, their faith, their hard work, the world had been saved.

Festinger also investigated what happens in the "lab." When students were taking part in an experiment, they had to sort spools and turn knobs a quarter turn. As you can imagine, this would quickly become tiring/boring. Festinger then upped the chances for forming dissonance. He told a few students that the lab assistant had fallen ill and would they talk a young lady into taking part in the experiment (individually of course, not as a group). Some were promised a dollar, others were promised twenty dollars to convince the young lady to take part in the experiment. The conversations probably went something similar to:

She: "I've heard that it is really boring."
He: "Oh no, it is quite interesting and even entertaining."
What Festinger found was that the individuals paid a dollar actually came to believe the "importance" of the task, while those paid twenty dollars acknowledged they were lying. In other words, the scant reward wasn't reason enough to lie, so the work (lying to the co-ed) must have been accurate. For those with a promise of higher pay, the lie was just a lie.

So, without all the psychological jargon that can be tossed in, cognitive dissonance occurs when there is discomfort felt at a discrepancy between what you already know or believe, and new information or interpretation. The new information or interpretation must be either accommodated or assimilated. In Piaget's terminology, assimilation occurs when new information is taken in that does not contradict that which is already "in our heads" if you will. In other words, if we believe X and Y comes along we "assimilate" if we take in Y but we are not required to alter X. Accommodation however is when we take in Y and X is thus altered, and altered almost beyond recognition.

For Osama his utter and unalterable belief in the rightness of his cause, the radical Muslim faith that tells him Allah will help him prevail, his Massadra upbringing that allows no other thoughts, no questions of Islam tell him that he will win. Against this, is the evidence of his eyes. He has lost 70% of his leadership, his friends have been tracked down and killed, disgusted and enraged Muslims in Jordan call for the blood of al-Zarqawi, A large body of Islam questioning the utility of mass murder of other Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere.

Shrinkwrapped has some excellent posts on cognitive dissonance.

To wrap up (no pun intended shrinkwrapped) OBL cannot balance his internal mindset, and his external world.

UPDATE: MEMRI states that the translation of the OBL tape was in error. According to MEMRI, OBL was stating that he would live up to a truce if WE offered it to him. I will leave it to others to decide if he is still in Cognitive Dissonance, or just plain psychotic. Or both! Hey Osama, no truce dude.

Posted by GM Roper at January 21, 2006 07:49 PM | TrackBack

Hudna alert! Islamic truces have a limitation of 10 years and are for regrouping purposes when there's a setback.

Posted by Always On Watch at January 22, 2006 09:11 AM

And nothing in the Hudna manual says they have to last that long.

Posted by LASunsett at January 22, 2006 09:26 AM

Wow. Sounds like psychological mumbo-jumbo to me. I'm not sure what to think about that analysis, but I DO know that Islamic law requires them to warn their victims ahead of time.

The “truce offer” is especially disconcerting; under Islamic law, Bin Laden is required to warn his victim and give them an opportunity to come to terms before the attack can be legitimately launched. It is likely that this is what Bin Laden is doing with the truce offer.

This way, the muslim believers can't say Bin Laden didn't follow Islamic law when the attack finally occurs.

What is particularly interesting in the translation of his speech are these points:

The delay in similar operations happening in America has not been because of failure to break through your security measures. The operations are under preparation and you will see them in your homes the minute they are through (with preparations), with Allah's permission.

So that's really creepy...'you will see them in your homes'.

The nights and days will not pass without us taking vengeance like on September 11, God permitting.


You have occupied our lands, offended our honor and dignity and let out our blood and stolen our money and destroyed our houses and played with our security and we will give you the same treatment.

Seems to me there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop them, they're on a mission to destroy us...

Failing to carry out jihad, which is called for in our religion, is a sin. The best death to us is under the shadows of swords. Don't let your strength and modern arms fool you. They win a few battles but lose the war. Patience and steadfastness are much better.

We should engage that long patience and steadfastness over generations and teach our children what their jihad is about so we can continue to fight them after our generation has past. This is not a short-lived fight, it's not going to go away, and to me--it's more a matter of what Mohammed and the Koran said about it than any psychological examination.

Mohammed was a crazy man, and so are his followers, on that we can probably agree.

Posted by Cao at January 22, 2006 01:44 PM

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