Today I’ve got one of the smartest and most interesting people I’ve ever met on the podcast in the form of Jesse Morton, a former jihadist who now counters violent extremism with his organisation Parallel Networks. Jesse has done some pretty terrible things – he was a Far-Left extremist who became the most prominent white American Jihadist and a recruiter for al-Qaeda. He was also responsible for threatening the South Park creators and forcing them at the last minute to censor their image of the Prophet.
Jesse Links: https://twitter.com/_jessemorton https://twitter.com/lighttuponlight http://pnetworks.org/ Andrew Gold Links: http://twitter.com/andrewgold_ok http://instagram.com/andrewgold_ok http://patreon.com/andrewgold http://andrewgold.me I was going to put this out earlier, but thought it was a perfect follow-up to last week’s episode with David Robson on the The Intelligence Trap, because Jesse is an example of how an incredibly clever person can make huge mistakes. Of course, we are all part the sum of our experiences, and Jesse was abused by his mother as a child. Jesse talks about how a history of childhood trauma and a victim mentality can be a dangerous thing. Jesse earlier spent time in prison and was in solitary confinement for a year, while reading up in the library on all sorts of fundamentalist material that strengthened his convictions. He has such a long and rich story, so at times, I just wanted to sit back and listen, occasionally steering the conversation this way or that. He’s an intense and cerebral man, and talks with absolute honesty about what he did and why he did it. Takes us into the life of a street preacher and a jihadi whose bomb designs were used by terrorists at the Boston Marathon. It may suit our ideology of good and bad to think of terrorists as either stupid or morally bankrupt, but Jesse talks about the far more nuanced and intricate traits and at play. Those who are highly intelligent but very unsuccessful, he says, try to tear down the world as it is, and rebuild it to suit their talents or purposes, a world where ‘everybody recognises my greatness’. His work focuses on getting inside the minds of the top extremists, and denouncing violence to them. To understand everything about Jesse, we’ll start with his early life and family, before moving onto his beliefs and his work.