For years, conservatives have rightly pointed out that Islamist terrorists don’t spring from an ideological or cultural vacuum. It usually takes a village, real, virtual or proverbial, to make an Islamist terrorist — one composed of hate-spewing imams, TV programs saturated with anti-Semitic and anti-Western conspiracy theories, neighborhood vigilantes enforcing fundamentalist religious strictures, and political leaders excusing, reflecting or disseminating many of the same beliefs and attitudes.
The villagers are rarely terrorists themselves. They often condemn terrorism. Sometimes they are its victims. Yet they also provide the soil in which the seeds of terror germinate.
What are the villages from which Sayoc and Bowers hailed? For Sayoc it was the real-world villages of the Trump rally, with its mob-like intensity and unquestioning fidelity to one supreme leader. For Bowers, it was the virtual villages of Twitter and alt-right social networks, digitally connecting angry loners who follow nobody. They are different villages, with somewhat different values, and different views of the admissibility of violence. The approximate Islamist analogues would be the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda — the former generally committed to working within the political system, the latter to destroying it, yet both profoundly hostile to the values animating open societies.