Jihad Joe book

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A place for off-topic thoughts: Comic books, movies, television and whatever

Friday, May 31, 2019

Godzilla 2014: A Godzilla Fan's Review

Anyone who follows me on Twitter -- i.e., 95 percent of everyone reading this -- knows I am a fan of Godzilla, all 28 Japanese movies and the Zone Fighter TV show too. So naturally, I have a few things to say about the latest American attempt to bring the King of the Monsters to life.

First things first, I basically liked it. It moved along briskly, the story was pretty good, and the effects were occasionally amazing. Nevertheless, this is a movie with problems. Some stem from my purist's attachment to Godzilla, some are Storytelling 101 issues, and some fall in between.

The first and most basic problem is the slow tease. The movie takes a while to show you monsters, it takes even longer to show you Godzilla, and it takes still longer to show you a full-on monster mayhem battle. My complaint here is similar to one I voiced regarding the first season of Hannibal (and by the way, I will soon write about the amazing season two): We all know who Hannibal Lecter is, and we damn sure all know what Godzilla is. This isn't The Usual Suspects. There is absolutely no reason to try to build suspense.

We came for the monsters and the smashing of cities. Yet Godzilla 2014 is incredibly parsimonious about delivering what is arguably its only attraction. Over and over again, it teases viewers with monster battles that take place primarily off-screen. We get to see Las Vegas destroyed, but we don't get to see Las Vegas being destroyed. We see a monster arrive, and then we see the smoldering ruins. When you go to a Chuck Norris movie, you aren't paying to see Chuck walk into a room and then smash cut to a bunch of thugs lying on the floor. You want to see everything between point A and point B.

This dynamic gets old fast, and the movie twists the knife more than once by showing characters watching the actual monster battles on TV. That's right, I just paid $16 for IMAX 3D so I could watch someone watching monsters destroy Las Vegas in a grainy picture on a flat screen.

There are compensations for this. We do get to see the monsters in full 3D glory, and repeatedly. And the final battle, much of which takes place on screen, has a lot to recommend it.

And yet...




Jihad Joe by J.M. Berger Jihad Joe is the first comprehensive history of the American jihadist movement, tracking the phenomenon from the 1970s to the present. The book has been praised in reviews by the New York Times, Publisher's Weekly, the Washington Times,, Library Journal and more. It is available in hardcover eveywhere books are sold, as well as Kindle, Nook and Google ebook editions.


ISIS: The State of Terror, by Jessica Stern and J.M. BergerJessica Stern and J.M. Berger co-author the new book, "ISIS: The State of Terror," from Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. The book, on sale now, examines the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, its potential fall, how it is transforming the nature of extremist movements, and how we should evaluate the threat it presents. Jessica Stern is a Harvard lecturer on terrorism and the author of the seminal text Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. J.M. Berger is author of the definitive book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy and a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World.

Read an excerpt in The Atlantic | Listen to an audiobook excerpt

Buy now | Buy Kindle version



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For NPR's On the Media, J.M. Berger dissected problems with the coverage of Inspire Magazine.

J.M. Berger discussed the Boston Marathon bombing with BBC television and radio, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Berger also wrote about the attack for Foreign Policy and spoke with reporters from The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, the Christian Science Monitor, Radio Australia, AFP and many others.

J.M. Berger discussed the State Department's counterterrorism initiatives on social media with the Associated Press.

The Associated Press spoke with J.M. Berger about the recent reward offered for the arrest of American jihadi Omar Hammami

Wired covered a story first broken on INTELWIRE about American Al Shabab member Omar Hammami denying he wrote the jihadist raps attributed to him. "The raps were pretty terrible," J.M. Berger told Wired. "If he's not responsible for even one, that's a black mark erased from his record."

J.M. Berger was quoted in a Buzzfeed story on the Christopher Dorner case.

Berger was quoted in several recent stories on terrorist use of the Internet, including the suspension of Al Shabab's Twitter account. Associated Press, LA Times, Al Jazeera, Washington Times, Toronto Star.

CNN's Starting Point (above) and Out Front with Erin Burnett invited J.M. Berger to reveal new details about Wisconsin white supremacist shooter Wade Page and his recent encounters with law enforcement sources investigating domestic terrorism.

Berger was quoted in stories on on Wade Page, the white supremacist who opened fire on a Sikh religious assembly in Oak Creek, Wisc., by the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and more.


New America Foundation panel, "Infiltration and Surveillance: Countering Homegrown Terrorism," with J.M. Berger and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman.


J.M. Berger was named one of Foreign Policy's Twitterati 100, "the 100 Twitter feeds you need to follow to make sense of" global turmoil and conflict.

In an exclusive report for Foreign Policy, J.M. Berger reveals the reason that Somalia's Al Shabab wants to kill American jihadist Omar Hammami.

J.M. Berger's investigative piece Patriot Games: How the FBI spent a decade hunting white supremacists and missed Timothy McVeigh was named a long-form journalism pick of the week from

INTELWIRE and J.M. Berger were quoted in a New York Times story on the latest Al Qaeda terror scare.


  • Homegrown violent extremism (HVE and CVE)
  • Terrorist and extremist use of the Internet
  • Lone wolf and loosely networked terrorism
  • American jihadists including Anwar Awlaki
  • History of jihadist terrorism in the U.S.
  • History of right-wing extremism in the U.S.
  • Al Qaeda infiltration and targeting of U.S. military
  • Early Al Qaeda history and structure
  • Terrorist tactics and financing
  • Jihadist activity during Bosnian civil war
  • Document research and FOIA


    New York Times: "a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective"

    Washington Times: "How these American jihadists became radicalized, recruited and trained... constitute the core of Mr. Berger's important book."

    Zenpundit: "Berger neither condemns nor excuses: he sees, he asks, he researches, he reports. ... a book to read... a book to admire." "well-researched and incredibly accessibly presented history of American involvement in violent jihad."

    Publisher's Weekly: "lifts the veil on the phenomenon of American jihadists..."

    Library Journal: "an easy read... the better choice for those seeking ... objective [journalism]."

    Buy "Jihad Joe" now!