Thursday, October 27, 2005

He gave new meaning to "going out with a bang"

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this article may be quite upsetting to some readers, especially if you knew Joel Hinrichs personally.

I've just stumbled upon the story of Joel Hinrichs. That story, rather than the 16yo who allegedly murdered the lady next door, was highlighted on the CBN [Christian Broadcasting Network, as in the allegedly-reverend Pat Robertson] News.

Joel Hinrichs was a 21yo junior at the University of Oklahoma (OU). A couple of weeks ago, he blew himself up outside a college foo-ball game. The uneasy question raised by the manner of his suicide is whether it was in some respect a terrorist attack gone awry. The CBN report, along with a fair number of blogs, have seized upon certain factoids to build the suspicion that it might have been part of something much larger.

  • Joel's roommate was a Moslem from Pakistan. (Say no more — he's guilty.)
  • They lived just one block from the very same mosque where known terrorist Zaccharias Moussaoui once attended services. (Ohmygod — I mean, praise Allah — I mean, umm, well — Hey, look! It's the Goodyear blimp!)
  • The people inside the mosque say that they never saw Joel until his photo was in the news, but a young woman hiding behind a Fresnel lens saw Joel in the parking lot of the mosque on several occasions. (Ooh! Wooga-booga!)
  • Joel tried to buy the same sort of fertilizer that Timothy McVeigh used outside the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, just a week before his death. When Joel went to the store to try to buy the fertilizer, he asked for the specific ingredient by its chemical name. (You've never heard of MiracleGro? How about "Do you have any of that stuff that wacko Timothy McVeigh used to make that big truck bomb to kill lots of people in 1995, like less than 20 miles from here?"? I hear Mrs. McCloskey grew her prize-winning tomatoes with that truck-bomb stuff.)
  • Joel had a dorky beard. (What do you want? An actual turban?)
  • Joel was just 100 yards [roughly 100 metres] away from 84,000 fans [46,649 Celsius fans] watching the OU–Kansas State football game when he blew up. (Clearly Joel was frustrated because he couldn't strike directly at Mom or apple pie. If you are asking "what about baseball?," you've never spent a summer anywhere near Norman, Oklahoma. Joel was striking directly at the heart of the American way of life: semi-professional intercollegiate football.)
  • Some news outlets have reported unsubstantiated rumors that detectives found jihadist literature in Joel's apartment. (All unsubstantiated rumors must be true, especially if the FBI denies them. Why would the FBI bother to deny something that was false?)
  • The FBI and OU have repeatedly insisted that the suicide had no connection to terrorism. (The obvious conclusion is that it was connected.)
Okay, just for the sake of argument, let's suppose, hypothetically speaking, that Joel Hinrichs had fallen in with a group of radical Islamists, and he either decided or was coerced to do a suicide terror attack. He was supposed to go charging into Sooner Stadium to kill as many of the assembled fans — or maybe even some of the players! — as he could get close to. In that case, either he tried but was not able to get into the stadium or he decided against taking innocent lives. Either way, the question remains whether he decided to end it all anyway, someone else decided to end it all for him (by remotely detonating the bomb, perhaps?), or he was trying to remove the explosives when he set them off by mistake.

Now let's take the other side of the hypothetical. Let's suppose that Joel was acting alone, and that he intended no physical harm to anyone but himself. Why would he blow himself up outside of a football game if he didn't want to blow up any of the other fans? Well, golly gosh, it certainly does seem to have gotten him noticed just a little bit. Every last girl on campus knows his name now. Also, he certainly asserted his ability to take charge of his own destiny. He might not have been able to control many things in his life, but he was able to control the time and manner of his own death. He thoroughly minimized the risk of accidentally surviving his suicide attempt, on top of which he probably felt no pain — there literally wasn't time for the pain signals to ever reach his brain. He went instantaneously from anticipation of death to the experience of whatever (if anything) comes after. The most direct way of being decisive is to leave yourself no way back. Perhaps he even meant some political or personal overtone to his suicide by its very parallels to a suicide terror attack. Maybe he was angry that Americans are in a lather over terrorism while underfunding domestic concerns. Maybe he just wanted to be the talk of the nation, one way or another.

Whatever else, he quite literally gave new meaning to "going out with a bang."