It seems like it would be difficult to recruit and radicalize new jihadis while trying to get in a late-night game of Counter Strike, but the FBI is determined to make us believe it's happening all around us.
The FBI recently released its latest guidelines for spying on kids, "Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools," laying out the ways in which the internet and social media can lead to a life of radical jihad and pointing to online games as a particular example.
"We assess that online gaming is sometimes used to communicate, train or plan terrorist activities," the guidelines warn. "Many youths are very proficient in gaming techniques, online communications and user forums, leading to interactions with online gaming enthusiasts, who are assessing vulnerable youth for possible recruitment opportunities. These online contacts might be supporters of an extremist organization and actively recruiting for their cause."
Finding alienated and vulnerable young people and offering them an enticing support system is essential to recruiting disaffected kids from the Western world. But much of the fear around terrorists plotting major attacks through gaming networks has been debunked, like the rumors that jihadis planned the Paris attacks, in part, by using SONY's Playstation 4.
Still, the FBI says, think of the children!
The Kids Are All Righteous: The report-your-neighbor approach to combating foreign terrorism is reminiscent of McCarthy-style paranoia that encourages you to look at people in your own community and cast any behavior you deem aberrant as a sign of treason, terrorism or dissent. It's the kind of fear that leads people to see Muslims staging an anti-jihadi protest and immediately misunderstand it as a pro-ISIS demonstration.
Video games are a powerful example for the paranoid, given that young gamers have been stigmatized as antisocial outsiders for decades.
"High school students are ideal targets for recruitment by violent extremists seeking support for their radical ideologies, foreign fighter networks or conducting acts of targeted violence within our borders," the report says.
Some of the FBI's other counterterrorism materials, meant to help you know when to alert the feds that you've spotted a rogue in your midst, use vague criteria to encourage you to rat out people behaving in unfamiliar ways. They say to be on the lookout for people using "several different cell phones and private messaging apps" or using "code words or unusual language."
A few teenagers immediately come to mind: all of them.