26 January 2011

Stochastic Terrorism: Part 1, triggering the shooters.


Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass communications to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.  In short, remote-control murder by lone wolf.
  
This is what occurs when Bin Laden releases a video that stirs random extremists halfway around the globe to commit a bombing or shooting.
  
This is also the term for what Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity, and others do.  And this is what led directly and predictably to a number of cases of ideologically-motivated murder similar to the Tucson shootings.  As of this writing, there is no evidence to link Jared Loughner to a specific source of incitement; but some of the other cases can be clearly linked.

The stochastic terrorist is the person who is responsible for the incitement.  For example they go on radio or television and stir up hatred toward a particular person or group.

The random actor, or "lone wolf" as the term is used in law enforcement and intel, is the person who responds to the incitement by carrying out the violent or terrorist act against the target person or group.  For example they shoot someone or detonate a bomb.  While their action may have been statistically predictable (e.g. "given sufficient provocation, someone will probably do such-and-such"), the specific person and the specific act are not yet predictable.  

There may be intermediaries in the chain of cause and effect.  For example person A hires person B to go on television and incite hatred of group C; and then person D "pops up out of nowhere" and attacks one or more members of group C.  

At each step, plausible deniability increases through the diffusion of responsibility.  "Oh, it was just a lone nut, nobody could have predicted he would do that, and I'm not responsible for what people in my audience do."

The random actor gets captured and sentenced to life in prison, while the stochastic terrorist keeps his prime time slot and goes on to incite more lone wolves.  

The stochastic terrorist may be acting either negligently or deliberately, or may be in complete denial of their impact, just like a drunk driver who runs over a pedestrian without even realizing it.

Finally, there is no need for conspiracy here: merely the twisted acts of individuals who are promoting hatred and extremism, and who get access to national media in which to do it.  The rest follows naturally, just as an increase in violent storms follows from an increase in average global temperature.

The lone wolves:

The term "lone wolf" is used in law enforcement and intel to refer to an individual who is emotionally unstable, who lacks obvious ties to known criminal gangs or terrorist groups, and who pops up seemingly out of nowhere to commit a violent or terrorist act.

The three-letter agencies can keep an eye on organized groups, and do a damn good job at stopping violent actors associated with those groups.  At least three intended car bombings were stopped last year by the FBI intercepting the bombers and substituting fake explosives in time to save hundreds of lives and arrest the would-be bombers.

Lone wolves don't have obvious connections through which they can be discovered.  They don't communicate much if at all about their intentions.  They keep their plans to themselves.  And then, apparently at random, they pop up from obscurity and commit murder.  They are law enforcement's and intel's worst nightmare, and on the 8th of January one of them became America's nightmare.

Stirring the pot:

At any given time there are hundreds of thousands of Americans with combinations of personality characteristics (such as emotional instability, a paranoid ideology, and a propensity for violence) that put them at risk of going off the deep end and becoming lone wolves.  All it takes is the right push, the right nudge at the right time, to dislodge a few of them and send them on their way to fifteen minutes of fame surrounded by dead bodies.

There's nothing mysterious about this process.  It is not much different to other instances where a person is almost ready to make a decision, and the right combination of inputs makes them act.  For example you have an old car and it begins to break down more often: now you're thinking about replacing it, and you might be swayed by something in an automobile advertisement.  Anyone who is familiar with marketing and advertising knows how this works, and advertisers often target their messages to people who are "ready to buy" and just need a little persuading.  Political candidates often target their ads to the undecideds, hoping that a little nudge will win them some votes.  This is perfectly normal and hardly insidious.  

It becomes insidious when these practices are used in such a manner as to deliberately or negligently stir up lone wolf violence.

So let's take Beck, Hannity, and O'Reilly.  There is no question that their emotional rhetoric appeals to people who are emotionally unstable.  And, since their audiences are tracked and analyzed in detail, there is no question that they know it.

When they go on TV and shout and sputter, rant and rave, and weep and wail, they are not expecting to persuade liberals or even undecideds to change their votes.  They are "playing to their base," that they know includes people who are emotionally unstable.  In short they are "stirring the pot."  And if you turn up the temperature and keep stirring, you know that the pot will boil.  Bubbles will come up from the depths and pop.

Pop go the lone wolves:

Some lone wolves have no provable connection to the hate-talkers and pot-stirrers, other than memes in common.  One example of this type is James Wenneker von Brunn who shot and killed security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.  While von Brunn was a white supremacist, it appears his extremism was purely of his own making.  Another is Andrew Joseph Stack III, who flew a Piper Dakota into the Austin Texas field office of the Internal Revenue Service, killing IRS manager Vernon Hunter and himself, and injuring thirteen others.  Stack's suicide note included memes from across the ideological spectrum.  At this point it appears as if Jared Loughner is one of these: all-over-the-map crazy, with an incoherent ideology that is mostly rightwing but difficult to trace to specific sources.

On 27 July 2008, lone wolf shooter Jim David Adkisson walked into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and shot nine people, killing two and wounding seven.  Adkisson said he was motivated by hatred of "Democrats, liberals, n-----s, and faggots."  A police search of his home found books by Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly.

On 4 February 2009, he accepted a plea bargain: guilty on two counts of murder, in exchange for a life sentence w/o possibility of parole (LWOP).

On 4 April 2009, Richard Poplawski shot five Pittsburgh PA police officers, leaving three dead and two seriously wounded.  

According to people who knew him, he was a birther and white supremacist, was paranoid that Obama was going to take away his guns, and was consumed with anti-semitic conspiracy theories.  A police search of his computer found links to various groups and to a YouTube video of Glenn Beck talking about FEMA concentration camps.    

Poplawski's trial has been delayed until 25 April 2011, where it is possible he will face the death penalty for the murder of police officers.

On 31 May 2009, anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder shot and killed gynecologist Dr. George Tiller while Tiller was attending church services.  At first it appeared that he acted alone, but research by subject-matter experts uncovered evidence that he had at least one accomplice.  That issue is presently being investigated by a federal grand jury.

In the months leading up to the assassination, Bill O'Reilly had waged a "relentless campaign" against Tiller, a campaign of exactly the type that would be expected to stir up violence against the doctor.  The details can be found here:  http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/05/31/tiller/

In January 2010 Roeder was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.  At present his accomplices and enablers have not yet been indicted and charged.

On 18 July 2010, Byron Williams set out from his mother's home in Groveland CA, heading for San Francisco to shoot up the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, with the intention of "starting a revolution."

Williams, a convicted felon (two bank robberies), was stopped by the CHP (California Highway Patrol) for weaving in and out of traffic at high speed.  When stopped, he immediately opened fire on the CHP officers, wounding two.  They returned fire, wounding him in the leg, and then took him into custody.  At first they thought they were dealing with a garden-variety cop shooter.  Then they found the notebook in his car, with the details of his plans.  

Quoting the Wikipedia article on Williams:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byron_Williams_(shooter)

Quote:  "Williams has identified Glenn Beck as his primary motivation for the shootings."  According to Williams, Beck is "like a schoolteacher on TV... he's been breaking open some of the most hideous corruption."  Continuing: "Beck would never say anything about a conspiracy, would never advocate violence. He'll never do anything ... of this nature. But he'll give you every ounce of evidence that you could possibly need."  End quote.  

Prior to Williams' planned attack, Beck had mentioned the obscure Tides Foundation 29 times on his program.  He had drawn numerous charts on his infamous blackboard, showing how Tides is the funding source behind much of the "liberal conspiracy."  He had stoked and fueled, turned up the heat on the pot, and stirred it real good.  He devoted two of his broadcasts to Tides in the very week preceding the shooting.

Quoting the Washington Post article:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/30/AR2010073003254.html

Quote:  Beck has at times spoken against violence, but he more often forecasts it, warning that "it is only a matter of time before an actual crazy person really does something stupid." Most every broadcast has some violent imagery: "The clock is ticking. . . . The war is just beginning. . . . Shoot me in the head if you try to change our government. . . . You have to be prepared to take rocks to the head. . . . The other side is attacking. . . . There is a coup going on. . . . Grab a torch! . . . Drive a stake through the heart of the bloodsuckers. . . . They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered. . . . They are putting a gun to America's head. . . . Hold these people responsible."  Unquote.

Every ounce of evidence you could possibly need:

One dead doctor.

Two dead churchgoers.

Seven wounded churchgoers.

Three dead police officers.

Four wounded police officers.

How many more that I couldn't remember while writing this?

Meanwhile the jury is still out on whether Loughner's victims belong on the list of people who "got Becked."

As someone on wrote in a comment about this a few months ago, there was a saying among his buddies in the Air Force:  "Once is a tragedy, twice is a terrible coincidence, three times is enemy action."

If you were a media personality known for rants & raves on the air, and it came out that some random killer had possibly been influenced by you or one of your colleagues, what would you do?  Would you apologize?  Would you tone it down?

If it happened again, what would you do?  And if it happened yet again after that?  What would you do?

It takes more than just a special type of sociopath to fail to be moved by the murders of doctors, churchgoers, and police officers in the line of duty, and the could-have-been-murders of more.

I submit to you that it takes something between callous disregard and deliberate intent.

Pulling the trigger by remote control:

If you wanted certain people dead, but you wanted plausible deniability, you would have someone else do the deed for you at a distance, the greater the distance the better.

One way to do it would be to use your position on radio or TV to hurl emotional rhetoric that is calculated to appeal to people who are psychologically unstable.  Some of them will go out and vote, some will go forth and spread your rant-memes, some will get into bar-room brawls over one issue or another.

But a few, who have already demonstrated a lack of respect for the law, will do more than that.  Maybe they'll assault someone on the street who is black or gay or speaking Spanish in public or wearing traditional Islamic garb.  Maybe they'll make a bomb and put it in the mail or plant it at a women's clinic.

Maybe they'll go out and shoot someone.  Maybe they'll shoot someone who, in your heart of hearts, you want dead.  If you have a list of targets in mind, such as Operation Rescue's website with crosshairs on doctors, or Palin's crosshairs on elected officials, it won't matter who gets killed first and who gets killed later: any hit will do.

This is stochastic terrorism:  you heat up the waters and stir the pot, knowing full well that sooner or later a lone wolf will pop up and do the deed.  The fact that it will happen is as predictable as the fact that a heated pot of water will eventually boil.  But the exact time and place of each incident will remain as random as the appearance of the first bubbles in the boiling pot.

And so the unstable shooter, the sick kid or crazy grownup, will be taken into custody where they will rant a disconnected version of your own rants.  The fact that they are clearly nuts will enable shifting the public discussion away from your hateful rhetoric and toward the overt insanity of the shooter or bomber.

After that, you get to go on the air and tut-tut along with everyone else, and say "Oh So Sad," and all that crap.  But behind the scenes you drink a toast and cheer: one down, a bunch more to go.

Or perhaps you're just crazy enough to truly believe that you really don't have anything to do with it.  You collect your media star paycheck and tootle along to the next day in front of cameras and microphones, ready to do it again, as oblivious as the drunk driver who runs over a flock of schoolchildren and keeps driving, and then when the cops pull him over, says "Who, me??"

The guilty-knowledge test:

Someone needs to corral Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly, Savage, and the rest of them, in front of a microphone and camera that are not of their own choosing.

For example think of Sixty Minutes and their famed unannounced appearances at the offices and even homes of various wrongdoers over the years.  Or think of press conferences or other scheduled appearances, where someone pops up and asks the inconvenient question or two, and the question captures the headlines.

And someone needs to ask them:  In light of this latest in a series of ideologically-motivated murders, are you willing to tone down your rhetoric even a little?  

Listen very closely to their answers.  They will duck and weave, evade and deny, or at most give the standard reply of "lone nuts, oh so sad."  But they may also let slip a subtle hint of guilty knowledge.

The author of the aforementioned WaPo article says in passing, "It's not fair to blame Beck for violence committed by people who watch his show."

I say it damn well is fair to blame them when it happens again and again and predictably again.

Once is a tragedy, twice is a coincidence, three times is enemy action.

And now we know how it's done: stir the pot and wait for the inevitable, and then deny it and do it again.  That's stochastic terrorism as surely as when Bin Laden does it.  And Beck and his fellow hate-mongers are terrorists by remote control.

33 comments:

  1. Lets not forget the bombing of the Oklahoma Federal building on the anniversary of the Waco incident, itself blamed on the folks in office, who at that point had no more real control of the situation than they did of the Ruby Ridge incident that was also blamed on them, though it was even before Bill Clinton was nominated.

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  2. What if we were to say that Beck and fellow travelers sound like the lone wolves? What could they possibly say then? Nothing that would convince people otherwise.

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  3. Terrorism is a serious issue that must be resolved,.
    gaza war

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  4. Stochastic Terrorism is what the fatwa against Salmon Rushdie was (fortunately not successfully carried out.) ST is also how the Rwandan genocide was fueled by way of RTLM radio broadcasts.

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  5. Sorry I posted some of this story that was shared with me on a reddit discussion a few years ago. I have since taken the post down since one person had a cow and trying to make out that I was claiming to be the author of instead of just sharing the quotes on another blog site in relation to another story.I didn't know about this site at the time and didn't know about this page until a few minutes ago. I am sorry if I have hurt anyone's feelings it wasn't my intention to do so.

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  6. In a free nation and society, free speech must be tolerate and the accountability for those who physically act on it must always remain with the actors not the speakers unless they expressly call for the physical action. I find it interesting people on the Left as so fast to implicate media on the Right while over-looking the father in Ferguson who said "Burn it down!" inciting further looting and rioting and faced not only no charges, but was never included in the Left's faux terror watch list. It seems that freedom of speech to the Left really mean only speech they agree with.

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    1. The fact that this has a name and a historical precedent kind of detracts from your argument, guy.

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    2. The fact that this has a name and a historical precedent kind of detracts from your argument, guy.

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    3. thats the difference between cold calculated calls to violence and an emotionally charged moment. its why jurrkies are easy on husbands who agress on a man in the wifes bed when he walks in, but not if he agresses months later. crimes or speech of passion is not premeditated.

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  7. Someone just made what we used to call a "Look over there!" argument in high school debate tournaments. I do not overlook it, but the father in Ferguson made a rash, public comment in a moment of grief and rage. It was destructive. Stochastic terrorism is coldly calculated, and it's nothing new. You can find it in the propaganda disseminated by Bolsheviks and Weimar fascists. The video made by David Daleiden is dishonest propaganda - planned, scripted, staged and edited over many months (or years); and it's the singular reference directly quoted as the justification for his actions by a mass murderer who just shot a bunch of people, killing a young Iraq War veteran in the process. I object. And I'm not as far to the left as you assume.

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  8. That father in Ferguson doesn't have a syndicated program that he spews hate with on a regular basis and you know it. Stop trying to defend these stochastic terrorists that feed your rage.

    It needs to stop, now.

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  9. If it's not fair to blame propagandists for the violent acts of the people they've radicalized, then the Allies owe Julius Streicher a posthumous pardon.

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  10. I would strongly suggest research into "scopolamine" (AKA "Devils Breath") as the means of creating an instant "lone wolf". Many of these gunman/patsies claim no memory of their actions. The inability to form memories is a primary side effect of the drug.

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  11. The director of the CIA has stated that Omar Mateen had no known direct ties to the Islamic State, yet he explicitly claimed allegiance to ISIS on a call to 911 in the middle of his terrorist rampage at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL during the morning hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016. If there was ever a clear case of an emotionally unstable "lone wolf" being triggered remotely by propaganda, the Pulse nightclub massacre would be an example.

    Yet today the President of the United States along with his faithful lapdogs of the left-leaning blogs and forums are struggling to somehow attribute Mateen's toxic homophobia, misogyny, and racism to something, ANYTHING other than the core ideology of a radical fringe of extreme Islamists. Mateen connected the dots for us explicitly, and his own writings consistently show disdain for LGBT people, people of color, Jews, the debauchery of Western culture, etc.

    I'd like to see a little consistency in the attribution of cause and effect. Either Stochastic Terrorism is a real thing that is worthy of some kind of response against the stochastic terrorists, or it isn't.

    Make up your mind, people.

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    1. It's not binary--either or--and that's what makes Orlando particularly disturbing and difficult to have prevented. Mateen had mental conditions that made him unstable and no one, including the President, has suggested that radicalization was not part of the stew of emotions that caused him to act as he did.

      The problem with his claim of being a supporter of ISIL is that it was a grasp at the most current terrorist threat. Several years prior to that, he had claimed ties to groups inimical to ISIL, without seeming to realize the contradiction.

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  12. There are very real human rights issues involved in going after stochastic terrorists - how do you distinguish between people like Bill O'Reilly, Donald Trump etc from your every day Joe Blogger?

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  13. How do you prove intent? What is the cause and effect of silencing idiots with opinions from reasoned discourse.

    This is quite a pandoras box - not saying it's not worth doing but just curious to hear your thoughts.

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  14. Administrator, this post was made in 2011, long before the current spate of terrorist attacks. It is you who are politically partisan - however I absolutely agree about the Pulse massacre, and all the other "lone wolf" attacks claimed by ISIS (and their predecessors and sibling organisations). Many of the techniques of incitement, of stochastic terrorism and murder by mass media have been used to devastating effect in Palestine, for instance the tactic of running people over which then spilled over into France in 2014, and the very disturbing tendency of their preachers (and useful idiots!) to spew crap about the "global intifada". Well, now we've got one, and it all started in well-lit, clean, tidy TV studios with guys like Glenn Beck ranting and raving.

    And it's spreading.

    A couple of months ago a British MP was murdered by a psychopath obsessed with far-Right propaganda, following years of media ranting about the EU, "treason", and immigrants "taking over", -and shortly after a far-Right politician, Nigel Farage, made a similar veiled threat of violence on TV. After he won his little referendum he gloated that this happened "without a shot being fired". Who's next?

    Now you guys have got a Presidential candidate who has "sort-of" threatened the life of his opponent. Who's next?

    We've all got to cool it with the violent imagery, with talk of punching people and shooting people and uprisings and treason and all the rest of it. We are all just human beings trying to live our lives. Trust me - you don't want to live in the world these people are creating.

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    1. May I share your reply on this article?

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    2. What about the guy recently battered at random with a crowbar for wearing a Trump tee-shirt? Doubtless his assailant was riled up by the full spectrum North Korean-esque hysteria being peddled by Presstitutes terrified of being chucked off the establishment gravy train.

      In Stalin's Russia, the penalty for racial intolerance was Death;In a Hillary-run America, the politically unconnected will perpetually teeter one slip of the tongue or denunciation by pet victim-class-member from being tossed into the Abyss of Social Death. Sensible footwear grinding our faces forever - all in the name of Blessed Tolerance.

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    3. Unknown - Of course - help yourself!

      Death - Sorry, I don't have time to engage in a battle of whataboutery- I'm not even American so it wouldn't really work. However if you look at my one blogspot post you'll find I have as little time for the craziness of the far Left as I have for that of the far Right.

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  15. Is there really a Part 2, or was that part of the title sarcasm? If it was, just call me Sheldon.

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  16. Was trump inciting murder when he made his now infamous speech referring to "The second amendment people"?

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  17. Was trump inciting murder when he made his now infamous speech referring to "The second amendment people"?

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    1. I don't read your average Joe Blogger. I don't know watch O'Reilly. How do I avoid watching Trump? I am inundated with his message of hate every day. Trump is a stochastic terrorist.

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  18. "With the exception of many criminals, bullies, and other people who have already behaved violently or abusively, the majority of psychologically normal people are "sleepers"-that is, they are dispositionally inclined, when the situation is right, to aggression and destructiveness. Their patterns of thought and behavior are to be understood stood dispositionally, that is, in the conditional sense that, if an adequately provoking situation arises, then the behavior that results will tend to be malignant: they have a pathogenic willingness to inflict harm, which remains latent until an appropriate situation arises. Such a situation may, for example, come in the form of war, ideological conflict, unrestricted power over others (as in an inadequately supervised prison), narcissistic injury, or in many other ways. Such "adequately provoking situations" unfortunately, as we know, arise with great frequency and prevalence"

    Steven James Bartlett. Normality Does Not Equal Mental Health: The Need to Look Elsewhere for Standards of Good Psychological Health (Kindle Locations 302-306). Kindle Edition.

    A book worth reading for anyone interested in reality

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  19. Thanks for sharing something like this article. I like this a whole lot,thanks for sharing.
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  20. These are some Dangers aspects On this Earth for The Human Beings because Terror is such an explosive thing to solve out.Their is no root of terror. In other words, Terror is Dangerous for all of Us.
    We should re-solve this problem as quick as We can.

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  21. Your article is not without merit, as it describes an interesting phenonmenon very well. However, your exclusive use of right-wing actors responding to right-wing propaganda reduces your objectivity greatly. This phenomenon is not limited to actors on the right, but on the left and elsewhere. Examples abound, but here is a hypothetical for you: Supposing next week someone woke up, drew up plans, and somehow managed to murder Beck, O'Reilly, or Hannity--because he had read this blog the night before? Would not that be just as perfect an illustration for your point than those you used? Jus' sayin'...

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  22. Hi - have you written any updates to this?

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  23. So sad, this terrorism MUST be stopped. It's only getting worse! I saw some recent posts similar to this one on terror, if you want to check out the posts I can share them here: Terrorism Essay

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  24. And it happened again, this time in Alexandria, VA.

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