Thursday, April 19, 2007

Ismail Ax

One of the side stories I’ve been following that emerged from the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech is the mysterious signature in a note and written on the killer’s arm, described in the news articles as “Ismail Ax”. Maybe I shouldn’t get caught up in such a minor detail when something this horrible has just happened, but I find it interesting that with the entire world speculating on the meaning and posting online about it, no one has come up with a good explanation yet.

It’s fascinating in a disturbing sort of way that even after what happened, even with the combined Googling and cogitation of millions of people, no one can figure out yet what this psycho’s thought process was when he put those two words together.

My guess at this point is, he’s a student - maybe it’s actually “Ismail A+”, but this will probably be proven wrong once I get a little more information.

Judging from his demented plays, in spite of all his angry-old-coot denouncing of “charlatans” and “debaucheries” this guy was not as bright as he probably thought he was, so I doubt it’s a complicated literary or Koranic allusion that he came up with himself, as some have posited. I would tend more to think it’s from some obscure rap song or video game. I guess we’ll see. Apparently there is some Koran story where Abraham smashes something with an axe, and some Fenimore Cooper story where a guy named Ishmael has an axe... But again, I doubt that this kid did a lot of direct scriptural reading in the Koran. I would think it’s a lot more likely there was some low-brow intermediate source, some song or Warcraft guild or Japanese cartoon or something that he was referencing.

Update (April 22)
It seems that the early news reports got the spelling wrong, and that it was “Ismael” or “Ishmael”. That’s a lot less interesting and much less random. It was probably inspired by whatever weird blend of Christian beliefs Korean people have, or by Moby-Dick. Ho hum. The thing that really made Ismail Ax so fascinating to me in the first place was the extremely random Arabic spelling. Oh well.

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