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Difference between insanity, terrorism, and politics

Reader comment on item: The Snipers: Crazy or Jihadis?

Submitted by Wendy (Australia), Nov 27, 2002 at 12:17

I confess from the that I am not American (I'm Australian), and nor am I generally big on watching the news, and thus have only followed the sniper case in its broadest outlines.

Although the points in this article are reasonably interesting, the author seems to have forgotten that the acts carried out by the snipers were, by almost anyone's definition, insane.

They were not "foot soldiers in the jihad", and nor were they terrorists.Even if they *believed* themselves to be thus, their beliefs would not make it the case.

Picture the case of a man who *believes* that if he and his followers commit mass suicide they will reap some kind of reward (sorry can't remember exactly what that one was all about) . And he is convincing enough that people believe him, and do in fact kill themselves.

Does this mean that they died because he was the messiah? No, the best you can say is that they died because he was crazy and he *believed* himself to be the messiah, and unfortunately their own mental ...and/or life story allowed them to be vulnerable to this occasionally contagious form of insanity.

Even small, strange, inneffective, yet violent, terrorist cells with goals that hardly anybody really understands are not quite like this. They have each other to bolster up the bizzarre, perhaps immoral or brutal, but generally not completely unreal, notions to which they subscribe. They also generally have agendas of *some* kind, even if they are vague, or if they seem 'insane' to others.

Although I agree that the concept of "jihad", or at least that of the "lesser jihad", is a toxic and potentially dangerous one, I think it is silly to say that it was the *cause* of the attacks. People who are distraught and psychopathic enough to do such a thing may believe themselves to have all sorts of reasons for their actions, and the form these reasons take will derive in some way from their cultural and individual life stories. But this does not make the reasons they believe the *real* reasons. Perhaps we can never quite know the "real" reasons, but I think we can say that they are to do with the individual's psychology and life story, rather than their religious or political affiliations. The religious or political affiliations may influence the *form* of tha attacks, which can be problematic, ie they may for instance attack only 'christians', or only women, or some such, but they are not the 'reason' for them. I'll say it one more time. The 'reason' is the individual's insanity.

It is even possibly that this attack would not have happened if not for, say, the September 11 bombings. But this does not mean that they were both 'caused' by the same thing.

I do not believe that such events as the recent sniper attacks in anyway could be said to 'raise the risk' of attacks from militant Islam. Yes, there are clearly risks of attacks from such quarters, as world events of the last several decades, not to mention the last year and recent weeks, have shown. But I'm pretty sure that even the most militant of terrorists would want to distance themselves from people who leave tarot cards and messages proclaiming themsleves to be god lying around at the scene of the crime.

And now I'll raise my main concern with this article. From my (very limited - I read three articles tonight) reading of the authors work, it seems that he is in general well informed and astute, and in other places he has advocated, for instance, changes to American policy in the Middle East (1986, "Fundamentalist Muslims between America and Russia"). In these articles, although I don't necessarily agree with all of the ideas, I can see that they are well thought out, good ideas. In other words, he had an informed agenda, and he advocated solutions.

But in the article under discussion today, he does not give any solutions, and it's not at all clear to me what his agenda may be.

What could be done to stop such crazy sniper attacks, except to increase security and vigilance (already underway), and possibly things such as counselling, community awareness programs, and so on. Just as we try to do in our schools to reduce shootings there. These things are already being done, presumably. ... And let's face it we're all confused, albeit at different levels, so why add to the mish mash like this?

Of course, another way to reduce such possibilities, if you believed that the reason they did itwas their Islamic background, would be to begin to mistrust all muslims, but I fail to see how this can help.

Well, that's my two cents worth for tonight :) ...
Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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