David M. Brown's Blog

July 24, 2016

Frustrated, nihilistic losers are attracted to ideas that appeal to frustrated, nihilistic losers

Filed under: Ethics,Islam,News,Philosophy,Psychology,Religion,Society and culture,Terrorism — davidmbrowndotcom @ 4:08 pm

Why do some people think that if a Muslim terrorist has been psychologically screwed up in ways not directly related to a jihadist ideology of religious-political murdering of innocents in the name of Islam, then an evident Islamist motive becomes marginal or irrelevant to explaining his mass-murdering? So that, if so, we may no longer acknowledge Islamist rationalization of mass murder as a salient motive no matter how many times the guy screams “Allahu Akbar” as he takes people out?

New York Magazine‘s Claire Landsbaum last month:

“Since the shooting, police have been attempting to piece together what motivated Mateen to carry out the attack. He reportedly declared his allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call just before the shooting, and police say he referred to the Tsarnaev brothers, who were responsible for the Boston bombings, as his ‘homeboys.’ But officials stressed that Mateen’s links to terrorist groups remained unconfirmed, despite the fact that he’d been investigated three times by the FBI for such connections.

“It’s still impossible to say what motivated Mateen, but it now appears the answer is much more complicated than Islamic extremism.”

So, there are complexities in life.

But no idea, good or bad, if it is grasped and acted upon in the world, functions in a vacuum outside of anybody’s psychology. It’s specific individuals who accept, implement, practice, spread ideas.

In his book The True Believer, Eric Hoffer observed that frustrated and despairing individuals who seek a way to submerge and forget their lousy lives and selves are open to mass movements that demand submergence of and sacrifice of life and judgment in the name of those movements.

Hoffer: “All mass movements generate in their adherents a readiness to die and a proclivity for united action; all of them, irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance; all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in certain departments of life; all of them demand blind faith and singlehearted allegiance….

“Starting from the fact that the frustrated predominate among the early adherents of all mass movements and that the usually join of their own accord, it is assumed: 1) that frustration of itself, without any proselytizing prompting from the outside, can generate most of the peculiar characteristics of the true believer; 2) that an effective technique of conversion consists basically in the inculcation and fixation of proclivities and responses indigenous to the frustrated mind.”

In one case after another of a Disturbed Young Man slaughtering people in the name of Islam, we have a screwed-up self + obliterative jihadist ideas demanding sacrifice of selves, ideas which appeal specifically to frustrated souls eager to throw away their own moral responsibility and lives, and, incidentally, the lives of others. How does one indispensable part of this combination become irrelevant if and as we acquire information about the other indispensable part?

If we learn that a zealous convert to Nazism was frustrated and screwed up well before he ever became devoted to Nazism and der Fuehrer, does this mean that the collectivist Nazi ideology, Nazi movement, Nazi institutions, and Nazi mechanisms of force and murder to which the convert has pledged his allegiance—all the animating Nazi notions and apparatus which, in the mind of the true-believing Nazi, justify all manner of viciousness—no longer need be morally, intellectually and physically combatted?

The proto-killer’s bottomless personal frustration, zero willingness to struggle to make better moral choices in his life, and absolute willingness to throw himself and others on the pyre for the sake of ideas that both demand such sacrifices and promise that making those sacrifices will relieve the frustration…these are not mutually exclusive motives that cannot be enlisted together in consistent explanation of why somebody would shoot into a crowd or drive a truck into a crowd while screaming that he’s doing it all for Islam and Allah.

No, we don’t know everything about such individuals. But we know as much as we do know. One thing we know is that nihilistic losers and the ideas designed to appeal to nihilistic losers are perfectly compatible.

 

Read The Flying Saucers Are Very Very Real

Read Omelet: A Tragedy of Bill Shake-a-speare

Read The Case of the Cockamamie Killer

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