Especially since 9/11, people have been trying to figure out the minds of terrorists. What makes them tick? Why do they do what they do?
Well, I have no exhaustive answer for that, but in reading Robert E. McGlone's excellent new book, John Brown's War Against Slavery, I ran across a fascinating passage that helped me understand how complicated answers to those questions can be.
Brown, as you may know, fought valiantly and at times violently against slavery and the people who supported America's slave system. Indeed, in 1856 in Pottawatomie, Kan., he lead a group of abolitionists, including several of his sons, who murdered five pro-slavery people. Most famous, of course, was his attempt to seize Harpers Ferry and start an anti-slavery revolution.
At any rate, here is some of what McGlone writes:
"This brings us back to the question of how a deeply religious man like Brown could silence his conscience sufficiently to order murder. How could he believe himself chivalrous or just while taking men from their homes and families in the dead of night and butchering them? . . .
"Questions like these have intrigued scholars of twentieth-century terrorism, among them social psychologist Alburt Bandura. . .(who) identifies six psychosocial 'mechanisms of moral disengagement' that terrorists use to silence their own 'self-sanctions' and placate the scruples of their supporters against committing destructive acts.
"First, terrorists rationalize violence by putting it in the service of religious creeds, righteous ideologies, or national imperatives.
"Second, they try to compare their acts advantageously to allegedly most heinous acts or plots sponsored by an oppressive enemy. . . .
"Third, they may deflect or mitigate their sense of responsibility for the violence they commit by seeing themselves as instruments of impersonal forces over which they have no control.
"Fourth, they may blame their actions on the provocations of a third party, as when terrorists strike at Americans on grounds that the American government is complicit in the victimization of the terrorists' people. . . .
"Fifth, through selective inattention to consequences, terrorists may disregard or distort the effects of their deeds.
"Finally, they dehumanize their victims by objectifying them into 'savages' or 'satantic fiends,' or assigning them to other categories that render them incapable of suffering or responsive only to brute force."
It would be fascinating to see whether these six categories pretty adequately described the 9/11 terrorists and their decision to hide behind Islam for their violent ideology.
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DOES FLORIDA HAVE A GODBRELLA?
Florida's governor says he's asked God to protect his state from hurricanes, and so far it seems to be working. Could be. But it also reminds me of the guy in downtown Indianapolis who beat on a drum at noon each day to keep away the elephants. And guess what. No elephants.
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NOTE: Until Monday, Aug. 24, my Internet access may be sporadic or even non-existent for hours at a time or even longer. So it may take longer than usual to get your comments posted. Thanks for your patience. Bill