Some food for thought as Representative Steve Scalise and others are recovering from today’s shooting in Washington D.C.:

Research has shown (PDF) that this is in part because support for violence does not equate with a willingness to engage in violent action. The two domains overlap, but are separate. Only a minuscule fraction of those holding extremist views will ever proceed to violent action. And for those who do, extremist views are only one component of their motives.  (emphasis added)

This article was published by RAND just a few days ago, but it makes a salient point about lone wolf terrorism and how individuals are radicalized.  In short, while violent actions may have their supporters, only a small handful of individuals actually have the will or mental makeup to commit violent acts in a mundane setting (i.e. not a war).

Jihadist content is not “pushed” to the interested and uninterested. It is “pulled” by the interested and further disseminated by the users themselves. These are not innocents whose minds and bodies are snatched when they click on a jihadist site. Often they are troubled individuals, seeking outlets for their discontent, reinforcement for their own aggressive tendencies.  (emphasis added)

We get tired of hearing “mental health” trotted out after every tragedy.  There is already a strong temptation now underway to go into the background of Scalise shooter James Hodgkinson and his support for Bernie Saunders.  Already, another victim of senseless violence — Rep. Gabby Giffords — is attempting to reach out with compassion devoid of politics and is being met with raw emotive.

Lone wolf terrorism comes in many forms.  Attacks on congressmen, attacks on Army bases by radicalized terrorists cloaking themselves in Islamist sentiment, attacks by racists in churches in Charleston, S.C., Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Orlando.

Yet there is a climate that we ourselves have created that is inculcating such activity. Hodgkinson didn’t come out of nowhere — he was “radicalized” to act.  Jared Lee Loughner struggled in his post-secondary education and was tipped over the edge when he was suspended from community college.  Dylan Roof immersed himself in South African and Rhodesian imagery.  Nidal Hasan’s communications with Anwar al-Awlaki — “the bin Laden of the Internet” — helped push Hasan over the edge.

There’s a common theme here to these lone wolf incidents, one that cannot be entirely explained by mental illness.  Somehow, these individuals have decided to transcend themselves through an expression of a suicidal and violent act.

…and they do that through their communities.  Remember the two camps: those who are willing to support violence in the public square, and that smaller number willing commit actual acts violence.

Of course, this isn’t new.  Turn of the 20th century, anarchists and violent action were the norm, not the exception.  With the rise of nationalism came the rise of terrorism, and violent acts against “the other” became acceptable in the context of grand national struggles.

This was the gift of modernism — tribes based on ethnicity — transcended today by a postmodern understand that replaces “truth is subjective” with “my truth is objective” competing against 7 billion other individual truths.

In a moral context, how many of these lone wolves though that their actions were immoral?  Probably none.  This is why bandying about the term “narcissism” is such a dangerous play — truth be told, our entire culture is infected with it.  Most postmoderns are inherently narcissistic, and will do anything to protect their own personalized objective truth against other personalized objective truths.  Every man his own heretic.

Back to politics for just a moment.  How many folks support Antifa?  How many folks laughed when the liberal protesters get punched at Trump rallies?  How many liberals enjoy “safe spaces” on college campuses?  How many conservatives just get a thrill watching these bubbles pop?

How many folks watched a play of Trump getting slaughtered in a production of “Julius Caesar” and shrugged?  Or watched “documentaries” such as the Assassination of George W. Bush and smirked.  Or absorb themselves in the likes of John Oliver and Ann Coulter, in Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity, and teach themselves how to hate someone whose cardinal sin is to see the world differently than we do?

Our inability to govern ourselves is a threat to free government.  Failing to do so, someone will govern society on your behalf — higher taxes, more defense spending, power given to public schools, tax breaks for corporations, bread and circuses, debt jubilees on student loans, gladiatorial combat, the next big war, chariot races, sports programs, Blues and Greens, mediocre talent praised on television shows, exceptional talent ignored in cafes and bookstores…

Physician, heal thyself?  To some degree, yes.  We are the little white blood cells of society.  When you see someone hurting, talk to them.  If they hold an opinion contrary to your own, talk to them.  If they are incurably ignorant, mark them — but leave the door open to constructive engagement.  Ask about your neighbors.  Quit gossiping.

Public virtue used to be a thing, replaced today by a celebration of vices and rogues.  Any small wonder that a few people — urged on by the mob — take it too far?


  • Tedde Biddle