Police Psychology | It Isn’t All About Islam
by Geoff Dean, Ph.D. (Australia) and Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. (U.S.A.)
What causes people to shoot up a gay nightclub? Or, shoot up a holiday party of co-workers or drive a truck into the middle of a crowd celebrating independence day killing a lot of children? Or shoot innocent people going to work or attending college classes. We want to believe it is the Islamic faith and gaining the love of virgins in the afterlife. Not quite that simple.
AS MOST THINGS IN LIFE, MASS MURDERS ARE A COMBINATION OF A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT FACTORS. Some of them are through the filter of mental illness. He was described as unhinged and unstable. His reality is going to be very different from a normal person because of his mental illness. Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, was a steroid user, abusive and secretly gay. Many mass killers have at least some mental health issue, were damaged when they were younger, or are desperate enough to sacrifice themselves to make an impact in a world they will never see. Their view of the world is skewed, affected by their mental state. Add to that some of the propaganda set forth by groups like ISIS. The murderer may be open to different interpretations of the world, even though it is not so bad for him. Extreme thinking is not too far for Omar to go as he swore vengeance on Americans because of airstrikes in Libya and Iraq. The guy who drove the truck into a crowd of civilians in Nice, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhel, was seriously depressed and lonely, and this stimulated him to have a different filter for his perceptions. What is important is that filter for the perceptions forms their interpretation of the world, and the extremeness that they think they face in their daily life. It determines the belief system they use to organize their world. It determines the perceptions of the world as a terrible place, and justifies terrible acts like mass murder. How are these perceptions formed?
Once a person has mental illness as a filter and becomes extreme in their thought process, the next step is determining the direction of the extreme fantasy. That is where radicalization comes into play.
Radicalization is the process of that extreme thinking getting focused on undermining the status quo or the norm of the way people live. It is the desire to take away people’s freedom of choice and the expression of ideas. When a person is radicalized, he looks to do anything to undermine society and will find a direction from wherever he can. So they look for an anti-establishment philosophy and too often find it in the radical Islamic movement. Add to that and the unsettled feeling that often accompanies a radicalized person, and mass murder is a logical action to change the world.
A great many of the men who have made a name for themselves by mass murder share one major characteristic – they have a deep hatred for women. Many mass murderers were reported for domestic violence, many should have been. Most have some connection to abusing women. Elliot Rodger, who gunned down seven in Isla Vista in California in 2014, wrote: “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it … you will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one, the true alpha male.” Adam Lanza, who killed 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, wrote that women were selfish. Robert Dear, who killed three and injured nine at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in November, had a history of violence against women and an arrest for rape. Dylann Roof, who massacred nine at a Charleston church, was raised by a father who abused his stepmother and claimed African-Americans “rape our women.” This runs throughout mass murderers and in fact may be why they are attracted to the ISIS.
Many traditional Muslim cultures tend to underplay the rights of women in favor of the men. Women are subservient and that appeals to many men who have a penchant for gendered violence. If you add sexual slavery into the mix and traditional roles with punishment for moving away from a rigid rule for women, and it is easy to see where an extreme thinking, radicalized, mentally unstable person might find ISIS an attractive philosophy for life.
Now finally, let’s add in “Disenfranchised and Disengaged.” People don’t give up their lives if they feel their lives are meaningful. If your life feels meaningless, people will do anything to give it meaning, even if it’s in the last few seconds of their life. We live in a narcissistic world where everything is me-first, everyone else second, especially in our youth culture. The whole concept of taking care of others is so foreign to many people that it becomes almost motivation for the anti-establishment thoughts. When you don’t fit in, and you don’t find other that like you, you want to get back at people for being left out. Mass murder is a way to punish those who don’t want you to fit in. And you become part of the news, the mainstream. It’s clearly a disturbed thought pattern, but we see it again and again. This is dangerous.
We are reminded of a Family Circle comic from our youth where the parents decided to stop the boys from playing war. They would take away all the military stuff and the toy guns and tell the kids playing war when Vietnam was going on is wrong. The boys were seen in the last frame of the comics with pots on their heads and pointing sticks at each other, finding a way to do what is natural to them. Controlling guns may have some effect, but our need is to control people who are disenfranchised, disengaged, have mental health problems, like gendered violence, and/or have extreme thoughts or are facing radicalization. We need to became less narcissistic and reach out to people who are struggling in this world. We need programs that identify and can supply some kind of relief to the children who are victims of domestic violence themselves. We need many people to make the community that doesn’t tolerate violence but works to stop it at the root causes. And then some people have to be watched – closely. You can’t get around that evasion of rights unfortunately. Simple solution – social programs, everybody on the same page, and watching people.
We have a major task to overcome radicalization, disenfranchising, abuse of women and extreme thought, and it is going to have to be everyone’s job, of all races, genders and religion to work on it together.
Site Editor: Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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