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The disaffected men

  1. The Ideology of Violence
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  4. The Ideological Dynamics of Mass Killing
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  2. How can we distinguish violence driven by ideology from sociopathic rage?.
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Last month, a court ordered him to be detained indefinitely in Broadmoor maximum security hospital. That, too, was first regarded as a terrorist incident, only later as the actions of a mentally disturbed man.

The Ideology of Violence

In both cases, many refused to believe that these were not terrorist incidents and social media spawned dark conspiracy theories of official cover-ups. Such theories may be irrational, but they reflect, too, the difficulty, often, in drawing a distinction between jihadi violence and the fury of disturbed minds.

The death last week of Martin McGuinness, the former IRA leader, has led to much discussion about the relationship between the young, violent firebrand and the older patient peacemaker. In the past, groups employing terror, whether the IRA or the PLO, were driven by specific political aims — a united Ireland or an independent Palestine. And, whatever one thinks of such groups, those activities were governed by certain norms and contained a rational kernel.


Many civilians were certainly killed through IRA violence, but, unlike jihadis, the starting point of the IRA was not the mere killing of random individuals. It is the arbitrariness of jihadist violence, and its disregard for any moral bounds, that can make it seem so terrifying. Whether Masood had any real links to Isis remains unclear. Deranged fury cloaked in ideological rage is not uniquely Islamist.

Jackson was white, Caughman black. Jackson is said to have come to New York from Baltimore armed with a knife and a sword and with the aim of killing as many black people as possible.

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The police are uncertain whether Jackson had any formal links to racist groups. But, as with many Islamist killings, this stabbing blurs the line between ideological violence and psychotic rage.

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This murderous act is not an isolated incident. In , Dylann Roof , a year-old American obsessed with white supremacist ideas, shot dead nine African-American worshippers in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Last July, Ali David Sonboly went on a rampage in a Munich shopping mall, shooting dead nine people, and injuring another He was of Iranian origin. All this exposes both how the character of ideological violence has degenerated and how rage has become a feature of public life.

The Ideological Dynamics of Mass Killing

The social and moral boundaries that act as firewalls against such behaviour have weakened. Western societies have become socially atomised. The influence of institutions that once helped socialise individuals and inculcate them with a sense of obligation to others, from the church to trade unions, has declined. So has that of progressive movements that gave social grievance a political form.

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The main obstacles to seeking mutual human benefits between individuals and between groups are ideological mistakes considered to be realistic, and the main basis for mutual benefits lies in the ideological realism that recognizes what improves all human relationships. More wars are fought over highly emotional ideological issues than over real conflicts of interest.


The religious wars in history have been ideological wars. More recently, the communism vs capitalism contest was over ideologies and pitted two nuclear powers against each other.

J. Christopher Cohrs

If war between them had released all their combined nuclear power against each other, neither ideology and neither nation would have survived, and the human race might have perished in a futile and senseless ideological war. The human race seems almost always to have been more or less violent at times.

That does not prove that it must always be so. Could it ever change or will it always be so?