The New Terrorism

The New Terrorism August 5, 2019

We have long been subject to the threat of Islamic terrorism, in which radical Muslims murder innocent people unconnected to their grievances in an effort to strike down and terrorize the infidels.  Now we have become subject to another kind of terrorism, in which 20-something loners murder innocent people unconnected to their grievances.

Twelve hours after a young man shot up an El Paso Wal-Mart, killing 20 and wounding 26, another young man opened fire in a Dayton, Ohio, entertainment district, killing 9 and wounding 27.  Less than a week earlier, a gunman killed 3 and injured 12 at a Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California.

This year so far there have reportedly been 251 mass shootings–another count gives 292–defined as incidents in which four or more people were killed.  They have left 520 dead and more than 2,000 wounded.

Some of those are surely gang battles and drug deals gone wrong, but some are ideology-driven.  The El Paso shooter–who was captured alive, unlike the other two–railed against Mexican immigrants shortly before his killing spree, though only three of his victims were Mexicans.   The California murderer was a fan of the book Might Makes Right, or Survival of the Fittestwhich would make him a Nietzschean and a Social Darwinist.

So what can we call these attacks, other than terrorism?

The perpetrators are hitting “soft targets”–schools, churches, shopping centers, and other places where there are crowds but little formal security–which is the terrorist tactic advocated by al Qaida and ISIS.

What would a war on terrorism against these American terrorists look like?

The left, of course, is blaming the Second Amendment and Donald Trump.  Maybe toning down our polarizing political rhetoric would help, but Trump is not solely to blame for that.  Banning guns altogether violates our Bill of Rights, and determined killers can always find a weapon, illegal though it might be. The right calls for more concealed carry in the hopes than an armed bystander could shoot the killers and stop the rampage.  Actually, the Dayton shooter was killed by a police officer less than a minute after he started firing, but in those few seconds he already managed to kill 9 people and wound 27!

So the conventional responses from both sides seem unable to keep these crimes from happening.  Would anything?

Don’t these killings represent a breakdown in social order?  Today even many conservatives seem to be running away from the classic conservative cause of Law and Order.  Don’t we need to preserve that as a prerequisite for any other social projects?

What is it about the state of the young adults who seem to be committing most of these crimes?  Why are they so angry?  Why do they seem to lack human connections?  Do they basically live in the internet?  Why don’t they have normal human feelings of empathy and compassion?  How has their schooling, entertainment consumption, family situations, and “culture” messed them up so badly?  Is there any way to get through to people like this?  What kind of deterrence might stop them from living out their murderous fantasies?

Yes, we must preserve moral agency and civil liberties.  We can’t identify a person as a possible mass shooter, then punish him before he has done anything.  Yes, such violence is still rare in the vast scheme of things.  But this is getting ridiculous.

How might we address it?


Photo:  El Paso shooter Patrick Crusius, mugshot

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