Monday, February 16, 2015

On the Appeal of Terrorism

So, what goes on in the heads of Islamic terrorists? Barack Obama says their massive, continuing murder sprees have nothing to do with Islam. The Prime Minister of Denmark, which has experienced multiple Islamic terrorist attacks over the last week, agreed with Obama that they had nothing to do with Islam, but did admit they were terrorist attacks. Ms. Thorning-Schmidt sought to calm tensions after the attacks, saying, “This is not a war between Islam and the West….We feel certain now that it was a politically motivated attack, and thereby it was a terrorist attack,” she said. If the violent suppression of freedom of speech is a “politically motivated attack, and if she is certain of that, why deny it has nothing to do with Islam?

Speaking to reporters in Copenhagen on Sunday, according to Danish television station TV2, Ms. Thorning-Schmidt said: “This is not a war between Islam and the West. We will do our best to defend our democracy and Denmark.”

In the name of what politics were the attacks on a meeting about freedom of speech in Copenhagen and on a newspaper in Paris launched? No answer. Blank out.

The International Business Times on February 2nd carried a lengthy reiteration of Obama’s standard denial that Islam:

U.S. President Barack Obama refused to consider it a “religious war” to fight against terrorism. He continued to avoid the phrase “Islamic extremism” as he said that the majority of Muslims “reject” such an ideology.

Obama said that he would not give a religious colour to the war against terrorism. He warned against the danger of “overinflating” the threat of terrorist organisations. He added that the United States should align itself with the majority of Muslims who disapproved of terror groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State. He said that the most of the Muslims reject the radical views of those organisations….

Obama said that “99.9 percent of Muslims” believed in what everyone believed in: “order, peace, prosperity.” He added that the “hearts and minds” of young people in the Middle East and South Asia should be won back as the particular regions had become the “ground zero.”

Obama insisted on a “surgical, precise response” to a very specific problem. He said that terrorist organizations would be defeated as they did not have a vision which ordinary people found appealing.

And if countless “ordinary people” find that vision appealing? Do we tell them, “It’s bad for you. You might be shot and it’s not nice”? Do we eliminate the “visionaries” with “precise” drone strikes or by the elimination of states that sponsor terrorism, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran? Turn every square inch of territory that ISIS has conquered into parking lots of melted glass? Create vast acres of the bodies of napalmed ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq and Libya? (Call it the Jordanian pilot treatment.) Send all those “ordinary people” to de-programming camps so they can get their minds right? How many millions of Muslims are we talking about here? Americans are getting tired of our panicky, hand-wringing political leaders and the MSM crying, every time Islam strikes, “Oh! What to do?? What to do??”

Islam is an ideology and it’s an ideology Obama is friendly to, given his power grabs in this country, and one which has Europeans shaking in their boots. The Europeans don’t dare name Islam as the root motive for terrorism lest they push the hot buttons of their new immigrant Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, Germans, French, Spanish, Italians, Austrians, Swiss, Belgians, and Dutchmen who are likely to go berserk in their quest for “order, peace, and prosperity.” The only prominent European brave and prescient enough to name the enemy is Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is regularly persecuted by his own government

But, what makes a terrorist tick?

Tablet Magazine ran an article by Paul Berman on January 28th, “Why Is the Islamist Death Cult So Appealing?” He opens with:

Why do people who are not clinically crazy throw themselves into campaigns of murder and suicide? The sociological answer to this question assumes a pettiness in human nature, such that even the slightest of humiliations and misfortunes may be regarded as sufficiently devastating, under certain conditions, as to sweep aside the gravest of moral considerations.
I rather think that such people are criminally, not clinically crazy, their “craziness” being no ameliorating defense or excuse for why they commit murder, rape, deliberate destruction, and continue to attack Jews and other “infidels.” At the risk of sounding like a xenophobe (or an “Islamophobe,” if you like), I would say these people’s “mental” problems would be of no concern to the West if they’d remained in their own pestholes of origin where they could murder, rape, honor kill, and slaughter members of competing Islamic “flocks” to their hearts’ desire. Instead, Western governments have invited them in to civilized societies by the boat- and plane-full and don’t mind if they bring their “cultures” with them in the name of their pitiless god, diversity.

However, Berman writes:

I prefer to invoke the history of ideas. People throw themselves into campaigns of murder and suicide because they have come under the influence of malign doctrinal systems, which appear to address the most profound and pressing of human problems—and do so by openly rebelling against the gravest of moral considerations. Doctrines of this sort render their adepts mad, not in a clinical sense but in an everyday sense. And the power to drive people mad comes precisely from the profundity, or the seeming profundity—which is what everyone else fails to see.

Yes, it has something to do with ideas, in this case, the totalitarian nature of Islam.

Berman concludes:

Why, then, do people who are not clinically insane throw themselves into this kind of insanity? Why do they do so even in the world’s wealthiest and most peaceful of countries? They do so because the apocalyptic dreams and the cult of hatred and murder and the yearning for death are fundamentals of modern culture. They enlist because they are unhappy, and the eschatological rebellion against everyday morality satisfies them. The Islamist idea, in its most extreme version especially, offers every solace that a mopey young person could desire.

Tablet carried another article, by Nancy Hartevelt Korbin on February 11th, “Sadomasochism and the Jihadi Death Cult.” Korbin writes:

Paul Berman’s recent essay in Tablet magazine “Why Is the Islamist Death Cult So Appealing?” is a wonderful piece on the history of Islamist ideas, but Berman does not really answer the question that he poses in his first line: “Why do people who are not clinically crazy throw themselves into campaigns of murder and suicide?” Berman’s conclusion is that “apocalyptic dreams, the cult of hatred and murder and yearning for death” born of unhappiness is what motivates Islamist terrorists, and further that “eschatological rebellion against everyday morality satisfies them.”

Korbin comes closer than Berman to an answer to the question of why so many people are drawn to the jihadist life.
But is that why they do it? Is that what motivates men in hoods to publicly decapitate an individual with a knife, or pose smiling with the severed head of a woman, or put bullets into the heads of hundreds of captives and toss them into the river, or most recently throw a prisoner into a cage and light him on fire? Berman addresses the ideological part of the problem, but buried deeper is the psychological pull of sadomasochism—the thrill of violence, power, and control that comes from inflicting pain on others. This is the unspoken driver of the appeal of the Islamic State and similar groups.

In a word: Nihilism. For what is a sadomasochist but a nihilist who experiences a sense of existential efficacy by inflicting pain on his victims, either the drawn-out pain of a man in a cage set on fire, or the fleeting pain of individuals crushed and incinerated in a jet plane as it strikes a skyscraper, or the pain of a man feeling his head being sawn off?

In the final analysis, jihadists do what they do because it is what they choose to do. Their militant professions of love for Allah and acting out a variety of by-the-book Koranic diktats of Mohammad disguise a profound hatred of existence, especially a hatred for those who appear to be living happy, successful lives. The Islamic “faith” is nihilistic. It appeals to those who are unhappy with being alive and unhappy that others are happy to be alive. Islam does not offer them a reason to live, it does not offer them an automatic set of goals and rewards to reach by living by a certain ethos.

On the surface, that is sadomasochism. But, existentially, that is nihilism, whose end is to destroy the good for being the good.

Islam’s chief appeal to Islamic terrorists is that it offers them a chance to escape life, to escape existence. They rationalize their brutality by saying or thinking that what they choose to do in the name of Allah is to destroy those who deny Allah, and in the most hideous ways possible. As the terrorists hate their own existence, they wish to make their victims regret their own existence. The ethereal reward of a paradise with seventy-two virgins, if any Muslim really believes in such a thing, to an Islamic terrorist ready to “martyr” himself is the mental mirage of eternal, effortless, causeless, purposeless, selfless existence.

One cannot dismiss the element of volition when examining the motives and actions of Islamic terrorists. They choose to kill for the sake of killing. And that choice reflects a life-long affinity with nihilism, from early childhood up thru adulthood.

Yes, Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt, there is a war between the West and Islam, and to grasp the reality of it, one must first grasp the anti-life core of Islam. If you think that life is the motive and fuel of Islamic terrorists, you are badly and perilously mistaken.


Joe said...

Spot on Ed... Must be why the islamapologists can't admit these attacks aren't random. They recognize at some level the connection to their own root philosophy.

Edward Cline said...

Joe: It's so elemental to me, the motivations of the jihadis -- to achieve non-existence -- that I'm surprised that career analysts like Berman and Korbin and others don't reach the same conclusions. Perhaps it's the horror of nihilism that stops them from taking their thinking a bit farther.