Saturday, April 28, 2018

Jumping to conclusions in Toronto

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News April 30-May 1,2, 2018

On  April 23, a 25  year old Canadian drove his van on the sidewalk for blocks in Toronto, killing  ten and injuring many more .Immediately people around the western world jumped to conclusions that this was another act of Islamic terrorism and the perpetrator had to be “one of those”.   However, days after Toronto, Canadian officials have not yet found a motive or discovered an Islamist connection, but they have found evidence in social media that the van driver identified with cultist movements that hated women and had a troubled past.

There seems to be a  knee jerk reaction to acts of mass killings to blame Islamic terrorists in all instances until proved otherwise by law enforcement officials.  That is easily assumed when the techniques used by none jihadists are the same used by those inspired and directed by radical clerics abroad. Non Islamic mass killers have taken a page from handbook of Islamic terrorists and used the same  techniques to kill many, from bomb making to using vehicles.

Like the Toronto attack, we have  witnessed some horrendous acts inspired by radical terrorists from abroad:   plowing a rental van into crowds of innocents , whether on the banks of London’s Parliament and lower Manhattan, or in a Christmas market in Berlin and  a crowd celebrating a national holiday in France, among others.

It is little comfort to many that most acts of terror and mass killings  in the United States have been perpetrated by those with domestic connections and non Islamist related motives.
In the US, most mass shootings have been conducted with assault type weapons geared to kill many quickly , easy to use without much skill,  and cheaply accessible. Gun rights proponents point to lack of mental health treatment as the cause. Gun control advocates want to ban assault rifles. Islamicphobia has swept the political right wing, demanding Muslim immigration bans.  Better mental health services and banning assault weapons have merit and are not by themselves the solution, but would certainly reduce the carnage. Religion based immigration bans are unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court is now deciding whether the greatly modified Trump administration  immigration bans are still unconstitutional.

Even with all of these steps, terrorism and mass killings will not be completely wiped out because other forces are at work. One of the worst cases of US domestic terrorism was committed by the Oklahoma City bombers who  destroyed a federal building, killing 168 people. They seeking revenge against federal government’s handling of Waco and Ruby Ridge.
So what is causing this wave of terrorist like attacks by both wannabe Jihadists, by some on the far out political right, or by some that seem just to be unhinged? One element is demographics.  White young males and Islamic motivated terrorists have something in common. They are mostly males of about the same age.

Citing evidence of  the past ten years of terrorist and mass shooters in the US , Business Insider found that these mass killers had some characteristics in common: “Men between 20 and 30 years old are overwhelmingly more likely to commit mass shootings, attacks, and acts of terrorism than any other gender or age group in the US, the evidence suggests. Psychiatrists and social scientists believe the trend can be explained by a mix of factors, including a lack of neurological development, the need for belonging, and an evolving trend of past attacks that make future ones seem less horrific to perpetrators, and perhaps even noble. “

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