Thursday, August 1, 2019

Ideology and Mental Illness

A recently leaked FBI memo identified "fringe conspiracy theories" as a potential source of terrorist threats and cited several examples, including
an unnamed California man who was arrested on Dec. 19, 2018, after being found with what appeared to be bomb-making materials in his car. The man allegedly was planning “blow up a satanic temple monument” in the Capitol rotunda in Springfield, Ill., to “make Americans aware of Pizzagate and the New World Order, who were dismantling society,” the document says. 
Which led an expert contacted by Yahoo to say this:
Historian David Garrow, the author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Martin Luther King Jr. who has worked extensively with FBI archives, raised doubts to Yahoo News about the memo. He says the FBI’s default assumption is that violence is motivated by ideological beliefs rather than mental illness. “The guy who shot up the pizza place in D.C.: Do we think of him as a right-wing activist, or insane?” Garrow asked.

Garrow was similarly critical of the FBI’s use of the term “black identity extremists” and related attempts to ascribe incidents like the 2016 shooting of six police officers in Baton Rouge, La., to black radicalism. He said the shooter, Gavin Long, had a history of mental health problems. “The bureau’s presumption — the mindset — is to see ideological motives where most of the rest of us see individual nuttiness,” he said.
As I have said before, I think the greatest danger of political violence in our society comes not from mental illness or extremist ideology alone, but from the intersection of the two. It is crazy people who will act first on insane theories, thereby becoming heroic martyrs who may inspire others.

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