Monday, 13 June 2016

The war on the West and psychiatric illness


The Muslim American, son of Afghan immigrants, who murdered more than fifty people in a homosexual nightclub in Florida, has made the news around the world, because what happens in America is always deemed newsworthy. It would be somewhat less newsworthy had it happened in Canada and much less newsworthy had it happened in Mexico. Although I did once, I don't any longer object to Anglo-Saxon centred news values. It's a form of soft power.

What happened after the bloodshed is what always happens. Democrats blamed gun laws and most people blamed Islamic extremism. Some claimed it for gay rights. A few very right-wing people were pleased homosexuals had been killed. A left-wing friend of mine blamed it on gun laws, homophobia and Donald Trump, in that order. She is a former Oxford don and has helped form young minds.

I don't like to use murders to make political points. But these words of Mark Steyn's about the murders in Paris before Christmas came to mind and seem to me apposite.

"Among his other coy evasions, President Obama described tonight's events as "an attack not just on Paris, it's an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share".

But that's not true, is it? He's right that it's an attack not just on Paris or France. What it is is an attack on the west, on the civilization that built the modern world - an attack on one portion of "humanity" by those who claim to speak for another portion of "humanity". And these are not "universal values" but values that spring from a relatively narrow segment of humanity. They were kinda sorta "universal" when the great powers were willing to enforce them around the world and the colonial subjects of ramshackle backwaters such as Aden, Sudan and the North-West Frontier Province were at least obliged to pay lip service to them. But the European empires retreated from the world, and those "universal values" are utterly alien to large parts of the map today."

Causation is a very complicated thing and every event has many causes. I imagine the Florida killer was probably unbalanced. If not, he may have been a psychopath. Psychopathy is not a mental illness but the scientific term for evil.

Michael Adebowale, who brutally beheaded Drummer Lee Rigby on a London street, is appealing his sentence on the ground of mental illness, an appeal which if it succeeds will mean he spends his life in Broadmoor. Gyulchekhra Bobokulova beheaded a four-year-old girl in Moscow and displayed her head in the street shouting, "Allahu Akbar." They decided she was mad, as I am sure she is. On May 10th, a man stabbed four people at a train station near Munich while screaming, "Allahu Akbar.” He is in a psychiatric hospital. 

The young white man who opened fire on black Americans in church at Charleston last year was probably deranged, but this was not the message in the media. The story was about white racism. Confederate flags were taken down and videos of TV series that featured incidentally that flag were withdrawn from sale.

The truth is that politicians and journalists in the increasingly interlinked developed world do not know what to do about Muslim violence and want to pretend it is not a problem. 

As Dominic Johnson put it, "
Much of the liberal political class and commentators remind me of a man who refuses to accept his wife is leaving him."

"You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before" said Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and close friend of President Obama, before he reigned in disgrace. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump will try to follow his advice in respect of the Orlando massacre. My betting is that it is very useful for the latter in the key marginal state of Florida.


  1. Sorry, but Western empires did not colonize the world to spread 'universal values'. Like all other empires their primary purpose was to exploit. And the NWFP of Pakistan never even paid lip service to these 'universal values'. The tribes of the region saw Britain as a foreign invader and put up a fierce resistance to it.

  2. Since when is Florida marginal? It's the third largest state by population forth by GDP.

  3. Marginal means closely fought not of marginal importance - au contraire.

  4. Ah, Florida -- a state that's 40% nonwhite and that voted for Obama twice. Good luck with that, Mr. Trump.

    The American term is "swing state".

    Psychopathy is not "the medical term for evil".

    -- A bit of trivia: there's evidence that some respected professions contain a fair number of high-functioning psychopaths. Psychopathy is associated with reduced empathy, which is normally considered a bad thing -- but if you're an accountant, a collection lawyer, an undertaker, or a surgeon, reduced empathy may help you do a better job.

    Dylann Roof appears to be perfectly sane by any reasonable standard. His lawyers aren't even trying for an insanity defense -- the evidence is too strong against it.

    Some mass shooters are obviously raving mad -- the Sandy Hook guy was a diagnosed schizophrenic. Some are coldly sane, like Roof and Anders Breivik. And some, like the Orlando killer, seem to fall in the murky territory between one and the other -- "troubled", "angry", "bipolar" or such.

    Doug M.

    1. Bipolar disease or manic depression is a psychosis just as schizophrenia is- madness in laymen's language. Psychopaths are not insane - are saner than non-psychopaths.

      They have no defence at law. We have no idea yet about the Orlando killer - my point was that the powers that be often like to think of Muslim murderers as mentally ill for political reasons. White racist murderers for political reasons are used to point lessons about racism. You know this. You also must know that everyone considers Florida a marginal state or swing state. Swing states did vote for Mr Obama - that's why he won. The internet says Florida last year was 75% white.

    2. Do you think Republicans will stop winning elections when the white population falls as a percentage of the whole? is this why Democrats like yourself Paul Krugman, Michael Moore etc etc etc favour mass immigration?

  5. Florida gets blurred because it has a lot of Cubans who insist that they're white white /white/, because Cuba has its own racial issues. But according to the US census, Florida is currently 55.8% "white, non-Hispanic".

    -- Will Florida Cubans vote for Trump? Well, he spent several months publicly humiliating their national representative. Miami's Republican mayor has violently disowned Trump, as has Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. So, I'm thinking maybe not.

    (Electoral sidebar: Obama did an astonishingly effective job of seducing younger Cuban-Americans away from the GOP. This was a demographic that went 75%-80% Republican for decades. In 2012, Romney just barely carried them. Will Trump win them back? Show work.)

    Everyone considers Florida a swing state: sure, in a normal election.

    -- No, bipolar disease is not a "psychosis". Geez. That's like saying a stroke is a heart attack. Just wrong.

    "White racist murderers for political reasons are used to point lessons about racism." -- well, Dylan Roof and Anders Breivik were pretty flat-out racist, yes. Not actually sure what you're on about here.

    Doug M.

    1. Doug you are usually very well informed but today Homer is nodding. Most Cubans are white. I don't know who will win Florida - how could I? I just know it is definitely classed as a marginal state and that this killing may help Donald Trump there. If he fails in Florida I think it will be hard for him to win the White House. Most Cubans vote Republican and I don't know why they should care what he thinks of Mexicans.

      Breivik I read is a psychopath, therefore not mad, but far from normal.

      Bipolar disease is certainly a psychosis. Psychopaths are evil. On these we disagree. My remark about the Charleston killer requires no gloss but I give one anyway. The Charleston killer was racist, no doubt, but were the Orlando killer, Gyulchekhra Bobokulova and the Munich killer etc Muslim zealots? Whether they were or not the authorities decided that Gyulchekhra Bobokulova and the Munich killer were disturbed. Do you see a pattern?

    2. Who was the Cubans' national representative - Cruz or Rubio? Is that how far identity politics has gone that candidates for president represent ethnic groups?

  6. would I know what Michael Moore or Paul Krugman think? I haven't talked to either of them in, gosh, it must be weeks now.

    Republicans winning elections: the GOP seems to be doing just fine. They've got both houses of Congress and a majority of the states. It looks like they're not going to get the White House back this cycle, but so what? Everywhere else, they're stronger than ever. If nonwhite immigration is going to kill the GOP, it's going to take decades or generations to do it.

    Why I'm a liberal on immigration: haven't we had this conversation? (1) All four of my grandparents were immigrants. (2) I believe that immigration, in the long run, makes my country richer, stronger, and a better and more interesting place to live. That's pretty much it.

    If immigration also ends up destroying the Republican party, sure, that would be a fun side dish. But it's not "why". There have been immigrant groups that voted Republican -- Cubans (though that's changing), Vietnamese. I'd still be pretty liberal on immigration even if most immigrants voted that way. Fortunately, the GOP is doing an excellent job of alienating this large and growing bloc of voters, so I'm not forced to choose between principle and convenience. (Or at least, not on this issue.)

    Doug M.

  7. Actually, education and spread of values is one of the ways of the aforementioned "soft powers" of empire. Education is a way of obtaining control. Remember "hearts and minds" in Iraq

  8. I remember LBJ said: when you've got them by the balls hearts and minds will follow. Rude and irrelevant - sorry.

  9. Clinton’s edge over Trump has dropped 3.6 points since the massacre in Orlando, according to the Reuters survey out Friday.

    Friday’s results found that 10.7 points separate Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, from Trump, her GOP counterpart.

    Reuters said Clinton boasted a 14.3-point gap last Sunday, the day of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.