[I shared this once already but it doesn’t appear to show up, so I’ll delete it from my feed blog and try again with a fresh post. Apologies if I double post; I will remove the duplicate.]
I’m not an informed expert on politics or psychology or sociology, I don’t have time to do a full literature review, and I’m just musing on a theory I’ve had for awhile. So there’s your caveat, before you continue reading.
Here’s the theory: I read much deeper parallels between the Elliot Rodgers and the Dylann Roofs of the world vs the young ISIS militants than the media seems to acknowledge, and I think confronting that fact (particularly as it pertains to the toxic masculinity conversation) is a more important thing to do than focusing on anybody’s religion, tolerance or intolerance.
First, I don’t see Islam as being inherently more violent than Christianity. I do see Islam as being in a geopolitical position where violence is more often enabled contemporarily, but I don’t believe that Christianity would be any more peaceful if, say, the white West was predominantly Muslim and the Middle East were predominantly Christian. We’d be just as disadvantaged economically and the Bible isn’t any better or worse on violence than the Quran. So to those saying that the Paris violence has nothing to do with religion, well... I think it has something to do with religion, just not with Islam specifically.
Second, look at the ages and stages of the people committing crimes. They’re all in that awkward period of young adulthood that feels great if you’ve “made it” and have life choices and prospects and company, but that feels terrible if you don’t. By choices and prospects, I don’t mean in the past - I mean in terms of looking ahead. Elliot Rodger had a cushy upbringing and plenty of money, but his entitlement couldn’t help him see beyond rejections by women. UK-born ISIS recruits might come from a private education in London, but can’t see past today’s difficulty in finding rewarding work and in tolerating a government and media full of old white men telling you how unwelcome they are. Elliot Rodger found some solace in the Red Pill community; ISIS recruits feel solace in joining a group that actively welcomes them and gives them a goal, however absurd and violent. Both communities offer identity and the feeling that someone else shares your struggle. (I would use the word compassion here, but it’s a very selfish form of compassion. I bet there’s a word for this in German...) I think in theory that if Rodger and Roof or any other western white mass shooter with a manifesto had been born into Islam or otherwise felt a welcome there, they could just as easily have joined the more organized and equipped ISIS to find personal purpose in violence than commit their crimes alone.
This isn’t to say that I think everyone feeling marginalized by economic hardship or race tension or lack of belonging are going to become terrorists. (Wouldn’t we all be at risk...?) I think every group - men, women, straights, gays, white, black, brown, blonde, freckled, hirsute - contain a subset of people within it who have born-that-way potential for violence. That potential gets scuppered often by good parenting, good friends, having good opportunities, etc. I reckon those scuppering factors are getting harder and harder to come by, particularly wrt opportunities. The job market is thin as Donald Trump’s hair, and even if you’re winning at it, you can’t not notice the great unwashed looking jealously at your paycheck. Middle-class jobs now constitute just scraping by, loads of us are one redundancy away from joining the poverty ranks, and we can work as hard as anyone in the world and still not gain a stable identity. For most of us without that potential for violence, this struggle means anxiety, depression, piles of guilt, etc., but there are always going to be some with the potential. And the way it’s going right now, if you’re a white American guy with a violent streak, that means you find your solace on the racist/misogynist/nationalist corners of the internet (and then possibly shoot up your family or workplace). But if you’re from another background, the comparable corner of the internet has manifest into an actual geographic state and geopolitical movement, so your shooting up of people can be more organized.
I guess the TL;DR version would be that as much as ISIS-style terrorism and its expansion into European operations is a terrible thing, there but for the grace of geopolitical history go all the white shooters.
Solutions: tackle inequality, tackle racism, stop droning the shit out of brown places, and end the culture of toxic masculinity that makes some young men feel they need to prove something?