As Carl von Clausewitz tells us,”War is merely the continuation of politics by other means.”
And yet for some reason, this adage has largely been ignored in the context of spree shootings in America and elsewhere around the world. The mainstream media and alternative media endlessly debate on the reason for the ultraviolence present in American culture, but whether they blame mental illness, easy access to firearms, media glorification, or miscreant “foreigners”, everyone seems to ignore the fact that a sizable amount of spree shooters are political radicals, dissidents, or otherwise part of a marginalized political minority.
These political radicals use violence as a form of politicking. This is nothing new: through much of history politics was merely a matter of slaughtering your political rivals while lavishing your allies. There is no reason for this fact to change. Historically, men would die savage deaths to preserve their honor, and what follows, the honor of their political allegiances. This allegiance manifest in a multitude of ways, including loyalty to a king, a Constitution, or the clergy of one’s church. In any case, political groups form social organisms that are susceptible to group selection, and ultimately, political competition (survival of the fittest). Competition is not often peaceful. One can say the First World War itself was the most salient act of politics-turned-violence, or that the Second World War was a particularly egregious example of combative political ideologies: the liberal democrats against the conservative fascists (a gross oversimplification, of course).
In any case, acts of mass murder are extremely helpful in aiding a political movement. Firstly, it puts the perpetrator and the victim both in the limelight, where media coverage will ensure that the perpetrator’s political agenda is known. Furthermore, the victim’s political group is bullied into silence, and in some cases, increased scrutiny on the victim’s political grouping reveals weaknesses or faults within the political organization.
In addition, “enemy” political group member numbers are reduced, and anyone with similar views to the perpetrator will feel emboldened and perhaps less alone.
If he is willing to die for the cause, why aren’t I?
A few case studies:
Anders Behring Breivik is a clear example of a violent political extremist who targeted his political enemies. And yet the focus put on this massacre was on Breivik’s xenophobia and anti-immigration rhetoric. Then of course, he was named “insane” and promptly ignored as a political character. But he left behind a Unabomber inspired political manifesto, called for the creation of a pan-European political movement, and ultimately spawned a great deal of internet followers.
The Unabomber, of course, is himself another example. Though not a shooter, his acts of violence are well documented to be political acts. Within his manifesto he clearly labels an enemy (leftists) and sets out a goal for destroying them, as well as creating a narrative to proselytize more men to his cause. He has since written a great deal of political literature from prison.
So why, then, are spree shootings a primarily American phenomenon?
In my opinion, it is due to the passive and uniform American political climate. There is little, if any, room for radicals to be heard in mainstream politics or government. There is little political unrest, the entire system works rather smoothly. Physical fights in Congress are much more rare than they are in more peaceful countries like Japan and Korea, and overall the political differences between Republicans and Democrats are not particularly vast.
Meanwhile, Europe enjoys a much more vivacious and “healthy” political climate. Named Communists hold political office alongside named fascists, and everything in between enjoys similar success.
Only the unrepresented need resort to violence, as when they are robbed of peaceful means of politicking, they will use “other means”. Breivik is an obvious non-American example of this, as his anti-immigration rhetoric is practically outlawed in Norway and the rest of Northern Europe.
This explains why the majority of terrorism seems to be of the “right-wing” variety, as the radical left enjoys mainstream support in the media, academia, and amongst the affluent. Such people therefore need not resort to violence as frequently, though it is still common.
There is nothing new or strange about the recent outburst in massacres and gun violence. Humans are violent animals, and the relative peace of our modern era is perhaps merely an exception that will prove the rule before we are vaporized in nuclear armageddon. In any case, political radicals will continue their crusade, and their battle call is always “join or die”.