From Heather Hastie’s blog: What Causes Terrorism

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by Neil Godfrey

It’s only eleven minutes long. Professor Martha Crenshaw looks at the “macro” (e.g. poverty) and “micro” (e.g. psychology) explanations, pointing out their limitations, and then addresses “meso” explanations — the ones that I have often addressed in various posts on Vridar.

From http://www.heatherhastie.com/what-is-terrorism/ — where one can find two more related videos.

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8 thoughts on “From Heather Hastie’s blog: What Causes Terrorism”

  1. It is only right to acknowledge where we have heard or read something. I generally disagree with your own views on Islamic terrorism but when you post something informative like this I appreciate it.

    1. Yes, I completely agree re acknowledgement. You and I mostly disagree, but that shouldn’t stop us doing the right thing. It’s also important that we read the viewpoints of those we don’t agree with, if only to bolster out own arguments! 🙂

      Those who keep themselves in information silos are, I think, the biggest problem when trying to get to the bottom of the issue. Open debate is vital.

      1. Unfortunately the refusal to hear the other side is all too common, and I posted the link to the video here as a direct response to just such a moment. The commenter I was engaging with is not the only one who has admitted he has for whatever reason not read the research he is prepared to dismiss as biased, wrong, false, apologetic, unscholarly, despite it being the work of professional scholars and its influence among major government and international organizations dedicated to addressing the terrorist threat.

  2. I think Crenshaw’s macro (society), micro (individual), and meso (group) analysis is quite good, and it probably requires all three forces to be in alignment for a person to commit to terrorism.

    As Crenshaw points out in the first of the three video’s (posted on Heather’s Homilies) there is no clear distinction between terrorism and other forms of political violence, and one of her criteria, “targets victims who are unprepared or undefended” applies quite well to cases where advanced militaries target people who have no means of defending themselves against the bombs, missiles a drones used to attack them. The US/UK 2003 invasion of Iraq as well as the 2014 Israeli bombardment of Gaza being good examples.

    Crenshaw’s analysis of what causes terrorism can appropriately applied to George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. At the macro level, the 9/11 al Qaeda attacks, which occurred on his watch in spite of considerable intelligence, seems to have unnerved him, and he communicated his fears to the nation early and often, exacerbating an already anxious national mood. On the personal level, he came into office with a grudge against Saddam Hussein for allegedly targeting his father. Moreover WBush is said to have issues with his father and a desire to outdo him, by finishing the job HW Bush had started but not finished in Iraq. On the meso level, Bush had surrounded himself with veteran cold warriors and war industry recipients Cheney and Rumsfeld and didn’t want to look like a weakling in front of them.

    I’m a bit surprised that Heather posted this, as it doesn’t fit with the New Atheist narrative that the Islamic religion, and not anything we have done to Muslims, or the chaos in Muslim societies, is the primary cause of Islamist terrorism. As Sam Harris has noted, New Atheism grew out of the 9/11 attacks and from the beginning has seized on Islam as the poster child for it’s contention that not only are supernatural religious beliefs false, but religions and religious organizations are harmful to society.

    As you, I, and many other commentators have noted, the New Atheist indictment of religion is based on very little understanding of the actual role of religions in the lives of people. Jerry Coyne, who attacks Islam on a regular basis has admitted on his blog that he has never known a Muslim except an ex-Muslim. Your appeals that they should listen to the people who have actually spent time with Muslims and interviewed terrorists, has fallen on deaf ears.

    The latest issue of the New York Times magazine is devoted to an excellent example of this kind of investigation. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/08/11/magazine/isis-middle-east-arab-spring-fractured-lands.html?emc=edit_th_20160814&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=59659762&_r=0
    Author Scott Anderson profiles, over 15 months, six people, from different walks of life and different Middle eastern countries, caught in the maelstrom of war that the Iraq invasion initiated. There are many lessons, but perhaps the biggest is that it was the disruption of the lives and societies that motivated their actions, and Islamic doctrines played little role.

    So far, Heather, nor any of her readers have commented on the Crenshaw videos. It will be interesting to see their interpretation and if they even address the NYTimes article by Anderson.

    1. Your appeals that they should listen to the people who have actually spent time with Muslims and interviewed terrorists, has fallen on deaf ears.

      . . . .

      So far, Heather, nor any of her readers have commented on the Crenshaw videos. It will be interesting to see their interpretation and if they even address the NYTimes article by Anderson.

      One can only try, but one does learn that facts and research don’t matter for many who are already smitten with some visceral antipathy towards Muslims. They will simply scoff at the facts and call them lies without even bothering to investigate them.

  3. An amusing thing happened as I started to prepare the reply above. I glanced over at the “Recent Comments” list and saw one that seemed relevant, but that I had not seen. I clicked on it and it too me to a post “On how to be completely wrong about radicalisation: the curious case of Jerry Coyne”. It was dated Aug 12 and already had 219 comments! At a loss as to how I missed it, I spent the better part of a day reading the article and all the comments. I even replied to one. It wasn’t until I was well along in my reading that I encountered dates later than the current date of 8/16. It was only then that I discovered that the post was from 2015. Everything that was said could have been said yesterday. Neil and Dan Jones did a masterful job of demonstrating and refuting the New Atheist claims that the primary cause of terrorism is Islam and Islamic texts. It was encouraging to see many of the arguments I have made to no avail on WEIT and later (after I was booted) on Heather’s Homilies. It was also revealing to read the accounts of others who Coyne, an outspoken defender of free speech when he agrees with the speaker, had blocked simply for disagreeing with his views.

    1. Coyne gets a kick out of claiming that something he calls “the regressive left” flatly denies that religion or Islam has anything to do with today’s terrorism. There are in fact two issues here. Some people who mean well are trying to point out (quite correctly) that mainstream Muslims and beliefs do indeed stand in opposition to jihadists. On the other hand, there can be no denying that the violent and Islamist extremists do identify as Muslims.

      The difference is like mainstream Christians trying to tell the world that cults like Mormons or JWs have nothing to do with (real) Christianity on the one hand, and researchers into cults studying what factors explain people joining such Christian cults on the other hand.

      That is, the confusion is over semantics and contexts, and of course the Coynes and coys who are not interested in the serious research except to mock and misrepresent it have a field day and love rolling their eyes over those “confused and lying” experts.

      As for banning commenters (I have been banned by Coyne, too) I find it remarkable the numbers of commenters here who have claimed they are not permitted to express their views when in fact they have been given free rein to express their arguments numerous times but are offended that their arguments are challenged so seriously with appeals to evidence and valid reasoning. In their minds that’s called denying them the right to express their views and they then choose to ban themselves!!

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