Tuesday 19 July 2016

Islam calling: Distal and proximal


Blood stains are seen on the regional train on which a man allegedly wielding an axe attacked passengers in Wuerzburg, Germany


Correlations are indicative of possible causes, but not definitive. In the modern way, we now have a torrent of information about the perpetrator of the Nice massacre. The quality of that information varies considerably.

Neighbours have spoken variously of him being:

a normal person, just like others in the neighbourhood, and doing normal things like drinking and going to parties;

a weird person; who looked odd, would not hold doors open for others, and was asocial and a bit scary.

Conflicting reports of this sort are pretty usual. Ordinary social behaviour has some common ground rules, of which non-involvement is a large part. Many people do not know much about their neighbours. In ghettoes like the one in Nice there are incentives to say nothing, and to have seen nothing. Interviews off camera are probably more informative, free from possible community retaliation.

His family have said that he had a long psychiatric history including treatment for schizophrenia. Other family members have said that he had recently sent them £84,000 which is a substantial sum for a divorced truck driver with an estranged family to keep.

His mobile phone has revealed a string of female and male sexual contacts, with many admiring selfie photos. His main homosexual lover, a man in his 70s, has been identified. The perpetrator’s texts have led Police to a suspected small arms provider and to other contacts.

Video surveillance from street cameras showed that he practiced taking his truck down the route he used for his rampage, and photographed the route. He hired the truck some days earlier, and also acquired weapons. Other witnesses said they had seen the truck, being driven erratically half an hour before the attack. Apparently he sent some text messages in that half hour of waiting. He gained entry through the police cordon by claiming to be delivering ice-cream. Overall, it was not a spur of the moment act, but carefully considered.

At this point some commentators are tempted to jump to conclusions: conflicted gay murderer; schizophrenic murderer (5 times more likely to be violent than non-schizophrenics); both gay and schizophrenic; depressed after his divorce; not depressed but in a whirl of sexual promiscuity, or polymorphous perversity as Freud called it; suicide by cops; or “very rapidly radicalised” as a French government minister surmised, which recent reports put at a mere 8 days. All possibly true.

However, the general distal explanations do not really show why he committed mass murder. They fit better with a lonely suicide bid (the depression angle) or a deranged random stabbing of passers-by (the psychotic episode angle), not a planned mass murder. The particular method he used involved him seeing the people he murdered at first hand, and feeling the truck rise and fall as he went over their bodies. It was close and personal and protracted.

In trying to find out why he murdered we have a long list of possible distal causes: North African genes, Tunisian culture, previous criminal behaviour, low ability, confused sexuality and particularly conflicted homosexuality, and persistent propaganda from Jihadists about the need to attack infidels. More recently he had a divorce from his wife (more than a year ago I think) and then most recently whatever was happening on Jihadist websites or contacts or friendship groups. He has been claimed by ISIL as one of their soldiers, and this is a reliable guide, according to those who study these matters. However, I would not bank on this unless a real link is proved in later investigations. (In a sense their real claim is: “We inspire people to violence, without knowing who they are”.)

The act was terrorism on a large scale, and each distal cause increased the probability that a proximate cause would lead him to his performance: attacking French civilians on their national day. Whatever the personal shortcomings of the perpetrator, he terrorised France, which is what the Jihadist cause required him to do. Their aim is to show Europeans they are unwelcome in their own countries.

Yesterday a 17 year old Afghan refugee to Germany, given government support and fostered by a German family for two weeks, has attacked passengers in a train with an axe and a knife, leaving a blood-splattered carriage with three very seriously injured passengers and 14 in a state of shock. He had shouted Allahu akbar" ("God is great"), a witness said. In his bedroom Police have found a home-made Islamic State flag.

ISIL has also claimed this attack: "The perpetrator of the stabbing attack in Germany was one of the fighters of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in answer to the calls to target the countries of the coalition fighting the Islamic State”. Apparently this is a more “arm’s length” endorsement.

Distal causes: Afghan genes and culture and (the Facebook rest will be filled in quickly, I presume, his website history will take a bit longer). Proximate cause: ISIL?

The perpetrators have a common theme: they have been convinced that they should kill the citizens of the countries which took them in. The most obvious ultimate cause of their violence is The Cause they espouse.



  1. James, you might find this paper of mine interesting:


  2. Thanks James Thompson for trying to explain what is happening these days. I really appreciate it and am looking forward to more of your thoughts. Thanks Noah Carl for the link which I have posted so that others can read your paper. Here is a link about the "Ax-man". Do you James T have any comment to that? My conclusion is that the third world war is starting... Am I wrong? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36832909

    1. I don't think it is the third world war. However, both France and German populations may now be considering new policies on immigration. Elections over the next 2 years will show if this becomes a high priority issue. It has not been the case for UK general elections, but was one feature of the UK referendum.
      Remember: most news is replaced by more news, and moods come and go.

    2. JT, thanks for replying. I OUGHT TO HAVE WRITTEN: "My conclusion is that the third world PROPAGANDA war is taking place." Might the proximal cause for both terrorists be ISIL propaganda? From my Swedish horizon, I conclude (no statistics!) that the attitude towards these, and other recent, events is changing among politicians and journalists who have become more outspoken. The article (link below) written by Ian Cooke - Lead Curator for International and Political Studies at the British Library and whom in 2013 co-curated the British Library exhibition Propaganda Power and Persuasion, on WWI propaganda, ends: "Certainly, contemporary commentators were impressed, and sometimes horrified, by the effectiveness of propaganda in influencing public opinion. In the years immediately following the war, the exaggerated reports of German and Austrian treatment of civilians were denounced as ‘atrocity propaganda’. In the USA, the opinion that the country had been ‘duped’ into joining the war influenced isolationist policies. Both Lenin and Hitler were convinced of the significance of propaganda in ensuring success. Perhaps the most damaging legacy was the myth that gained currency in Germany that the war had been lost not on the battlefield, but through the influence of foreign propaganda on the German people." http://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/propaganda-as-a-weapon

  3. Immigration policy in the literal sense can become irrelevant quickly if those who have already immigrated have much larger families, and have them at younger ages, than the indigenous population.

  4. is "islam calling" to the tune of "london calling" by the clash? :)

    1. as in Rock the Casbah? Hadn't thought of that. During WWII German propaganda English broadcasts always began "Germany calling, Germany calling".

  5. JAMES THOMPSON - in your text you referred to a 17 year old Afghan refugee to Germany, given government support and fostered by a German family for two weeks, that attacked passengers in a train with an axe and a knife.
    NOAH CARL - in your article you referred to a correlation between military intervention in the Middle East with the risk of Islamist terrorism.
    The individual - the Afghan refugee to Germany who attacked passengers in a train might have done so due to the Western military intervention in Afghanistan at which a friend there was killed, according to http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36837109

  6. How it works? Pretend you're an under-age Afghan refugee when you're really and adult Pakistani...

    "The Islamic State group released a video on Tuesday purportedly featuring the 17-year-old, who was shot dead by police following the train attack in which he injured five people, two of them critically. In the IS video the youth uses phrases of a dialect of Pashto spoken in Pakistan and not Afghanistan and experts have indicated that his accent is also clearly Pakistani, ZDF said.A Pakistani document was also found in his room.
    The name he used in the video, "Mohammed Riyadh", does not match the name under which he registered in Germany, Riaz Khan, the station added."


  7. very likely. Apparently the passports discarded at border control are very often Pakistani.

  8. Extreme emotions bring extreme behavior (radicalized).

    A lot of self-radicalized person has experienced bullying in real life or exposed to traumatizing messages. Internet trolls (assholes) are not helping by pissing people off. Maybe they are part of problem radicalizing some people.

    Limiting speech, especially trolling (asshole farting) might help. You can not have both way. Absolute freedom of speech and radicalization are connected.

    Funny, we make law to prevent public nudity which is considered offensive to others. But it is ok to make public comments offensive to others. Offended individual might become radicalized.

  9. "However, the general distal explanations do not really show why he committed mass murder."

    With someone with his lifestyle, dying as a shahid (martyr) is the difference between eternity in Muslim hell or Muslim paradise. His lifestyle damns him, but a martyrs death cancels all sins.

    another fred

    1. Did medieval Roman Catholicism, or even early Christianity, have that doctrine too (a martyr's death cancels all sins)?

      I ask because the parallels between Islam and medieval RC-ism always seem striking to me.

    2. "Did medieval Roman Catholicism, or even early Christianity, have that doctrine too?"

      I don't know, but this looks like a guy to ask.


      The Heliand probably had a lot to do with behavior of militant Christians too. The influence of the Heliand was probably increased by the fact that most people did not actually read the Bible.

  10. O/T (or is it?)