Does Ideology Really Incite Someone to Mass Murder?

OK, so this is usually an upbeat family blog, but I have to take on a topic that distresses me to no end. So if you like reading the fluffy stuff, you may want to skip this one. I won’t hold it against you.

In the wake of the horrific shooting of a congresswoman, wounding of 13 and killing of six others at a community event, certain media outlets are already speculating that the vast right wing conspiracy is to blame. I feel very strongly that mental illness or evil are the only satisfactory explanations for behaving in this manner.  Any attempt to assign political motive, even sometimes when expressed by the attacker, is in itself despicable – an attempt to capitalize on tragedy to point fingers at political opponents.   Each time some horrible tragedy such as this shooting occurs, I listen and wait, for the finger-pointers to come out.

Sometimes the pointy fingers belong to respected media outlets, and sometimes they are the Tolerant Ones, who love to sit on their pedestal and point out the intolerance of those who don’t agree with them. And many people jump on the bandwagon to begin the witch trials.

Obviously, I am not a psychologist.  But I do have a gift for understanding and assessing people.  Some call it interpersonal intelligence.  Some call it discernment, or intuition.  Whatever it is, I believe God gifted me with it.

What I see with each mass murder tragedy is insanity, which latches onto an ideology to justify the actions which were already planned in the heart. Whether it’s Schizophrenia, severe Bi-Polar, Sadism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder? I don’t know. I have no idea.

But I do know that any sane person would not turn their passion for society into an excuse to murder others.

We’ve seen it many times:

  • An anti-abortion activist, in what he claims is Christian defense of the unborn, bombs a building and kills. This is insanity. The activist used the pro-life ideology to justify his murderous heart. Most Christians do not think this is OK.
  • A Muslim terrorist orchestrates a suicide bomb attack carried out by one of his disciples.  There are millions of Muslims who don’t do this, so my conclusion is that this person wanted to murder.  He found and twisted the belief system to fit his intentions.
  • A bullied teen turns an automatic weapon on his classmates. There are many bullied teens who don’t turn to murder. This is mental illness, which drives a person to irrational violence. Bullying is horrible, but it doesn’t cause mass murder. The person who pulls the trigger is responsible for that.
  • The same is true when an environmental activist shoots up a crowd, convinced that the population must be reduced in order to save the planet. Again, was it the environmental ideology which caused the violence? Or was it one man’s twisted interpretation to fulfill his evil desires?

So can we put away the pointy fingers? Just as a disturbed person justifies his mayhem with his chosen ideology, despicable people capitalize on the tragedy in order to demonize his political opponents.

If someone is intent on murder, he will do it.  We can ban guns, censor speech, stifle religion.  But the fact remains, we live in a fallen world. There is evil and sin here on earth.  There is also God’s grace, which comforts us in the face of irrational tragedy. This is what we must cling to, not the blaming.

I know this is a hot topic, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. However, I’ll have to moderate anything that personally attacks someone else or doesn’t constructively further the conversation.

Thanks to Karla Porter for finding the shooting statistics for me

UPDATE: I do have to point out that I do not advocate Sarah Palin’s use of gun metaphor for politics.  Also, it is now surfacing that the gunman was associated with a fascist, anti-semitic anarchist group, and NOT the tea party.  My point is that it is irresponsible to ascribe his inspiration and motives without a thorough assessment and pouring over his writings and actions. People immediately jumped on a group they politically oppose without evidence, and that is what I disdain.

And if you think Sarah Palin was the only one to use a target map to point out political opponents, read this, from Shane Vander Hart.

About Sarah Pinnix

I'm a mom, blogger, vlogger, libertarian. I love Jesus, and my husband, too. Social Media Strategist for a Non-Profit (All statements here are solely my own)

Comments

  1. Alyssa
    Twitter: alyssaavant
    says:

    AMen and Amen.

    [Reply]

  2. Well said. Political causes and/or activism don’t CAUSE otherwise normal people to become murderers. I will argue with someone until I am blue in the face over an issue that I feel strongly about, but at the end of the day, I would never want to murder them. In fact, I’d be 100x more prone to just call it a day and have a beer with them. These murderers were born (or brainwwashed) to have these tendencies to begin with, and the first thing that “justified” their intent then became the pillar upon which they committed their cowardly acts. Simple as that. I am sick and tired of people using tragedy to further their political agenda. Like liberals jumping on the incident above and conservatives jumping on the incident with that tree hugger guy who took hostages at the Discovery Channel offices earlier this year.

    [Reply]

    Sarah
    Twitter: reallifesarah
    Reply:

    Exactly, Jim!

    [Reply]

  3. Lisa
    Twitter: mommyality
    says:

    I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you, Sarah.

    [Reply]

  4. crayon wrangler
    Twitter: crayonwrangler
    says:

    Your words, my heart. Well written. Off to share this.

    [Reply]

    Sarah
    Twitter: reallifesarah
    Reply:

    Thank you!

    [Reply]

  5. Tammy
    Twitter: greekgrits
    says:

    Very well said….I saw a lot of cRaZy finger pointing today scrolling along The Twitter.

    [Reply]

  6. For the past few years there has been a very clear call to arms. Granted the rational and sane among us would never take this call literally. However at some point it needs to be recognized that the weak minded among us are directly affected, and unfortunately this climate of hate speech is directly responsible for spurring them into action. This has happened historically many, many times, but sometimes it is a tough pill to swallow when it happens in your own country. I would hope the leaders of this country would take this tragedy as an indication of what power their own words to hold over the people who follow them, and use this horrible lesson as an opportunity to think more closely about what they say in public.

    [Reply]

    Sarah
    Twitter: reallifesarah
    Reply:

    I absolutely disagree, but thanks for sharing respectfully. As someone who has followed the Tea Party and conservative causes very closely, from the mouths of those people, not the interpreters of their words, there is no hate speech nor are their calls to violence. Don’t bother pointing out the supposed instances, I’ve seen them all and listened to the other side.

    But I suspect you would also be an ardent supporter of the fact that Islam is not evil, but it is the insane who twist it to justify their murder.

    By weak minded, do you mean “stupid” or mentally ill? And did you read my post about the “tolerant ones?”

    At the same time that many people blame Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin for insane shooters, they celebrate Mao, Che, and Castro as humanitarians. The world is upside down.

    [Reply]

    Kellyology Reply:

    I’m simply shocked by your assumption concerning what I believe, but I will answer your question. By weak minded I mean the mentally ill and the easily manipulated, neither of which have anything to do with a person’s intellectual abilities. And by hate speech I was actually referring to all parties who never ever say to their followers, “You are completely wrong if you interpret what I’m saying to you as a call to violence. And I denounce any violent acts you may instigate as a result of that misinterpretation.”

    [Reply]

    Sarah
    Twitter: reallifesarah
    Reply:

    You’re right, I shouldn’t assume beliefs, and my statement about Che, Mao and Castro was not aimed at you, but some public figures on the left, who at the same time, decry the tea party as hateful.

    Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck have made that exact statement you cite. Glenn Beck has never used any metaphor that remotely incites violence, and I watch him regularly. Sarah Palin? Should NEVER have used that metaphor, I agree. She is impulsive and doesn’t reflect my values in her rhetoric. But unless this shooter comes out and says “I shot the congresswoman because of influence from Sarah Palin” it is irresponsible to make that assumption as well.

    It’s also coming out that he was affiliated with a fascist, anti-semitic anarchist group, not the tea party.

    Kristen
    Twitter: kristenhowerton
    Reply:

    I completely agree with what Kelly is saying. Those in power have a responsibility not to use inciteful rhetoric or violent metaphors. Of course today was the result of mental illness. But mental illness can be spurred on by the misinterpretation of strong language. I hope this is a lesson that a “call to arms” is not the way to describe political passion.

    [Reply]

    Sarah
    Twitter: reallifesarah
    Reply:

    Admittedly, I would have never used the language she did in pointing out political targets. But she is still not responsible for pulling the trigger.

    [Reply]

  7. As a teacher of students with emotional-behavioral disabilities, I agree. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, etc. it’s probably just a duck, and not some conspiracy.

    BTW, I came over by way of a tweet from ShellThings.

    [Reply]

  8. No one blames Jody Foster for the attempt on Reagan’s life. Insanity does what it is going to do with random triggers that can not be anticipated.

    [Reply]

    Lucretia Pruitt
    Twitter: lucretiapruitt
    Reply:

    It took me many more words to say this very thing. Thanks for putting it so succinctly! 🙂

    [Reply]

  9. Lucretia Pruitt
    Twitter: lucretiapruitt
    says:

    Thank you so much Sarah.
    This is so well written and so well said. I think the pointy fingers sometimes come from people trying to make sense out of the senseless. Trying to find a reason “why” someone would do such a thing, in part to try and keep it from happening again. It is uncomfortable to live in a world where we think that at any moment someone near us might do the unthinkable – and that we might suffer worse than the loss of our own lives, but the loss of someone we love, and the loss of those who are innocent.
    I know, too, that some of those fingers are subconsciously or even consciously using events to further their own agendas. If we say that the source of the violence is “Group X” rather than the person who commits the violence himself? We can justify our attempts to vilify “Group X” far more easily than if we say that no ‘influence’ can bring a sane person to kill others in such wanton disregard.
    This recent atrocity is no reflection on one party or another – no ideology could make a sane person go into a crowd and shoot repeatedly. No mere ideology could or would ever cover the rationale behind “shoot a 9 year old girl in the chest and kill her.”
    Sadly, we cannot predict what will trigger a madman (or madwoman) to levels of such violence. What we can do is try very hard not to excuse such acts as being the result of beliefs different from our own. We can pray for those who lost their lives, their families, and their loved ones. We can pray that those who might some day be upon the verge of such madness themselves are somehow turned back from such actions – whether through the intercession of others, or the grace of God.
    Thank you Sarah. I really needed to read this tonight. And I’m really glad it was here that I read it.

    [Reply]

  10. Amy B.
    Twitter: amybhole
    says:

    As more details emerge about him, it’s becoming pretty clear that this poor kid was in the process of developing a pretty severe mental illness.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/08/AR2011010803961.html?hpid=topnews&sid=ST2011010802810

    [Reply]

    Sarah
    Twitter: reallifesarah
    Reply:

    Interesting that he listed his favorite books as those by Karl Marx/Engels, and Hitler. Definitely not Constitutional Conservatives like the Tea Party.

    [Reply]

    Amy B.
    Twitter: amybhole
    Reply:

    His list of favorite books reads just like what every college sophomore says are there favorite books, in a feeble attempt to sound cool and well-read.

    [Reply]

    Amy B.
    Twitter: amybhole
    Reply:

    Their/there — I’m an idiot this morning.

  11. Kara @ His, Hers and Ours says:

    It’s amazing how a firestorm of blame can rain down so irresponsibly. I would like for someone to tell me when people need to start taking responsibility for their own actions. In this country people have gotten so used to pointing fingers at others for their own personal actions, but what they don’t see are the other four fingers pointing back at them.

    Great post! And I came via ShellThings, too.

    [Reply]

  12. Michael Davis says:

    Well said. Thanks.

    [Reply]

  13. of course this horrific incident is not sarah palin’s fault. the man alone is responsible for his actions (and likely his mental illness.)

    however, sarah palin is responsible for her words and her message, and the metaphoric call to arms–even in jest and hyperbole–is violent language. it is ugly and uncivilized at best and hateful and inciting of actual violence at worst–to people who can’t understand nuance.

    language is powerful and violent language should have no place in public discourse. her bullseye targets and lock and load rhetoric are destructive and shameful.

    [Reply]

    Sarah
    Twitter: reallifesarah
    Reply:

    I definitely agree that I would not have ever used that metaphor.

    [Reply]

  14. I hope this makes sense as it is 2:18 in the morning and i have one toe in bed.

    Any religion, song, political/religious ideology can be used as an excuse, but none as a justification., When we dig below the surface we usually see that there is a misunderstanding or unrealistic understanding of what has been said and it is usually steeped in fanatical behavior. And Fanatics are not “sane” people and they hang on to their own interpretation (which is warped to begin with) of what has been said.

    Does this mean that a politician is responsible for sending this young man on a rampage? Not necessarily- there is obviously more at play than that. But, politicians and other public figures have a responsibility to refrain from language that s hateful, hurtful, and easily misunderstood! We as a society have to demand 100% accountability from everyone when it comes to these tragic events.

    [Reply]

    Sarah
    Twitter: reallifesarah
    Reply:

    You’re right, Kristina, I don’t support Palin’s heated rhetoric most of the time, and I think she’s somewhat impulsive.

    But it’s actually coming out that he was influenced by an anarchist group, not Constitutional conservatives.

    [Reply]

  15. This is one of the best written responses I have read. I completly agree.

    I do hower agree with Kristen that political figures do need to watch what they say.

    [Reply]

  16. Paul Merrill
    Twitter: paulmerrill
    says:

    I completely agree with your post in all aspects except for religious terrorists. I think many of them are *not* gripped by mental illness but rather swept into a subset of their culture that makes suicide bombing seem like an honorable thing.

    That does not make them less guilty – but it may explain a little of why they do it.

    [Reply]

    Paul Merrill
    Twitter: paulmerrill
    Reply:

    Forgot to say – I got her via my friend Lucretia Pruitt.

    [Reply]

  17. I agree it takes some level of insanity to commit murder, yet saying all murders are insane would work well within our justice system. In our justice system, insanity is a defense to get you out of paying consequences for your actions.

    Secondly, I think some politicians should rethink their actions. Their stuff is just available to the insane as it is to the insane. Most of us can look at a map with crosshairs and say and assume it is just a metaphor. Yet it is also out there for those who can see the metaphor. For those to take seriously. Most of us don’t see shooting a M-16 is necessary to prove we think one politician is better than another. Yet some would see that as a message.

    Lastly, I think they some “insanity” is caused by surroundings. Not all bullied turn in to gun toting manics, but not all bullied have the same support system. You can not compare each case to each other unless you know the exact circumstances involved and the media never tells all. They tell what they think will make a good story.

    [Reply]

  18. MarketingMom says:

    Perfect. Thank You.

    [Reply]

  19. You’re obviously of the opinion that no sane person would commit such an evil, so why so quick to cast blame on Sarah Palin for using that imagery? No sane person would look at that map or listen to her words and think it was a call to arms. Even bringing Palin into this is ridiculous, and a sign that the media and the left (but I repeat myself) are desperate to paint her as an evil lunatic. You (and a lot of other people I know and respect) really ought to rethink your condemnation of her, however gently expressed.

    [Reply]

  20. Musings of a Housewife
    Twitter: jolynnemusings
    says:

    Sarah, very well said. Thank you. 🙂

    [Reply]

  21. Great job. I agree completely, and pray for the victim’s and their families.

    [Reply]

  22. Great post!

    I’d just like to ad that while I also don’t care for Sarah Palins’ cross-hairs map, but she didn’t invent the practice: http://www.verumserum.com/?p=13647.

    [Reply]

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