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July 25, 2011


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There possibly is a link with the politics and you can maybe see it by looking at lower level unpleasantness associated with ideology. I cannot count the number of times some right-wing bore has 'joked' about beating, raping or killing people they dislike. Incidentally I've encountered a number of tedious armchair Marxists discuss acts of violence too, though mostly against property.


Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot...

Phil Ruse

Oh dear. History is replete with left-wing terror groups (as well as right), but then being groups (rather than the individual) I suppose this gets excluded from your 'nasty right-wingers' narrative.

Philip Walker

Phil Ruse: Perhaps left-wingers are more prone to forming violent /groups/ whereas right-wingers are more prone to individualistic acts of violence? (Actually, I could almost believe that.)


"The claim that there is some causality from Breivik’s beliefs to his crime rests upon a probabilistic notion of causality."


The killer has stated clearly that right-wing ideology was the key motivator for his mass killings.

Just look at how your argument falls apart if you use Al Qaeda, the KKK, the IRA or ETA as examples instead of Aryan Anders and his Knights Templar.


Can we expect an epidemic of mass murders by social scientists who want to increase their sample size?


In the grand scale of things, pointing to Breivik as being mostly a lone psychopath seems right, simply because politically-motivated massacres are so rare. It's easy to point to Copeland, McVeigh etc. but--sadly--similar atrocities occur all the time with no connection to politics.

Now for a provocative point: speaking about McVeigh, to what extent were his actions "caused" (probabilistically) by the US government's botched operations in Waco and Ruby Ridge? After all, McVeigh specifically referred to these as prompting his crimes.

Nowadays, such incidents are very unlikely, thanks to internal reform within US law enforcement; and we also see less right-wing political violence in the US. Coincidence?


The problem with BT's argument lies in the fact that deranged murderers may lie about their motivation or be mistaken about it. Breivik’s crimes may be an expression of a personality problem; namely inadequacy and a desire to excel as a hero of the Neo fascist kind. He is famous; he is the new Knights templar who will unleash rivers of Muslim blood. One in the eye for mum and dad and the Cultural Marxists of the Labour youth.

Were the actual crusaders mad? Or applying a logical system? What is madness? Can we define it? What is evil? Mr Hitler says in Mein Kampf that there can be compromise between practical men "but between philosophers never". Once you accept the premise that incompatible world views exist ( and or people ie THE JEW; THE MUSLIM etc ) and compromise between them is impossible and violence is thus inevitable the only question is, as Hitler would say, who will win? Its us and them. They must die or be enslaved ( living room in the east ). France must be destroyed or the french will destroy Germany. Wanting "peace" is treason. And Stalin will say the same about his policy. The counter revolutionary must receive workers justice there is no compromise possible with Capitalism and its agents. Neither view point is clearly wrong bearing in mind the historical events from which they stem. Extreme history justifies extreme theories.

There is a perpeptual conflict between a set of Liberal and humanitarian ideas and a set of tribal and anti humanitarian ideas stretching back for hundreds of years, indeed thousands. For the ethical tribalist it is the Cosmopolitan liberal socialist who is evil and deranged. When I hear people start to talk about culture says Goring " I reach for my revolver". Strike at once or the cultural marxist will entrap you in his system. Is Field marshal Goring mad; or sane and logical. Can you distinguish cause from effect; ideas from feeling? It all goes together in a stream of emotion and history all mixed up. Maybe he decided to hate the reds and then thought up reasons after. Like mr Breivik.

To me Breivik is a nasty little cunt; a mummies boy who feels arrogant superiority to the rest of humankind with no discernible objective justification. He wants to defend our civilisation from the evil Muslim like Hitler wanted to protect us from the JEW. But for these people civilisation always seem to involve murdering people they dislike. Mr. Breivik has a defective understanding of the concept of Civilisation.

But I suppose I must be a cultural marxist. Only my saviour Mr. Breivik can save me from myself by his heroic necessary political murder of teenagers. I am so grateful for his example rescuing me from my darkness!



if you have issues with Law enforcement in the US and you are a US citizen you can write to your Congress person and the President about it. You can petition the government for the redress of grievances ( 1st Amendment Bill of rights 1791 )but murdering public servants is an inappropriate response. And any citizen must agree that as the Congress can "lay, levy, and collect taxes, imposts and excises" Art 1 Sec 8. Failure to pay your excise tax on moonshine is unacceptable and the feds must collect the tax. All those Tea party idiots want their social security checks and how do they think the United States will pay them if no one pays their excise or other taxes? Or their Medicare bills when they need treatment?


Keith, I agree with your response to BT and your comments about Breivik's possible motivation.

However, I must strongly object to your statements about incompatible world views: The premise that "incompatible world views exist" is extremely strong and needs to be carefully justified if it is to be taken seriously. In my view, you haven't done so.

We should keep in mind that many political scientists would describe politics itself as involving the de-escalation and resolution of potentially violent conflicts, which is practically achieved through compromise, harm reduction, cultural mediation, etc. Indeed, some would say that ethics itself necessarily involves balancing "right versus right", as Rushworth Kidder argues (Immanuel Kant would probably agree here, since his moral philosophy was very much founded on balancing conflicting rights, or rather "principles of rational agency").

This may superficially seem like nothing more than a "liberal, leftist, humanitarian" ideology, which would be of limited interest to a tribalist, authoritarian conservative. Yet, a case could be made that it is in fact a factual property of human social organization, as reflected in real-world political systems.

Moreover, as Jane Jacobs, George Lakoff and Jonathan Haidt have independently shown, even ordinary conflicts between "left" and "right" can be understood as clashes of worldviews and ethical systems, which would seem to be wholly incompatible when considered on their own. Ultimately -- perhaps due to the helpful intervention of "practical men" -- compromise is routinely achieved, and even the most doctrinaire and authoritative views are integrated within the political debate.


Keith, It should go without saying that McVeigh's actions were quite "inappropriate"; after all, he was tried and convicted for his crimes, for which he received a death sentence. I'm not arguing that his or anyone else's actions were _justified_ in any sense; I'm merely exploring Chris's argument about causation of (ostensibly) political violence.


"Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot..."

Great murderers of social democrats, all three of these as well.

Reading "comments" like these on blogs, one would think that when Kerensky ran for his life to France after the October Revolution, it was himself he was running away from.


This man was crazy to begin with. His political beliefs just provide him with some scape goat to act upon his madness.

David Ellis

`The claim that there is some causality from Breivik’s beliefs to his crime rests upon a probabilistic notion of causality.'

Probablism is the scourge of science. Violence, all violence, is the continuation of politics by other means. If you want to understand any example whatsoever of violence then you must get to the politics behind it and answer questions like `is that man acting out his own politics or is he the instrument of somebody else's'. Being mad doesn't make you violent.

Leigh Caldwell

There is no need for a causal relationship in either direction. Do chickens cause eggs, or do eggs cause chickens? Neither - the chicken-egg ecosystem is an emergent phenomenon from a world under evolutionary pressure.

Despite how it sounds, this is the punchline to a joke about social scientists. It also does not mean we have to take the chicken-egg dialectic as it is given to us - we can intervene, co-opt it to make Nando's, or eliminate it with gradual work and domestication. Same with violent right-wing extremism.


some people already noted the more problematic parts of this post: you equates nazi-like xenophobes with conservatives. This is that social democrats and marxist terrorists are the same.

In any case, my critique is somewhere else. You do not consider whether people with particular brain structures (lone fanatics) may be more prone to internalize extremist xenophobic ideas. in this cases, it is not ideas that drive behaviour. Rather, brain structures select ideas justifying particular impetuses towards violence and hatred.

David Ellis

Didn't Engels say somewhere about propablism that what would people think about a scientist who said that a dog probably has four legs?


Small point: It doesn't rely on a probabilistic causality.

A deterministic causality with imperfect knowledge of all the causal factors, or imperfect computing power, or imperfect knowledge of physical law, would all do the trick (for example).

Side-rant: Which is the correct metaphysics of causality? Answer - they are all obviously bollocks. "Causality" is a convenient shorthand for highlighting bits of the world we are interested in for our mental counter-factual analysis. We tend to highlight discreet cognitively defined parts of it that we might have been able to change. So we focus on the gun, rather than the atmosphere surrounding the path of the bullet, for example. Causality doesn't perform any explanatory work in any system of metaphysics. From that perspective it is entirely unnecessary. It does not require that A causes B for B to always, in reality, follow B.)


Correction: It does not require that A causes B, for B to always, in reality, follow A.


I employed the incompatible world views argument in the way used by Hitler. As it is self evident for him no proof is needed. All of Mein Kampf is based on dogmatic assertion. Part of dogmatic systems is that no one can question their truth. The Nazi leader has discovered the secret to history in the unavoidable violent conflict of races and nations. All that remains is to expound the secret to Hess. If anyone does not like it they can have a bullet in the head.


Is this a failed attempt at an elaborate joke, or do you really mean it?

Stalin, Lenin, Pol-Pot, Hitler, Mao, the Kim dynasty, Guevara, Saddam Hussein… History's full of left-wing monsters.

One mad person, claiming (evidently in total confusion) to be on the right, while also claiming admiration for Castro and Ahmadinejad and proposing large scale social engineering and nationalisation of large corporations hardly changes the fact that if there is any causality between a political stance and inclination to murder, which probably isn't, it must be deeply rooted on the very left end of the political spectrum.

You can whine as much about it as you wish, but just get your history education straight. Ever since the French Revolution, the most heinous acts of violence were comitted by left-wing maniacs, always in the name of greater good. And yet there were enough non-murdering leftists to cast strong doubt on any possibility that being on the left makes you a murderer.

So. Kindly stop offending people just because you don't agree with them and do something about your education. If there's anything more likely to throw a person on the path of violence, it's the lack of emotional control and ingesting propaganda in place of one's own research.

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