A society where all feel at ease among the best defences against terrorism

While researching the Sept. 24 post Understanding narcissism vital to understanding politics, I came across a fascinating hour-long discussion of the topic by Jerrold Post, the founding director of the CIA’s Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior, and subsequently added a link to it as an addendum.

Post’s insights led me to search the public library catalog for any books written by him. Indeed, one of his books was available: The Mind of the Terrorist — The Psychology of Terrorism from the IRA to Al-Qaeda.*

And what a timely read that turned out to be, as the book ended up being my commuter reading during the same week that major terrorist attacks took place in Beirut and Paris.

As I write this, French police are seeking a suspect who is a Belgian-born French citizen; and one of the attackers on the Bataclan concert venue is said to have been born and raised in Paris as the son of an Algerian father and a Portuguese mother.

Anyone who has read Post’s book will be unsurprised by the prospect that the Paris attacks might have been largely planned and carried out by people born and raised in western Europe, who went on to murder their own compatriots. Post writes on page 225:

“Throughout Europe, there is an increased radicalization and recruitment of terrorists from second- and third-generation emigres to the global Salafi jihad, with estimates reaching as high as 87 percent of the new recruits coming from the diaspora. Although most Muslim immigrants and refugees are not stateless, many suffer from an existential sense of loss, deprivation, and alienation from the countries where they live. Their families had emigrated to Western Europe to seek a better life, but they and their offspring had not been integrated within the recipient society. They are then exposed to extreme ideologies that increasingly radicalize them and can foster entering the path of terrorism.”

Feeling “excluded and alienated” from “the rigid European social structure”, Post goes on to note that even those who were “[n]ot particularly religious . . . drifted back to the mosque to find companionship, acceptance, and a sense of meaning and significance. This in turn made them vulnerable to extremist religious leaders and their radicalization…”

Post offers valuable insights here, based on many years of experience in studying terrorism. There is a risk in Canada and elsewhere that dramatic terrorist attacks, such as Friday’s slaughter in Paris, will lead some people to lash out at Muslims and failed-state refugees generally, despite the fact that terrorists “do not appear to come predominantly or even significantly from failed states,” as a 2007 study by two researchers at the U.S. Department of Defense Naval Postgraduate School noted.

Such lashing out would be as counterproductive as has always been the case whenever a denial of “companionship, acceptance, and a sense of meaning and significance” in the wider community pushes people toward radicalism.

“It is only when youth begin to be hopeful about their future and fully participate in their societies that we will see the plague of terrorism decline,” Post writes in the book’s final words. “And that will take a comprehensive program sustained over decades to alter these deep-seated attitudes, for when hatred is bred in the bone, it does not easily yield.”

Canada’s safety from terrorism can be more easily secured by being that society of hopefulness for the future and full membership for all, regardless of religion or ethnicity, which Post describes.


* Call numbers 363.325019 POS 2007 or HV6431 P669 2007, depending on which system your library uses.

See also Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Joann Sfar’s magnificent response to Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris: “Ceux qui aiment. Ceux qui aiment la vie. À la fin, c’est toujours eux qui gagnent.” (“Those who love. Those who love life. In the end, it is always them who win.”)


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

3 Responses to A society where all feel at ease among the best defences against terrorism

  1. I like the line of argument you’re making — a further example of the thoughtfulness I’ve come to expect from your blog.

    Following up on your argument, one of the hopeful thoughts we need to keep in mind is that violence fed by an irrational ideology is ultimately self-limiting. Even Hitler, whose assault on the world makes ISIS look like pipsqueaks, sowed the seeds of his own destruction when he invaded the Soviet Union.

    That’s not saying we shouldn’t defend ourselves, only that we shouldn’t overreact.

    Chris Leo

  2. theviewfromseven says:

    Thank you!

  3. TRex says:

    I’ve not read Post’s books and don’t doubt his authority but I could only get through 40 minutes of that video before bailing. Perhaps he should have had an espresso or two before he started.
    I do however agree with the observation that, “It is only when youth begin to be hopeful about their future and fully participate in their societies that we will see the plague of terrorism decline.” But surely that is not the whole of it. What of the original culture and the religion which the family will try to keep alive by preventing assimilation or integration into the host country? What does being part of a male dominated medieval minded society have to play?
    While I think that The West & Europe need to own up to the part they have played in destroying the balance in these countries lets not forget the part that the native religions play and the way these are used by regional governments like Saudi Arabia, arguably the greatest sponsor of terrorism currently at play!
    There is plenty of blame to go around but if a young person cannot see how their life can improve by being out of harms way and in a setting that allows them to make choices and be responsible for the outcome then they are pretty much a danger to themselves and others where ever they are.
    Regardless refugees and migrants should not be assumed to be terrorists as the evidence does not back that up regardless what the narcissistic self-serving pols think. Canada needs to walk on a road of it’s own making and not follow the knee jerk foolishness currently in vogue. And I think our society can do this.

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