Strozier’s The Fundamentalist Mindset exposes the logic of apocalyptic violence. If salvation only comes after the inevitable end of time then it is logical to help it along by violence that hastens total destruction. It is doing god’s work.
Fundamentalism is old. Crenshaw, in 2000, wrote of American apocalyptic violence: Ruby Ridge, Waco: where New World Order is seen as the creation of the Antichrist. The religious and the secular come together in Christian Identity polemics…scary stuff.
Atomic bombs are new. The bomb is now part of the collective psyche and can be used to generate polarizing attitudes. Atomic bombs are also part of our modern arsenal and combined with the paranoia and rage inherent in the fundamentalist mindset constitutes a new level of danger. Less embedded are images of Armageddon built upon chemical and biological agents of death. This will change as technology renders them more accessible and effective.
The apocalyptic narrative provides historical context, dualistic thinking, and violent imagery. Paranoia and rage are justified and directed. Terrorism can easily grow from this soil. Totalism and paranoid psychology characterize the followers; paranoia is common in the leaders.
Terman’s paranoid gestalt posits a framework with which to view the fundamentalist mindset. He built on Harry Stack Sullivan’s view of paranoia, humiliation, and low self-esteem as central to the manifestation of the mindset. These ideas are reflected in the writings of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda tracts such as Inspire magazine, the inflammatory speeches of Hezbollah’s Hasan Nasrallah, and American neo-Nazi publications.
Of the characteristics of fundamentalist thought, the paranoid element is, perhaps, the most worrying. It generates a pattern of thought that easily transforms fear into anger and then violence. Scholarly research has revealed paranoia to be a common characteristic of adolescent mass shooters.
Group dynamics magnify individual perceptions and lead easily to dehumanizing the ‘other’ on a global scale. Once attained, this insensitivity is a doorway to violence. Socialized images of the enemy as a race, religion, or political movement provide a focus for rage and a target for violence.
The fundamentalist mindset of the terrorists is mirrored in the societies under attack. Questions such as “What is there about Islam that makes for violence?” reveal a simplistic, fearful framing of a complex phenomenon. While only 320 million of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims live in the Middle East, the terrorism in and from that region generates the idea that Muslims, in general, are violent people. Muslims are lumped into a non-existent unity. The turmoil is assumed to be solely religious in nature. The desperate answer is seen in defensive, often preemptive violence.
We are wondering how we can generate more rational thought processes that accept the complexity of current violent movements so that we can bring about fuller understanding in the wider population (as well as the policy makers) and more efficacious solutions?
March 19, 2014 by Bruce Wallace, 121Contact