Most of us envision mass killers as stone cold nut jobs, like Cho Seung Hui, who carried out Monday’s Virginia Tech carnage. By all accounts, he was an angry, lonely person, obsessed with violent death. Small wonder that, given the means and the opportunity, he would act out his vengeful fantasies. The same held true for the Columbine killers, boys whom their school mates could easily see in the terrible executioner’s role they’d assigned themselves.
So many killers aren’t actually like that. If they were, more of us could see them coming and avoid them. In other words, like some snakes, their rattles would give them away.
Robert Spencer is concerned with another type of killer, the happy one who kills not because he is crazy or even angry, but because he is ideologically driven. As he points out in the opening paragraphs of his article about nice killers, many of these killers (or their money men) are described as really nice guys, people who are friendly and happy. Nevertheless, they kill, and they kill in staggering numbers. As often as not, their niceness can be ascribed to the fact that they view their killings as a good thing that they’re doing for the greater good of humanity, a humanity that will benefit from their fascist, totalitarian view of the ideal society:
It was the Nazi genocide mastermind Heinrich Himmler who told a group of SS leaders: “Most of you know what it means to see a hundred corpses lying together, five hundred, or a thousand. To have gone through this and yet — apart from a few exceptions, examples of human weakness — to have remained decent fellows, this is what has made us hard. This is a glorious page in our history that has never been written and shall never be written…”
Were these SS mass murderers really decent fellows? To their friends and family, they probably were. After all, they weren’t interested in undifferentiated mayhem. They were adherents of a totalitarian, genocidal ideology that convinced them that the murders they were committing were for a good purpose. As far as they were concerned, their goals were rational and good, and the murders were a means to that goal. It was not just a noteworthy achievement, but a necessity, for them to remain “decent fellows,” for they were busy trying to build what they saw as a decent society. That their vision of a decent society included genocide and torture did not trouble them, for it was all for – in their view – a goal that remained good.
Today’s jihad terrorists are likewise the adherents of a totalitarian, genocidal ideology that teaches them that murders committed under certain circumstances are a good thing. And those murders, here again, are not committed for their own sake, but for the sake of a societal vision hardly less draconian and evil than that of Hitler, but one also that portrays itself as the exponent of all that is good – as the Taliban showed us. But the continued reference to such people as “terrorists” pure and simple, and the refusal of the media and most law enforcement officials to examine their ideology at all, only reinforces the idea that these people are raving maniacs, interested solely in chaos for its own sake. The society they want to build, and the means besides guns and bombs that they are using to build it, so far remain below the radar screen of most analysts. These people are just “terrorists,” interested only in “terror.” And so we’re continually surprised when they turn out to be nice guys after all. Decent fellows. Like the SS.