San Bernardino shooters: Mental illness and terrorism

 False Dichotomy

Shall we end the false dichotomy in this country that mental illness and terrorist acts are somehow mutually contradictory? They aren’t. And while no group has claimed responsibility for the carnage, I’m just going to go ahead and say that mass slaughter of innocents is by definition terrorism, even if motives are murky and even if the shooters are clinically mentally ill.

Extremist religious and political groups often have front groups they use primarily as ways to recruit. The cause or belief of the front groups may be quite legit but that’s not the real purpose of the group. People are carefully selected from these groups by the mother group for further radicalization / conversion. Then, for those, the group becomes their life, with obedience to the leaders / precepts paramount. There does not have to be direct contact between the group and the converts for their meme of destruction to spread. Dylann Roof appeared to have no direct contact with white supremacist groups, yet he walked into the Charleston church and slaughtered black worshipers. The same type of process may have happened in San Bernardino too, recruitment by osmosis via the internet.

Marginal / mentally ill people are drawn to these groups because it explains / shuts up the voices in their heads. Such people are expendable cannon fodder, pawns in the game.

The killings were clearly planned in advance. The shooters were well-armed, worn body armor, and even had a phony pipe bomb which they threw at a police car pursuing them.

Earlier in the day, the suspects dropped off their 6-month-old daughter with Farook’s mother, saying they had a doctor’s appointment, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles.

Later, Farook attended the office party hosted by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, where he had once worked as an inspector, earning more than $71,000 in salary and benefits in 2013. Farook then left the gathering “under circumstances described as angry or something of that nature,” said Burguan, the police chief.

Police said Farook then returned with Malik and the pair opened fire on the crowd before fleeing.


  1. “by definition terrorism” doesn’t seem right to me.
    Terrorism, properly understood, has political goals.
    Mass murder at random isn’t terrorism,
    terrifying as it may be.
    The distinction is useful and important and
    should not be lost. ;-)))

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