‘NYT’ equates Palestinian suicide-bombers to CT school-killer

on 74 Comments
Today the New York Times published an opinion piece, “What Drives Suicidal Mass Killers?” that links Palestinians to the Newtown, CT, school massacre of last Friday. Writer Adam Lankford concludes:
I can’t help but wonder about [US school shooters] Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Seung-Hui Cho and Adam Lanza. If they had been born in Gaza or the West Bank, shaped by terrorist organizations’ hateful propaganda, would they have strapped bombs around their waists and blown themselves up? I’m afraid the answer is yes.
Lankford is an assistant professor of criminal justice with  no apparent knowledge regarding any bad behavior by Israel or the US, has investigated the motives of terrorists by reading and watching interviews conducted by others.  From this he has concluded that  suicide terrorism directed against the US or Israel is motivated by mental illness, with the assistance of hateful propaganda and a set of imaginary grievances which the terrorist uses to justify his or her actions.    
Someone at the New York Times actually thought it was appropriate to publish someone who uses the murder of the Connecticut school kids as another propaganda point in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and to defend US foreign policy.  
Scott Atran, who has done real research on terrorism, has reached different conclusions–
Read through that and you’ll notice that in some famous suicide terrorist cases, the participants were friends from similar backgrounds or  the same village or even the same soccer team.  They joined terrorist organizations out of a misplaced sense of glory and duty.  It doesn’t sound like Adam Lanza at all, who didn’t seem to have friends and who shot his own mother.   
Other articles by Atran–
If the New York Times wants to publish articles or opinion pieces on the psychology of terrorists, would it be too much to ask that the writers be required to give detailed backing for their views, rather than simply making grand claims about their research that by some amazing coincidence line up perfectly with the political interests of one side in a conflict?  
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74 Responses

  1. Donald
    December 18, 2012, 12:30 pm

    I only see typos after a message is sent or a post is put up. Sigh. Lankford, WHO is an assistant professor…

    • Inanna
      December 18, 2012, 7:20 pm

      Thanks Donald. The bit I loved in the article was:

      which contradicts what many psychologists and political scientists have long asserted.

      By watching a few videos, this guy has diagnosed the mental illness of these people and singlehandedly contradicted years of research by other academics and researchers who happen to be experts in the field and with little substantiation except his own eyeballs and eardrums. That’s just epic fail.

      Normally we psycho-pathologize white violence by claiming that its the product of mental illness but essentialize Palestinian/Arab/Muslim violence by claiming there is something inherent/essential in Palestinian-ness/Arab-ness and Islam that is inherently violent (and thus being blind to the fact that Palestinians face injustice and oppression that lead some to engage in violent resistance against it). But this author has managed to synthesize the psycho-pathology argument with the essentialist argument re: Palestinian violence, implying Palestinians are both inherently violent and mentally ill. Apparently, as a Palestinian, you have to be mentally ill to believe that you are being victimised, that you have grievances, that you are terribly mistreated and want to resist your mistreatment. Do you hear that Palestinians? It’s all in your brain. What a grade A wanker.

      • Donald
        December 19, 2012, 2:08 pm

        Yeah. Down below “American” mentioned the Japanese kamikaze pilots.
        Were they insane? I don’t think anyone claims they were–they were instead people who thought they were sacrificing their lives to save their country. The suicide aspect of suicide terrorism is probably seen by the terrorist as a glorious self-sacrifice. They think they are soldiers fighting and dying for their cause.

        As for the killing of civilians, in practice people in wartime tend to be about as moral as they think they can afford to be–if they think they can only fight and win by killing civilians or if they think that killing the other side’s civilians will reduce their own casualties dramatically with no other cost, they may very well do it. Americans of all people should know that. It’s ugly, but it’s our own history. Does Lankford think that the Americans who favored the bombing of civilian populations in WWII were all mentally ill? He’d presumably say no, because they didn’t kill themselves in the process. But then the attribution of mental illness comes down to two things–

        1. Lankford believes Palestinians have no rational basis for fighting a war. (Once you acknowledge there is a basis, then it’s simply a fact that people who fight wars often commit atrocities and think they are right to do so.) Lankford seems to think this and if so, he’s a jerk.
        2. Lankford thinks people who go on suicide missions are insane. So does this apply to the Spartans at Thermopylae, the Texans at the Alamo, and the kamikaze pilots or any other group which fights to the death when they had an option to escape or surrender? The Japanese rarely surrendered on the various Pacific islands when the US Marines took them. So were they all crazy? (I’m not equating the various causes here, though in fact I don’t think the Texans had a particularly good cause.)

      • lysias
        December 19, 2012, 3:28 pm

        As a veteran of the U.S. Navy in the Cold War era, I’ve always been puzzled by the way my predecessors of the World War Two era demonized the kamikaze pilots. I’ve always thought those pilots were extremely brave.

      • lysias
        December 19, 2012, 3:29 pm

        Also implies the Jewish diehard fighters at Masada were crazy.

      • marc b.
        December 19, 2012, 5:15 pm

        the Japanese kamikaze pilots.
        Were they insane?

        and bringing the analogy around to us white folk, the brits still can’t help getting misty-eyed over the memory of sending the cream of their youth to near-certain death in the skies over ‘the battle of britian’. the casualty rates for many fighter squadrons was 50%-plus. worse than russian roulette.

    • Hostage
      December 18, 2012, 9:03 pm

      Re: If they had been born in Gaza or the West Bank, shaped by terrorist organizations’ hateful propaganda, would they have strapped bombs around their waists and blown themselves up? I’m afraid the answer is yes.

      “In Blow to U.S., U.N. Heightens Status of Palestine”, Ethan Bronner and Christine Hauser, NY Times, 30 November 2012, page 1, the authors noted that the U.S. was already considering the possibility of cutting off foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority if it tries to “use the International Criminal Court against Israel.”

      If Lankford had been born in Gaza, he might have grown-up to be an assistant professor of criminal justice who had something relevant and timely to say about the situation described by Bonner and Hauser. Instead, he is writing Op-Eds about amateur psychoanalysis. We desperately need an expert in “criminal justice” to explain when we abandoned “Truth, Justice and the American Way” and the belief in “liberty and justice for all” in favor of preventing the Palestinians from having their day in court ?

      The Palestinians are the victims of a society that chooses to deny them any conventional means of self-defense, while heavily arming and subsidizing another country that has placed them under an illegal colonial siege and military occupation. At one and the same time, our society adds insult to injury by obstructing the courts which are mandated to help deter crimes of the greatest concern to the international community as a whole – and by threatening to punish the Palestinians when they seek non-violent legal solutions through legitimate use of the courts.

  2. gracie fr
    December 18, 2012, 12:40 pm

    A university professor? What kind of clap trap has he been reading that influenced him to write such a despicable thing…..?????

  3. Bill in Maryland
    December 18, 2012, 12:42 pm

    Thank you Donald.
    Another actual scholar who has studied suicide bombers extensively worldwide, Robert A. Pape of the University of Chicago, has identified a common denominator: foreign military occupations.

  4. MHughes976
    December 18, 2012, 12:49 pm

    Like causes, like effects. If someone in Gaza had existed with the same cast of mind he would surely have done the same thing, ie massacre children of his own community, acting purely by himself and on his own fantasies. He wouldn’t have allowed himself to be put under the control of an organisation, even a terrorist one. We might notice that Gaza does not seem to generate such people – we in the West are not so outstanding morally as we like to think.

  5. Les
    December 18, 2012, 12:49 pm

    The Times knew perfectly well what it was doing when it donated its valuable space for this particular piece of the usual propaganda.

  6. LanceThruster
    December 18, 2012, 12:52 pm

    And here I was going to be so bold as to compare the wholesale slaughter of Palestinian children on a regular basis to the recent carnage at Sandy Hook.

    The parents of Gaza might actually be relieved if the death toll for their own children was not in the triple digits or higher.

  7. eljay
    December 18, 2012, 12:52 pm

    It is tempting to look back at recent history and wonder what’s wrong with America — our culture and our policies. But underneath the pain, the rage and the desire to die, rampage shooters like Mr. Lanza are remarkably similar to aberrant mass killers — including suicide terrorists — in other countries. The difference rests in how they are shaped by cultural forces and which destructive behaviors they seek to copy. The United States has had more than its share of rampage shootings, but only a few suicide attacks. Other countries are regularly plagued by suicidal explosions, but rarely experience a school shooting.

    I can’t help but wonder about Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Seung-Hui Cho and Adam Lanza. If they had been born in Gaza or the West Bank, shaped by terrorist organizations’ hateful propaganda, would they have strapped bombs around their waists and blown themselves up? I’m afraid the answer is yes.

    And the point is…what, that Hamas should strive to culturally shape Palestinians to “only” engage in school shootings instead of suicidal explosions?

    Mr. Lankford shouldn’t quit his day job. Then again, perhaps he should.

    • LanceThruster
      December 21, 2012, 6:29 pm

      Mr. Lankford shouldn’t quit his day job. Then again, perhaps he should.


      We all understand this is not a funny subject to be sure…but that is a funny line.

  8. irmep
    December 18, 2012, 1:21 pm

    PRI’s NPR syndicated “the World” tried the same line yesterday—bring in Israeli “experts” and conflate Palestinian resistance with the school shooting. People who commented largely didn’t buy the attempt.


    • Reds
      December 19, 2012, 8:19 am


      I really like PRI

    • Reds
      December 19, 2012, 8:21 am

      What was interestingly not reported in MSM was rallies in Pakistan empathizing with Americans on the shooting.

      • LanceThruster
        December 26, 2012, 2:23 pm

        How unsurprising.

        That might have actually ascribed some simple humanity to the Pakistanis…and that wouldn’t fit the narrative.

  9. yourstruly
    December 18, 2012, 1:31 pm

    and the men & women who guide drones on their missions of death, does the nyt equate them with the ct school killer?

    • Mooser
      December 19, 2012, 11:09 am

      “and the men & women who guide drones on their missions of death, does the nyt equate them with the ct school killer?”

      See what happens when they don’t get into the service quick enough? No doubt, phony ‘privacy issues’ invented by “leftist” professors(pace J. Otto Pohl) keeps well-meaning recruitment officers from accessing childhood psychology reports of aberrant behavior which can be used to identify ideal candidates. And then something like this happens. So sad. And when you think of the likelihood of suicide after discharge, well it could have been a real win-win for the service.

      If only he had had gun-safety classes! So sad. Without safety classes, a shooter runs at a real risk of injuring themselves.

  10. CitizenC
    December 18, 2012, 1:37 pm

    Here’s another critique of Lank from Robert Pape of Univ of Chicago, from last year

    “The overwhelming picture that emerges is that foreign occupation is the main cause of suicide terrorism, accounting for over 95 percent of the thousands of attacks since 1980.”


    • Donald
      December 18, 2012, 11:50 pm

      Atran (the expert I cited) disagrees with Pape to some extent–somewhere in his articles he argues that resistance to foreign occupation doesn’t explain as much terrorism as Pape asserts, though I don’t know remember if he argues this in the links I provided. But Pape’s explanation obviously applies to the I/P conflict.

  11. seafoid
    December 18, 2012, 2:24 pm

    Blumenthal says Mrs Lanza had issues


    BTW slurring the Palestinians is very 2003.

    Jews should be ashamed of Gaza.

  12. David Samel
    December 18, 2012, 2:44 pm

    Thanks Donald. Lankford’s screed is utterly implausible and highly offensive on its face, and it’s nice to see some professional rebuttal of such nonsense. The obvious political agenda of the author should have alerted the Times to the need to vet his supposed expertise. The problem is not so much Lankford’s ugly opinions. It’s more that he presents these opinions as the product of pseudo- academic research conducted by a university professor.

    • Donald
      December 18, 2012, 11:55 pm

      The post above was originally something I sent (in slightly shorter form) to the NYT public editor this morning, but her assistant said that opinion pieces were just opinion, so he suggested I write a letter to the editor. I told him the chances of it being published were somewhere between zero and infinitesimal. I agree with you that there should be some minimal standard applied to opinion pieces. Besides, even apart from the I/P conflict, the line between opinion and fact is not that clearcut in the NYT. On some issues you learn more from, say, Paul Krugman’s columns than from the news articles and the news articles often contain all sorts of bias.

  13. Abdul-Rahman
    December 18, 2012, 2:54 pm

    For some reason after reading this article here I was reminded of some Israeli academic (that I remember seeing on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show program some years back) that had put out some book seriously trying to claim the reason for Palestinian suicide bombers wasn’t because of the occupation and repression of the Zionists against Palestinians but was actually supposedly just because of “sexual repression of Palestinian men” or some such absurd claim.

    I remember even Jon Stewart was like (when interviewing this character) “but what about the occupation and the conflict? Don’t you think that is the driving force behind the bombers?” and with a straight face this “academic” (have to put quotes around that term for this person, whose name I can’t recall off hand) responded to Jon Stewart saying something to the effect of “No that is just an ‘excuse’, the truth is they are just ‘sexually repressed’ in their society and so the men simply want to go to heaven to get virgins” or some such ridiculous claim.

  14. marc b.
    December 18, 2012, 2:54 pm

    good work donald. i could only just skim the links but will read them in full later.

    your post made me think of a recent article that i read in der spiegel:


    perhaps the newtown massacre is more reasonably linked to an ideology that treats troublesome humans as collections of data to be ‘managed’, as in this description in a day in the life of a drone ‘pilot’.

    There was a flat-roofed house made of mud, with a shed used to hold goats in the crosshairs, as Bryant recalls. When he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser. The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact.

    “These moments are like in slow motion,” he says today. Images taken with an infrared camera attached to the drone appeared on his monitor, transmitted by satellite, with a two-to-five-second time delay.

    With seven seconds left to go, there was no one to be seen on the ground. Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point. Then it was down to three seconds. Bryant felt as if he had to count each individual pixel on the monitor. Suddenly a child walked around the corner, he says.

    Second zero was the moment in which Bryant’s digital world collided with the real one in a village between Baghlan and Mazar-e-Sharif.

    Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building collapsed. The child had disappeared. Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach.

    “Did we just kill a kid?” he asked the man sitting next to him.

    “Yeah, I guess that was a kid,” the pilot replied.

    “Was that a kid?” they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.

    Then, someone they didn’t know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. “No. That was a dog,” the person wrote.

    i had read somewhere a long time ago about the connection made between ‘taylorism’ (a system of managed mechanized industry, that slices the work day into second-long intervals, and measures ‘waste’, in part, in the number of limbs lost on the production floor) and the modern american serial killer. i don’t know that there is a direct relationship, or even if such a relationship is subject to proof, but it is curious that the messes we make are always somone else’s fault.

    • seafoid
      December 18, 2012, 10:24 pm

      The American and Israeli elites share the same contempt for the victims of their systems.


      “The people who operate the drones, Rolling Stone magazine reports, describe their casualties as “bug splats”, “since viewing the body through a grainy-green video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed”. Or they are reduced to vegetation: justifying the drone war, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser Bruce Riedel explained that “you’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back”.

      In October the Democratic cheerleader Joe Klein claimed on MSNBC that “the bottom line in the end is whose four-year-old gets killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that four-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror”. ”

      Maybe the US will get away with it. Israel won’t.

      The people cry out
      Tears of anger
      Tears of sorrow
      Giving birth to resistance
      Young ones
      To remember struggle
      For the people cry out
      Tears of happiness
      Tears of joy
      Washing the pain
      Cleaning the spirit
      Giving strength
      The generations
      Remembering the past
      To rebuild the future
      For weeping is
      Another way of laughing
      And resisting and
      Outlasting the enemy

    • Antidote
      December 18, 2012, 10:56 pm

      see also:

      Outdated National Identity

      America is mourning, weeping, and praying. People are speaking of fate, tragedy, and the devil. But this was no uncontrollable natural disaster that befell the US, as has so often happened in its past. It is once again the unavoidable result of a national culture that isn’t just embraced by the easily dismissed fringe. It is also embraced by nice, harmless people like Mrs. Lanza, who had a military-grade assault rifle in her closet.

      Once again, the United States is debating its gun laws, even if the discussion is likely to be short and inconclusive. But the real thing that must change (though it hardly will), is the misunderstanding that America’s formative myth of “freedom” allows for weapons to be as widespread as smart phones.
      “I came to realize that, in essence, this is the way we in America want things to be,” writes Gregory Gibson, whose son Galen was killed in a 1992 shooting rampage, in a sad essay for The New York Times.

      Why? Because guns have long been a part of America’s national identity. This may have been appropriate in times when colonial powers, the frontier and the myth of the evil central state still threatened the people. Since then, however, it has become fatally counterproductive, regardless of the Second Amendment’s guarantee of “the right to keep and bear arms.”

      Today the gun seems like a relic from an era that will soon have slipped away. But the faster it disintegrates, the more desperately people reach for the relic. That’s likely what then Presidential candidate Barack Obama meant in 2008 when he described the existential fears of mainly white working class voters, who he said “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

      An Empty Catchphrase

      It was an unfortunate, misunderstood formulation, though one that is still quite apt. America remains mired in a deep upheaval that has unsettled many. The “American Dream” of the country’s former days is now just an empty catchphrase abused most prominently during election campaigns. The uneasiness felt by many was exposed by the recession that destroyed the illusion that prosperity was available to all. And it was revealed by Obama’s re-election, the result of a new America in which the majority will soon be in the minority.

      Self-assertion through armed force: This is the increasingly attractive fantasy adhered to by both sides — both among perpetrators and among those who see themselves as potential victims. After every shooting rampage, a chorus of voices reliably invoke the argument that the crime may have been prevented had only everyone been allowed to carry a weapon.

      No, not stricter, but more lenient laws would have prevented the Newtown massacre, Republicans say. It can mean the “difference between life and death for innocent bystanders,” said the spokesperson for Michigan House of Representative speaker Jase Bolger regarding a law just passed in the state that would make carrying concealed weapons in schools easier….


  15. tokyobk
    December 18, 2012, 3:34 pm

    Have you ever seen or read an interview with Ahlam Tamimi?

    • seafoid
      December 18, 2012, 10:28 pm

      Have you ever had your home vaporised by a Gazan drone ?

    • Donald
      December 19, 2012, 12:16 am

      I didn’t recognize the name, but when I looked at the wikipedia article it sounded familiar. Assuming the Memri translations there are correct, her attitudes are pretty bonechilling. What do you want me to say? I think her attitudes (again assuming the translation is correct) are horrifying, but and yes, there’s a “but” here, it’s not surprising that some people react to dehumanizing situations with hatred for their oppressor. As somone who’s read a little bit of American history I’m familiar with similar reactions here. Relations between white settlers and Native Americans weren’t pretty and they included some pretty gruesome deaths for children on both sides.

      I don’t support terrorism–I think it’s wrong morally and pragmatically. (Though to be honest, sometimes governments and groups can win victories with war crimes and/or terrorist actions. But it’s not likely to work for the Palestinians.) My objection in this post is to a fatuous idiot who said this–

      “It is tempting to look back at recent history and wonder what’s wrong with America — our culture and our policies. But underneath the pain, the rage and the desire to die, rampage shooters like Mr. Lanza are remarkably similar to aberrant mass killers — including suicide terrorists — in other countries. “

    • Mooser
      December 19, 2012, 11:14 am

      “Have you ever seen or read an interview with Ahlam Tamimi?”

      Have you ever seen or read an interview with Ahlam Tamimi Zionists?

      Tokyobk, the idea that the Zionists were just minding God’s or their own business in Palestine and were set upon by Palestinians is gonna be a hard sell around here, no matter how much you oil it up and try to slip it to us when we’re not looking.
      And even if you do, it won’t change the reality one damn bit. So go “fine-tune the past”.

      I realise most commenter politely pass over your comments, in a laudable desire not to embarrass, but don’t expect that from me. They scream “not-a-Zionist”.

      • marc b.
        December 19, 2012, 5:02 pm

        don’t be so hard on BK, mooser. (i could go for a whopper with cheese right about now. is he working the drive-up? uh, no, no thanks, medium fries will do.) tamini is, after all, the elected representative of ‘muslims’, and she won in a landslide.

  16. DICKERSON3870
    December 18, 2012, 3:57 pm

    RE: “Today the New York Times* published an opinion piece, ‘What Drives Suicidal Mass Killers?’ that links Palestinians to the Newtown, CT, school massacre of last Friday. . . Scott Atran, who has done real research on terrorism, has reached different conclusions . . . ~ Donald Johnson

    MY COMMENT: “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but facts will never sway us!” ~ NYT/Neocon Creed

    * P.S. This is not your grandfather’s New York Times! ! !

  17. DICKERSON3870
    December 18, 2012, 4:04 pm

    RE: “Today the New York Times published an opinion piece, ‘What Drives Suicidal Mass Killers?’ that links Palestinians to the Newtown, CT, school massacre of last Friday. . . Scott Atran, who has done real research on terrorism, has reached different conclusions . . . ~ Donald Johnson

    • “So?” says Dick Cheney [VIDEO, 00:51] – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmotR-xL9Hw

    DONALD RUMSFELD SEZ: “Stuff happens and it’s untidy, and freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.”
    • “Stuff Happens!” – Rumsfeld on looting after fall of Baghdad [VIDEO, 00:27] – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RY9l73Yo9Pw

    • Donald
      December 18, 2012, 11:47 pm

      Thanks for the link. Phil suggested I use the Goldstein example in my piece, but I didn’t want to for several reasons. One is that I don’t know much about Goldstein. He might have been mentally ill, or he might just have been a “normal” fanatic. Second, I don’t like to compare Palestinian terrorism with the terrorist acts of Israeli extremists. Both are immoral, but the Palestinians have legitimate grievances and the settlers don’t. Also, it lets mainstream Israeli society off the hook, because they are glad to condemn Goldstein, but the IDF and Israeli government policies do far more harm than any individual fanatic like Goldstein could. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen pseudo-liberal Zionists argue something like this–‘The Israeli mainstream condemned Goldstein’s act, but the Palestinians elected the terrorist organization Hamas, so support for terror is mainstream with them’.
      I reject that for the reason I gave above.

  18. pipistro
    December 18, 2012, 5:38 pm

    “…he has concluded that suicide terrorism directed against the US or Israel is motivated by mental illness.”
    I can’t imagine two facts more distant between them than the I/P conflict (actions, reactions, retaliations, suicide bombers and stuff) and the Newton school massacre. For sure I’m not any assistant professor of criminal law, at present, but the article legitimates the suspect that someone in the NYT could have suggested to insert Palestinians into some bloody news, whatsoever, as a subliminal message. More dangerous than the usual Israelist tirade.

  19. flyod
    December 18, 2012, 5:43 pm

    lankford should take note that 3 of the 4 shooters were born in the good old usa which is more than ample reason for their mayhem. perhaps he could have speculated; “what if they had been born in israel?” closer to the truth i’d think
    lankford is a sick joke and i knew better then to read that op ed this am but thanks for the post.
    regardless, tragic, as are the murders of innocents anywhere

  20. American
    December 18, 2012, 5:52 pm

    From what I have found on Lankford Donald, …..he ‘s the TV Dr. Phil pop psychologist and hack author of books on terriers and killers. All he does evidently is churn out books on any current event that has some violence in it or will sell, his latest was on the Seals who got OBL. My guess is he was paid or it was suggested he suggest in his op piece that Palestines are crazy killers like Adam Lanza….nothing new, the zio have been buying reporters and writers for 60 years….see the 1963 Fulbright Senate Hearings on their infiltration of US publishing, media and etc.. this is why I said before you have to be careful who you read, the publishing world these days mostly produces hustlers turning out shoddy crap.
    But you’re not the only one that finds the NYT piece odd.


    Shorter Times Op-Ed: Adam Lanza Resembles Palestinians
    By Scott McConnell • December 18, 2012, 3:17 PM

    Curious op-ed piece in the Times today by Adam Lankford, an assistant professor from Alabama who claims that his examination of ”interviews, case studies and suicide notes” indicates that “rampage shooters” like Adam Lanza are “remarkably similar to aberrant mass killers–including suicide terrorists–in other countries.” He concludes that Lanza and the Virginia Tech and Columbine shooters–had they been born in Gaza and the West Bank and “shaped by terrorist organizations’ hateful propaganda”–would have become suicide bombers.
    Really who knows. Lankford’s speculations contradict the far more systematic and detailed suicide terrorism study conducted by Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, which examined the case histories of 2200 instances of suicide terrorism and concluded that the overwhelming majority are in response to foreign military occupation. Pape and his co-author James Feldman demonstrated that suicide bombings were not particularly a Muslim phenomenon. Mental illness did not come up as an important causal factor.
    One rampage shooting Adam Lankford failed to mention in his Times piece was that of Dr. Baruch Goldstein, the American born physician who perpetrated the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in Hebron in 1994, killing 29 Muslim worshippers and wouding 125. Goldstein’s massacre shattered the optimism surrounding the Oslo peace process and preceded by several years the wave of anti-Israeli suicide bombings orchestrated by Hamas. Israeli settlers in Jerusalem still sing songs eulogizing Dr. Goldstein.
    One might have thought that since Goldstein was protected by the Israeli occupation forces and not subject to a foreign military occupation, he might be a good candidate for a theory linking mental illness and rampage shootings. But of course the Goldstein case wouldn’t fit easily into a narrative linking Adam Lanza to the “hateful propaganda” in Gaza and the West Bank.

  21. MRW
    December 18, 2012, 7:41 pm

    Israel is the Land of Lanzas. It’s what these killers do to others that count, not to themselves. Just count the number of children massacred by Israel in the last four years.

    • Mooser
      December 19, 2012, 11:20 am

      “Israel is the Land of Lanzas.”

      MRW, haven’t you beed reading the comments telling us there arte lots of nice people in Israel? What about them? Don’t you care about them?
      Well, I care about those nice people in Israel, and I think it may not be a crime, but it’s certainly a shondah that they serve as hostages and human shields for the rest.

      • yourstruly
        December 20, 2012, 3:44 pm

        hostages and shields for the rest – especially so, when considering the fact that to free themselves all they need do is support universal human rights – for palestinians as for all people.

  22. yourstruly
    December 18, 2012, 7:48 pm

    they joined so-called terrorist organizations out of a misplaced sense of glory and duty?

    misplaced, because of what?

    tyranny, down through the ages

    the fact that they always side with the slaveholder

    never with the slave

    left out?

    by design –

    the “amazing coincidence their research lines up perfectly well with the political
    interests of one side or another.”

    proving that as presented to the multitudes the world is upside-down

    turning it right side up?

    everyone has to be aboard


    like right now –

    modern day slaveholders vs modern day slaves

    with the latter facing accusations of being lazy, worthless, insane or demented

    yet up to now said accusations have been made to stick, by hook or crook.

    meanwhile, the powers that be?

    stay on top


    • Donald
      December 19, 2012, 12:00 am

      On “misplaced sense of glory and duty”, the context here is that Lankford is equating the motives of Adam Lanza with the motives of terrorists overseas. I think the killing of civilians is wrong, but it’s absurd to claim that Palestinian suicide bombers are all a bunch of mentally ill people driven to commit murder by evil propagandists who fill their heads with hatred and imaginary grievances.

      • yourstruly
        December 19, 2012, 1:38 am


        not a misplaced sense of glory & duty but the effect of tyranny

        down through the ages

      • American
        December 19, 2012, 11:06 am

        Lankford would have to claim that the ancient Romans who committed suicide “to reclaim their honor” after some failing, and the Japanese suicide bombers of WWII were also like Lanza.
        If Palestine suicide bombers are similar to anyone it would be the Japanese suicide bombers….the idea of killing the ‘enemy’ with your life…..the main motivators in that being, the ‘enemy’ and the ’cause’ and death as ‘honor’ in that cause.
        There is no one explanation, such as being raised in a culture of hate as Lankford suggest, for why people resort to suicide killing.
        I can’t even believe this trend or whatever it is, in so called experts to try and claim a ‘one size fits all’ explanation for everything….it’s plain dumb.

  23. Antidote
    December 18, 2012, 8:02 pm

    “If they had been born in Gaza or the West Bank, shaped by terrorist organizations’ hateful propaganda, would they have strapped bombs around their waists and blown themselves up? I’m afraid the answer is yes.”


    What if they had (as they were) been born in the US “shaped by terrorist organizations hateful propaganda”? I hear Obama’s approval ratings have shot (pun intended) up and beyond his high approval ratings after the OBL assassination, also known as Operation Geronimo. Go figure.

    Somehow it only matters if the worship of violence hits home and kills American children.

    • seafoid
      December 18, 2012, 10:38 pm

      Alan Moore- the decline of English murder

      • Antidote
        December 22, 2012, 9:07 am

        decline as in “little Eichmanns”?

  24. yourstruly
    December 18, 2012, 8:19 pm

    the modern slave?

    as always up to now, others control her/his destiny

    free will?

    for the slaveowner only

    power & wealth?

    the slaveowner’s faith

    the you are i, i am you, we are one?

    for the slave, how s/he survives

    justice for palestine?

    a new age begins

    • yourstruly
      December 18, 2012, 10:44 pm


      …the slave’s faith

      the you are i, i am you, we are one….

  25. Klaus Bloemker
    December 18, 2012, 9:13 pm

    “If they [US school shooters] had been born in Gaza … would they have strapped bombs around their waists and blown themselves up? I’m afraid the answer is yes.”
    To disprove this assumption/analogy, one just has to turn it around:

    If these Palestinian suicide bombers had been sent to Connecticut as kids and had they grown up there – would they have become US school shooters?
    – I’m afraid the answer is NO.

  26. Kathleen
    December 18, 2012, 10:00 pm

    As if years of oppression and humiliation, stealing of Palestinian land, killing their relatives, humiliating them every day, destroying their olive trees, creating prisons for them to live in would not drive anyone to blow themselves up to take out a few of the individuals who represent the government that is systematically oppressing and killing them.

    At a protest supporting more serious gun legislation the other day a fellow who has been to the Gaza and West Bank numerous times leaned over to me and said that PM Netanyahu had called President Obama and expressed his deep condolences over the killing of all of those innocent school children in Conn and said “who would do such a thing”…uuuh Israel

  27. Cliff
    December 19, 2012, 3:14 am

    Lankford has written a book about the thesis he proposes in the Times:


  28. Cliff
    December 19, 2012, 3:15 am

    Here is his contact info:


    Phil and Adam should invite him to debate here.

  29. talknic
    December 19, 2012, 3:17 am

    What a moronic piece of crapolla

    Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Seung-Hui Cho and Adam Lanza weren’t dispossessed, occupied, weren’t confined to a war zone twice in the last 4 years as someone demolished their neighbourhood with some of the finest hi tech human slaughtering equipment in the world.

    The author, for want of a better word, starts from a faulty premise, then proceeds to build a straw man that has already fallen over.

    It’s remarkable that articles with the crappiest propaganda to falling out of the holey Hasbara have no comments section. Perhaps because their nonsense is so easily refuted they don’t dare allow people a chance to tug at the loose ends as the Hasbara unravels oh so easily

    Slightly off topic, but an example of Israel deceit regarding its allegedly never declared borders :
    Report to the Provisional Government of Israel by Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Ben-Gurion 3 Jun 1948

    “The entire expanse of the State of Israel allocated to us under the terms of the UN resolution is in our hands, and we have conquered several important districts outside those boundaries.”

    “To the greatest possible extent, we will remain constantly on the offensive, which will not be confined to the borders of the Jewish State.”

    Cute isn’t it when thieves fall foul of their own words

  30. peeesss
    December 19, 2012, 3:37 am

    “If they had been born in Gaza or the West BanK.” Lets see. He /she would have seen his father murdered, brothers beaten, imprisoned, their homes demolished, farms destroyed, olive groves burned, children shot on their way to school, the lucky ones beaten by racist settlers encouraged and protected by the IOF. Homes , villages raided 3-4 in the morning by thugs, children kidnapped. He/She would see walls built through their village, taking away their farms for cultivation, food and livelihood. Walking to his neighbors house would cause him to go through one of the hundreds of checkpoints in the westbank where thugs humiliate men, woman and children , beat them up as a lark, murder them if they look at the thugs the “wrong” way . They would see women giving birth or losing their newborn because those thugs thought it funny not allowing her to go to the hospital. He/She would see their grandparents in refugee camps while over the hill people from Russia, Poland , Brooklyn USA enjoy their homes and property. In Gaza their cousins were being incinerated once again by the most moral Army in the world with American weapons and suppport. In Gaza his cousins are not not able to fish,or farm lest they be shot. They are not able to leave, trade, build, locked in from the world by Israeli barbed wire, walls, fences and tanks. Yes they really need “hateful proaganda ” to inform them of the life they are living.

  31. Cliff
    December 19, 2012, 3:42 am

    Is there a MW post yet on Zero Dark Thirty? The new Army/MiC/torture porn hit by Kathyrn Bigelow (hack director who will be directing meathead hagiography for the rest of her life).

    Glenn Greenwald cuts through Bigelow’s contradictory statements about her approach to making the movie. She simultaneously says it’s ‘factual’ and also ‘just a movie’.

    What a money-grubbing you-know-what (of course, since she’s a woman it will be considered sexist to use that phrase).

    And the New Yorker review of the film aptly summarizes the moral (or lack thereof) impetus to making the film:

    […]The debate echoed the moral seriousness of the political dilemma once posed by slavery, a subject that is brilliantly evoked in Steven Spielberg’s new film, “Lincoln”; by contrast, the director of “Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow, milks the U.S. torture program for drama while sidestepping the political and ethical debate that it provoked. In her hands, the hunt for bin Laden is essentially a police procedural, devoid of moral context. If she were making a film about slavery in antebellum America, it seems, the story would focus on whether the cotton crops were successful.

    Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/12/torture-in-kathryn-bigelows-zero-dark-thirty.html#ixzz2FU7niWbv

    • Cliff
      December 19, 2012, 3:50 am

      Ive said it before but we’re living in another Reaganesque era (Obama is the beloved Reagan in a different political context but also strikingly similar).

      Movies post 9/11 and post 2nd intifada and failure of the 2SS are essentially military porn/torture porn/self-delusional on a national scale

      cowardly – especially so, considering liberal (Big) Hollywood is churning out this garbage and not arch-Zionists like David Mamet

      im glad the New Yorker picked up on the shallowness and propaganda of Zero Dark Thirty

      and im glad we have an honest, intelligent, and fearless journalist like Glenn Greenwald around to cut these guys down to size

      id love to see someone put Bigelow on the hot seat. but it wont happen

      i suppose its sexist of me but i think she is milking this genre and zeitgeist for all its worth specifically because she is a woman and women do not get these kinds of opportunities

      its like an actor known for one role, which he or she milks

      actors have shelf lives and they have to be visible when people are still paying attention

      this movie is being made NOW (not so long after osama bin laden’s assassination) and not in the distant future when we might have the political capital to criticize the politics behind the operation (as well as the war on terror and a bunch of other themes)

      instead, this is an entertainment film. an action film that is based on history but in its entirety, is simply historical fantasy

      the inference from this movie – its opening shots and all – is that torture works and is necessary

      the heroes are the torturers and once again, the white american soldier supplants The Other male figure (oh nice soldier giving glowy sticks to poor Iraqi kids).

      when will this bullshit stop? never

      • Donald
        December 19, 2012, 12:14 pm

        Unfortunately the movie got a good review in the NYT yesterday and from the less intelligent of the two movie reviewers at the New Yorker (David Denby). So the people who know the history of the subject and take it seriously are appalled, but some movie critics think it’s great, because, you know, art, and nuance, and subtlety and let the audience figure things out (even if you distort the historical record).

        I don’t think I’ll be giving Bigelow any of my money.

      • Chu
        December 20, 2012, 9:54 am

        Don’t forget about Mark Boal, quasi Village Voice journalist-cum-military steographer and screenwriter. He’s arguably worse than deuce Bigelo (female gigolo)

      • Donald
        December 20, 2012, 4:19 pm

        Best Movie Review Evah–

        Erin Brockovich for fascists

      • Cliff
        December 21, 2012, 5:28 am

        that was an awesome review

        I’m not saying these things didn’t happen in real life. I’m just saying they also happened in Legally Blonde II.

  32. ToivoS
    December 19, 2012, 4:37 am

    This Adam Lankford is so utterly wrong on so many levels.

    The Newton maniac was one seriously deranged individual. He displayed multiple symptoms of a major mental disorder — lack of affect, no ability to make eye contact, major social isolation — being just a few. If he lived in a society that was subject to oppression by an outside force he still would have been isolated from his compatriots and would have lacked the ability to identify with his group and to risk his life in their struggle. This kind of mental illness puts one in an extremely lonely place without any group identification.

    From my reading about the biographies people who have willingly sacrificed their lives in the face of outside oppression they have always seemed fully integrated within their group — these are people that are the complete opposite of the lonely outsider. Sometimes I wish they did not identify so much with their group, if being a little more selfish they could have preserved their lives.

    Adam Lankford is one total fool and an embarrassment to anyone who considers themselves an academic scholar (as I do).

  33. chinese box
    December 19, 2012, 9:07 am

    Actually, Lankford’s argument is really a double-edged sword. While his argument is facile, it can be turned around to serve as an indicator that there is nothing “uniquely evil” about Arab/Muslim suicide attacks. Some facet of the American cultural milieu (at least in the shooters’ minds) is producing these school attacks–it isn’t just the availability of guns. Of course those who’ve been paying attention already knew about the Tamil Tigers and kamikaze pilots, but this is a much more current and accessible example.

  34. Donald
    December 19, 2012, 2:24 pm

    Looking at other parts of the web I’ve noticed that some advocates for the mentally ill are upset over the connection made between Adam Lanza’s actions and being mentally ill–since the vast majority of mentally ill people of course never do anything like this. I’d probably try to be more sensitive about the issue if I were to rewrite this post. Though I’m not sure what I’d say, except that whatever Lanza’s motives, they don’t have much to do with those of Palestinians.

    • Donald
      December 19, 2012, 2:46 pm

      On second thought, I wouldn’t change anything. I don’t think I say anything in the original post that stigmatizes mental illness.

    • American
      December 19, 2012, 3:59 pm

      I think we can see that everything but the kitchen sink is going to be brought into whatever kind of political conversation we have about the Sand Hook tragedy.
      This is a subject that is so big…..guns, mental illness or not, social decline and fragmentation, the US culture of violence in media, movies and in general and to me parental failure also has to be in it…..I don’t even know where those who are going to be holding this conversation are going to start.
      I am all for clamping down on gun sales and restricting certain types of weapons from being sold to the public but that alone isn’t going to do it…..it might minimize the carnage a killer can inflict but it won’t stop a determined killer….it’s going to take a whole lot more.
      Not having a WH with a Kill List might be a good start. The fish rots from the head down…our current ‘establishments” with influence , political, business, Hollywood, all of them it with their me-ism culture and ideal of ruthless, flint eyed, tough and heartless guys winning are rotten to the core.

  35. MichaelSmith
    December 19, 2012, 5:51 pm

    Of course, there have been Israeli Jews who went on shooting rampages: Ami Popper, Baruch Goldstein, Eden Natan-Zara, all of whom killed Arabs in mass shootings.

    What’s revealing and depressing is that academics and other experts who give their opinions after such incidents inevitably refer to their own latest book or some idée fixe that they just can’t shake.

    They just repeat some message they’d formulated long before the horrors. It’s hard to find one who actually thinks seriously about the particular incident and formulates an opinion based on the facts before them.

  36. Donald
    December 20, 2012, 9:19 am

    Scott Atran (the person I cite in the post) politely refutes Lankford in a letter to the NYT–

    NYT letters

    • seafoid
      December 20, 2012, 9:33 am

      Atran did a great video interview in the Guardian last year


      I guess it is hard to fob him off with Jewish bigotry dressed up as reason, as in the letter below his from that link of yours :

      Adam Lankford makes an important point about the similarities between those who kill others and then die themselves for political purposes and those who do so for personal reasons. But he glosses over one basic difference between the two groups, a difference that has important implications for both explaining and preventing mass killings.
      That difference is that those who kill and die for political purposes are typically members of a community, while those who kill and die for personal reasons are typically alone and isolated.
      The communities of most politically motivated killers not only value the killers’ actions but also encourage, train and arm them, and then venerate them as martyrs and reward their families.
      Personally motivated killers like Adam Lanza typically live in a very different world. They live lonely, constricted, isolated lives. Rather than ending their lives as martyrs, they are defined after their deaths as monsters, and their families and communities are left to grieve and suffer.

      Southbury, Conn., Dec. 18, 2012

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