I'm sick to death of the entire world being held hostage by a tiny minority of violent sociopaths that has, in recent years, become adept at manipulating governments to restrict civil liberties and throw due process to the wolves, often to the fervent cheers of the latter's own constituents. Don't let fancy modern terms like "terrorist" fool you; there have always been people with a propensity for acts of mass violence. Present policy to prevent said acts, however, driven largely by fascination with motives, continuously empowers such people politically, and encourages more of them to act on their urges. This policy is, by far, the most egregious incompetence committed by the modern State, and will arguably be its undoing. It's called "terrorism" because it's meant to induce mass hysteria and irrational collective behavior; and how anyone can look at government responses to 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing, or Charlie Hebdo, and not realize the terrorists are thinking "mission accomplished" is beyond me. Hence, I give you 10 policy suggestions to effectively reduce and deter acts of mass violence rather than enable them.
Violent perpetrators love to claim fancy motivations - religion for the Tsarnaevs and Kouachis, nationalism for Breivik, anti-government sentiment for Loughner, Brinsley, and Frein. Others, like Holmes, Lanza, and Rodger, so clearly present psychotic symptoms that the behavior gets popularly attributed to their psychiatric diagnoses. But let's face it, the overwhelming majority of people who hold the views in question, even on very radical levels, are not out committing acts of mass violence; and neither are most people with psychiatric diagnoses, even those who are very ill. So clearly, something else is leading to the behavior. What just about all perpetrators studied have in common are anti-social personality traits, or profound lack of empathy for fellow humans; but there are millions of people with these traits who don't commit mass-murder. The bottom line is, while the desire to understand the motivations of mass-murderers is understandable, we do not yet have adequate information to profile and identify potential culprits before they strike - although we do know they love attention for themselves and whatever cause they claim to represent, and tend to idolize each other. Fabricating this knowledge so we can FEEL secure perpetuates the problem. Policies that stigmatize religious and political beliefs, or mental health diagnoses, not only unfairly discriminate millions of innocent people, but also give the violent criminals exactly what they want - sympathy for their motive, even if sympathizers disagree with their methods. The undeserved pedestal then encourages others prone to sociopathic behavior to replicate it, with the excuse of political martyrdom. Ignoring perpetrators' claims to fame and insistently marginalizing them as morally reprehensible, violent criminals would effectively isolate them in society, and likely reduce the number of potential perpetrators who act on their urges.
2. DEMILITARIZE SECURITY STRATEGY
I often equate the perpetrators of the crimes in question to harmful household pests, to illustrate my lack of moral opposition to hunting them down, and violently disposing of them if they present difficulty in being brought to justice - be it by holding hostages or hiding out in a remote desert. However, following the metaphor, government methodology in disposing of these individuals often resembles swinging an aluminum bat in one's own kitchen. When government turns counties into concentration camps (Boston, Paris), levels whole communities using munitions banned by the Geneva Convention (cluster bomb drone-strikes in Yemen), or occupies countries on unfounded suspicion of affiliation (Afghanistan, Iraq) - it creates fame, fodder, and sympathy for the perpetrators and resentment for itself. On the other hand, the actual killing of Bin Laden and the Kouachis, and the capture of Tsarnaev, demonstrates these blunt instruments are completely unnecessary, and that law enforcement and intelligence/covert agencies are perfectly capable of neutralizing the threats with minimal if any collateral damage. Using these modern methods - which cost a fraction of those intended for the government vs government conflicts of the 20th century - would also serve to isolate the criminals in society, sending the message to potential copy-cats that they will be quickly and unceremoniously disposed of, rather than become monster-celebrities with a significant impact on human history.
3. VICTIMS =/= HEROES
While mass violence is never excusable and 2 wrongs don't make a right, it would further serve to isolate the criminals to remember that their victims were often engaged in morally reprehensible behavior themselves. Charlie Hebdo, for example, is a disgusting hate speech rag, and being targeted by violent criminals didn't make it less of one. It's perfectly reasonable to express sympathy for victims of violence even if their own behavior was despicable, but public and political response in the aftermath often crosses the line by praising said behavior as heroic and imitating it. Another example was the attempt by law enforcement brutality apologists to spin Brinsley's murder of 2 NYPD officers as an example of police heroism. Needless to say, there are people rightfully offended by these victims' behavior and political positions, and temporarily deifying them drives such people to sympathize w/ the criminals and feel marginalized, when the objective should be to marginalize the criminals by including such sentiments in the reaction.
4. DEREGULATE EXPRESSION
While this is more of a European problem than a US one, there is no easier way to breed hate and resentment of all of society than w/ limits on free expression. Most EU member nations have legal exceptions to free speech, particularly speech that can be deemed anti-semitic or as Nazi apologism, for obvious historic reasons. In practice, this puts anyone criticizing anything remotely Jewish - such as the highly deserving Israeli government, or saying anything remotely nationalist, in danger of legal penalties; while Arabs and Muslims who often criticize Jerusalem can be caricatured and publicly belittled ad infinitum. The problem w/ exceptions to free expression is that they're invariably arbitrary and subjective, leaving what's acceptable to the discretion of the State, which ultimately undermines criticism of itself and equality before the law for its detractors. Living up to the principle of freedom of expression that Western governments often claim to protect against foreign terrorists might actually contribute to breeding fewer domestic ones.
5. ROLL BACK GUN CONTROL
One fearmongering tactic often used by apologists for militarized response to violent crime is to point out that many criminals are driven by religious extremism to suicide attacks - an attribution that's flat out inaccurate. Suicide attacks are an inconveniently common strategy in human conflict. The Kamikaze pilots of Imperial Japan certainly were not Fundamentalist Muslims, and interestingly - neither were the first suicide attackers in the modern Middle Eastern conflict. Militant Islamic Fundamentalism didn't come around until the 1970s, and the insurgents that battled Israel for the preceding 30 years were Arab Nationalists. They began to resort to suicide bombings when Israel adopted gun laws that made it impossible to walk 2 blocks in that country w/ out encountering someone open-carrying a loaded rifle; and anyone using anything other than instant explosives would be gunned down before doing any significant amount of damage. This policy also reduced overall violent crime in Israel to near 0 - surprising only gun control activists in the US. Every criminal that engages in mass-violence is arguably suicidal, as they know they will at best live out their lives in prison isolation. They commit the crime seeking monster-fame and political recognition, and the prevalence of armed civilians likely to put them out of their misery before they do enough damage to get on the news hence makes an effective deterrent. Some would still try, but the overall incidence would be reduced, leaving only those as brilliant and meticulous as Holmes remotely successful.
6. OPEN BORDERS
While it's counter-intuitive, closed borders are actually a foreign terrorist's winter dream. While in theory these are supposed to screen out security threats, in practice they are hopeless bureaucracies laden with contractor corruption that mostly serve to inconvenience citizens, and as outlets for bigoted attitudes toward foreigners. The idea that these paper pushers will actually keep out anyone entering w/ the intent of mass violence is not supported by anything in observable reality - I remind you that every 9/11 high-jacker entered the US legally, that the Tsarnaevs traveled back to Chechnya twice, and that the Kouachis re-entered France using their passports after fighting for Al Qaeda in Iraq. The system is NOT working, but it is an insatiable resource toilet that allows dangerous criminals to get lost in the overwhelming pool of people being screened, and contributes to political resentment. Doing away with it and committing some of the resources to intelligence services focused solely on violent foreign criminals ought to be far more effective.
7. DE-CENTRALIZE SOCIAL WELFARE
The welfare state in its existing iteration, particularly in relation to immigrants and refugees, is another policy gift to violent extremists. Motivated by bureaucratic convenience, refugees and immigrants are commonly placed in crowded, isolated subsidized housing surrounded by fellow expatriates that look like them and speak their language. In Europe, they are then given handouts indefinitely that they must remain where placed to receive, whereas in the US they are typically settled in poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods and left to fend for themselves within a few months. Bureaucrats and politicians are then surprised that the groups in question don't effectively assimilate, attract discriminatory attitudes from neighbors, grow dependent on handouts, and in some cases have children that grow up violent, mass-murdering sociopaths. I'm a social worker, and I can tell you that any time social welfare is administered centrally by standard-setting bureaucrats w/ 0 understanding of the situation they're dealing with; the level of incompetence will resemble this scenario, w/ outcomes to match. Social welfare has to be administered to the community by the community before it has any hope of doing more good than harm.
8. END CORPORATE WELFARE
I have discussed discrimination and economic inequality as significant contributors to breeding the violent crimes in question in several blurbs, and the handouts given to corporate entities on both continents, as well as regulations that insulate them from competition under the guise of consumer protection, are a primary culprit in both. White hood wearing, swastika-waving idiots parading down the street really aren't causing anyone any harm; what perpetuates economic inequality between races and ethnicity are the discriminatory attitudes of landlords, loan officers, employers, and other gatekeepers who administer economic opportunities. In 50 years of laws against these practices in the US, and longer in many European countries, the disparity in question has hardly budged - because the attitudes in question are so ingrained and subconscious, those acting on them are often not even aware they're doing so. An alternative method to combat bigotry is to force whoever is engaging in it to carry the economic costs of doing so. Small businesses are, overall, far less discriminatory in hiring and client treatment practices simply because they cannot afford the inefficiencies of the subconscious standards in question; whereas large corporations simply add these to an already existing, long list of counter-productive standards, the costs of which they pass on to taxpayers in the form of corporate subsidies and which regulations prevent small businesses from taking competitive advantages of. Even in the unusual event that they get caught - such as Wells Fargo paying $2B in fines for discriminatory lending practices in 2013 - the enforcement of the laws provides little incentive for actual change. There is no reasonable excuse for this, and doing away with it would have a myriad of economic benefits, including less incentive for desperate violent crime.
9-10. REIGN IN EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY & RETURN TO CONSTITUTIONAL LIMITS
As I mentioned in the opening statement, the purpose of these kinds of crimes is to create hysteria that leads to self-destructive, irrational policies; and nothing is more conducive to such an equation than unilateral decision-making fueled by populist passions, as well as by personal ire as chief executives are the direct bosses of law enforcement and feel the tragedy happened on "their watch". The primary rationale for division of power and Constitutional limitations on both majority rule and unilateral executive authority is to keep hysterical mob reactions from turning into public policy; and yet in the last decade and a half, legislation aimed at curbing crimes that produce such reactions has eroded the limitations meant to keep them in check. The result is more than just a waste of resources in border control and erosion of civil liberties and due process through militarized responses and regulations of expression, and even more than the collective insanity that breaks out every time yet another act of mass-violence illustrates the futility of those so-called "preventive" measures. Resource waste and inequality before the law always disproportionately effect the poor and marginalized minorities, because these groups are already at risk and don't have the resources to defend themselves when they fall victim to the blunt practices in question. And as I have discussed blurb after blurb, these are crucial elements in breeding sociopathic behavior.
Edge of Chaos is a political podcast starring Joe Ryan and Neurotoxin. Its aim is to have a free-flowing discussion of news and current events that also examines the empirical outcomes of public policy, avoiding biases based on ideology and policy intentions. Listener discretion is both advised and encouraged.