Mass killers in the makingTerrorism is the use or threatened use of violence against the masses to manifest or achieve political, religious or ideological goals. Al Qaeda-inspired militants, and more recently the splinter jihadist Islamic State group, through their self-serving interpretation of Islam, have been the predominant terrorism source we have come to know.
But the gunman in a shooting rampage in a busy Munich shopping mall on Friday, where nine were killed and 20 injured, does not fit the typical terrorist profile. The suspect is an 18-year-old with dual German and Iranian nationality. Police said the attacker was a mentally troubled individual who obsessively researched rampage killings and had no links to terrorist groups or a political motive.
He had reportedly been inspired by the mass shooting of Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people, mostly attendees of a youth camp, in Norway in 2011. Such individual and copycat crimes cannot be tracked or prevented. A self-motivated, delusional act of terrorism is dangerous because it can happen anywhere at any time. The world has never been so perilous, and nowhere is entirely safe, with unidentifiable disturbed loners and extremists on top of terrorist groups on the loose.
The 31-year-old delivery driver who ran over hundreds of people and killed 84 in a rented cargo truck during a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France, also showed few signs of real radicalization or Islamic zeal. The Tunisian with a propensity for violence might have found justification in his act in Islamic State propaganda and ideology, but he was not formally trained or recruited.
A few days later, a youth described as an Afghan refugee attacked passengers aboard a German commuter train in Bavaria, injuring five people.
The deadly attacks in Europe were self-motivated acts of extreme violence against a random crowd. The perpetrators were psychologically unstable and isolated from their family, schools and organizations.
Lone teenagers and individuals with personal and psychological troubles are bred in a media age full of violence. Their hyperviolent propensity has been fed by worsening inequality and scarcity in jobs and opportunities. Their angst and resentment made them take out their rage against a seemingly happier crowd and the rest of society.
If we don’t address the problems of inequality and youth joblessness, mass killers could also be in the making in our society as well.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 25, Page 30