Exporting the two biggest models of terrorism

With the mass shooting in Thailand, American-style “lone wolf” nihilistic terrorism spreads across the world. At the same time, right-wing, politically radicalized, factional terrorism is proliferating in the US in a new way.

Christian Patterson
2020-02-13
Underground Mall

There are two dominant models of terrorism in the world today. One is Islamist-motivated terror, and one is the US-style, right-wing nihilism “lone wolf” terrorism.

There are, of course, many other modes of terrorism, but these two are distinctly prevalent, and are both growing, and spreading.

The US model has spread to Canada, but also to New Zealand, with the Christchurch shooting. There were mass shootings in this vein before it became a daily occurrence in the US, all over the world, but it has certainly became the signature cultural element of American society.

Now, there has been a similar shooting in Thailand. It was, in terms of tactics and approach, very similar to most American mass shootings.

Meanwhile, American terrorism, has been metastasizing closer to right-wing, Islamist-style terrorism.

There has been a proliferation of right-wing, politically motivated terrorism in the US, with the increase in groups like Atomwaffen and now The Base. You can see the similarities between this right-wing terror movement and Islamist terrorism with Devon Arthurs, an Atomwaffen member who converted to Islam and became a Salafist, then murdered his white supremacist roommates for making fun of him.

It’s not just the US either. There is right-wing terror, both white nationalist and Salafist, throughout much of Europe. ISIS, and groups like it, have began small operations in SE Asian countries.

I want to look into an article about the mass shooting in Thailand this week, but before I do, it’s worth pointing out that the difference between the nihilistic, lone wolf style mass shootings that are so prevalent in the US aren’t that different than right-wing terrorism.

Stephen Paddock is different than, say, Mohamed Atta, in terms of motivation, strategy, etc. But they are both figures reacting to the specifics of their social and cultural circumstances. For example, are serial killers that different than spree killers? In many ways, they are. They kill differently, for different reasons. But on another level, the way in which they kill, and why, is determined by the structures of society.

For example, there’s much more inequality and economic insecurity now than there was at the height of the serial killer era. Politics are bubbling at the surface more. Misinformed hatred of the poor and the “unwashed masses” by the middle class, or those who perceive themselves to be middle class, are at a high. Serial killers killed more along latent, socio-political impulses like misogyny deeply rooted in their psyche. Contemporary spree killers are more likely to kill along explicitly political lines. When a spree killer is a mosgynist, it’s at the forefront of their motivation.

Not only that, but forensic evidence and the increase in mass surveillance makes it much harder to pull off a series of murders over a prolonged period of time.

All of this is to say: there’s a similar impulse among all types of reactionary killing. There’s a similar drive lying underneath. What those drives are, is harder to say. And depending on specific cultural and political contexts, the specifics of those reactionary killings change.

Having said all that, the mass shooting in Thailand was pretty shocking, because it was a quintessential example of the typical American model of terrorism.

Here’s a timeline from Reuters of the events of the shooting (I deleted some of the timeline Reuters used, for simplicity):

“SATURDAY, FEB. 8
12:10 p.m. (0510 GMT) – Soldier Jakrapanth Thomma writes on his Facebook page complaining about people who grow rich by cheating and taking advantage of others. “Do they think they can spend the money in hell?” the post ends.

3 p.m. – Jakrapanth arrives at a house to discuss a property dispute in the presence of his commanding officer. After an argument, he shoots dead his commander and a woman described as a relative of the officer.

4 p.m. – He goes to the Surathamphitak army base where he worked, kills an army guard and steals weapons from the armory. He commandeers a Humvee.

4:30 p.m. – He stops at a Buddhist temple and opens fire as authorities pursue him, killing around nine people including a police officer, before driving away

5:30 p.m. – The soldier arrives at Terminal 21 shopping mall where he begins to open fire on panicked shoppers. At least 12 people are killed.

6:30 p.m. – The soldier posts another message on his Facebook page: “Death is inevitable for everyone.”

10:15 p.m. – Thai security forces storm into the mall and help hundreds of trapped people escape.

SUNDAY, FEB. 9
12:30 a.m. – The soldier escapes to the shopping center’s basement, which houses a food court and grocery store. More security forces move inside the mall.

3 a.m. – Two casualties are brought out of the mall on stretchers as authorities continue to hunt for the gunman.

3:20 a.m. – At least four children are seen escaping from the mall.

9:05 a.m. – Security forces shoot and kill the gunman.”

The interesting thing about this is, not only how similar to American mass killings this is, due to mowing down civilians in a mall, but also how, in some ways, aware this killer is compared to most mass killers.

By this I mean, he makes it clear before he killed anyone that he was motivated by inequality. I think most American mass shooters are motivated by economic issues too, but America is such a hyperreal hellhole, that they’re too myopic to realize that’s one of their motivations.

But even so, it’s not a left-wing critique of inequality, it’s a right-wing critique. Because he doesn’t object to inequality, he seemingly objects to specific people who are rich. This is the politics of spite, where right-wingers integrate some superficial leftist critiques of capitalism into their ideology, in order to cover up their resentment of people for ulterior motives.

Ultimately, I have more thoughts on this, but it’s hard to articulate. This post is more me sketching out preliminary thoughts, admittedly without much direction.

All I can say though, is terrorism is becoming increasingly common in the world. And, while there are many different types of terrorism, many or most of them, seem to be motivated by the same sense of dread, helplessness and nihilism about society. This same, generalized feeling manifests itself in different ways, depending on cultural context.

And unfortunately, I hope I’m wrong, but this seems like a phenomenon that’s not only growing in the places it’s currently commonplace, but also spreading.

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