The Evolutionary Brain Glitch That Makes Terrorism Fail

My friend Pat sent me this URL saying it fleshed out something he's long had in his mind but couldn't quite make as clear -- me too, why the basic function of any good terrorist SHOULD BE -- NO INNOCENT BYSTANDERS -- go after the ones who did the bad stuff and leave the cooks and busboys and secretaries and librarians alone .... (but, as the author himself makes clear, this does not mean I approve of terror -- even effective terror -- as a tactic for getting what you want.)

The Evolutionary Brain Glitch That Makes Terrorism Fail

Commentary by Bruce Schneier

Two people are sitting in a room together: an experimenter and a subject. The experimenter gets up and closes the door, and the room becomes quieter. The subject is likely to believe that the experimenter's purpose in closing the door was to make the room quieter.

This is an example of correspondent inference theory. People tend to infer the motives -- and also the disposition -- of someone who performs an action based on the effects of his actions, and not on external or situational factors. If you see someone violently hitting someone else, you assume it's because he wanted to -- and is a violent person -- and not because he's play-acting. If you read about someone getting into a car accident, you assume it's because he's a bad driver and not because he was simply unlucky. And -- more importantly for this column -- if you read about a terrorist, you assume that terrorism is his ultimate goal...

According to the data, terrorism is more likely to work if 1) the terrorists attack military targets more often than civilian ones, and 2) if they have minimalist goals like evicting a foreign power from their country or winning control of a piece of territory, rather than maximalist objectives like establishing a new political system in the country or annihilating another nation. But even so, terrorism is a pretty ineffective means of influencing policy...

This theory explains, with a clarity I have never seen before, why so many people make the bizarre claim that al Qaeda terrorism -- or Islamic terrorism in general -- is "different": that while other terrorist groups might have policy objectives, al Qaeda's primary motivation is to kill us all. This is something we have heard from President Bush again and again -- Abrams has a page of examples in the paper -- and is a rhetorical staple in the debate...


Please -- take the time to read the entire paper -- it's not very much longer, but makes things quite clear, and also this other paper also by Mr Schneier and especially, as he suggests, the comments made in response to it. Between the two, it enables us to see every man behind every curtain, telling us the crap they think about terrorism.

And why the mitigating comment about Mr Bush that "He's sincere. He believes these things he says," is NOT a compliment but an observation of a delusion -- a type of delusion we all think makes a total fuckup acceptable.

Meaning, perhaps, a cynical self-serving asshole who KNOWS he's lying about the reasons for Ben Ladn's monstrous murders might stand a better chance going up against him.

Best of all might be someone who understands why Ben Ladn does what he does and tells the truth about it -- that's NOT the same thing as going along with it, but recognizing the difference between removing a blood-sucking tick by pulling it out (thereby leaving the infectious head under your skin) compared against putting a heat source behind it and making it back away from you.



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