How can we distinguish violence driven by ideology from sociopathic rage?

Attribution: Andy Rain/EPA

Analysis and perspective come together in this article for the UK’s Guardian newspaper, by author, academic, and broadcaster, Kenan Malik, in the wake of last Wednesday’s terror attack in central London.

Popular opinion tends toward either the binary (either they’re Islamists, or they’re sociopaths), or the monolithic (they’re both). In highlighting some common themes between Wednesday’s attacker, Khalid Masood (born Adrian Russell Elms), and other not necessarily Islamist ‘lone wolf’ terrorists of recent years, Malik gently trains the reader’s attention from the inevitably visceral reactions to the potentially lethal cocktail of isolation, alienation, mental illness, and radicalisation.

More research is needed into understanding such attacks ‘from the inside out’, as it were, but it’s my feeling that insights such as these are at least as important – and immeasurably more comforting – than the apparent official line from the government, which has been to propose scrapping end-to-end encryption on popular messaging services like WhatsApp.

The “privacy versus security” debate is ongoing, and a topic for another post. In the meantime, I recommend Malik’s article. He may not quite answer his own question, but he does demonstrate how complex and multifaceted a problem such individuals represent.

How can we distinguish violence driven by ideology from sociopathic rage?


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