Mass Killings and Mental Illness

Gary Fouse

Recent events around the world, including the US, have caused many of us to consider the question of mental illness when especially heinous crimes are committed, particularly involving mass murder. As I write, the US, just yesterday (May 24), has experienced a horrific elementary school shooting in Texas. Ninteeen children and three adults (including the 18-year-old shooter) are reported dead. Just a couple of weeks ago, we were shocked by a racially motivated shooting in Buffalo when ten people were shot and killed by a young white gunman targeting black people. In addition, the US in the last couple of decades has suffered a number of mass-casualty school attacks that defy explanation.

We are also dealing with the issue of terror attacks at the hands of Islamic terrorists, which often result in mass casualties, but just as often with only one or two casualties, attacks committed either by suicide vest, gun, or simply using a knife or car if that is all that is available.

In Europe, being politically correct, the politicians, police, and media are very quick to describe a Muslim attacker as "mentally ill". Just two days ago (Monday), a man shouting, "Allahu Akhbar" entered the embassy of Qatar in Paris, and beat and strangled a security guard to death as police had to wait outside almost an hour for official written permission to enter the embassy and intervene. As usual, the assailant is being described as having a history of mental illness. It's not just in France, but also in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, and other Western European countries dealing with a massive influx of Muslim migrants, mostly, single young males. Aside from periodic terror attacks, the rate of murder, aggravated assault, and rape has skyrocketed. In Europe, the powers that be would prefer to label them as individuals with mental problems (which have nothing to do with Islam, of course). Apparently, they are all crazy. But are they?

It is pretty much a given that we have a mental health crisis in the US. When you consider the amount of violent crime, senseless attacks, homelessness, and drug abuse, I fully agree that we have a mental health crisis, and crime is a component of that.

Recently, one of my anonymous reader/commentators took me to task for, according to him or her, being (among those) ready to assign mental illness to white racist perpetrators but not to Muslim attackers when they murder someone to the cry of "Allahu Akhbar". In other words, killing non-Muslims in the name of Islam. 

While I think my critic was off-base (I don't excuse murder by anybody), the point merits some reflection. 

Mass murderers generally by definition have a few screws loose. That applies both to serial killers and one-timers who explode and take out as many victims as they can in one fell swoop.  (It is also true that serial killers and mass killers tend to be white.)

The issue of Islamic radicalization and acts of violence against non-Muslims (or Muslims of other sects) seems more complex because they are following an ideology. An ideology they interpret as requiring them to wage violent jihad against infidels. Of course, not all Muslims subscribe to that ideology, preferring to live peacefully with their neighbors and make a living to support their families.

But many do feel called upon to join the jihad-the "lesser jihad" as the Prophet Mohammad was quoted as saying as he returned from a battle: The "greater jihad" was the inner struggle to be a better Muslim. It is this latter jihad that you hear about when you talk to Islamic apologists. The fact is that both jihads exist.

So the question begs: Are violent Muslim extremists, the members of al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic State-and those who act independently, such as this week's attacker at the Qatari embassy in Paris-insane? Are they all deranged individuals who are incapable of acting rationally? Were the 19 hijackers of 9-11 all insane? They carried off the biggest terror attack in history. They had a motive. They apparently acted very calmly and methodically. In that case, you had 19 "crazies" who all found each other and coordinated their operation perfectly.

The critics of Islam-those who have either left it or studied it in detail- would tell you that a perfectly sane, rational person can attend certain mosques, listen to certain imams, learn the Koran, the Hadith, and the life and sayings of Mohammed, and come to a perfectly rational conclusion that his or her religion compels him/her to take up arms and kill people in the name of Allah. Again, not all Muslims follow that call, but we need to be on our guard for those who might.

So the question of which murderers are mentally ill and which are simply evil is a bit tricky. We should differentiate according to sound reasoning and not assign labels selectively.

The Supreme Court Leak


Gary Fouse



This article first appeared in New English Review

Since Monday, the number one issue in the US is the apparent leaking of a Supreme Court draft document indicating that the Court is about to overturn Roe v Wade. There are two issues at play here. First is the significance of the decision-if that is indeed the final decision (which Chief JusticeJohn Roberts denies), and second-and more importantly, in my view-the leak itself.

Let us set aside any debate on the issue of abortion itself (I am pro-life). Whether you are for or against abortion, we all should be concerned about how this document-which Roberts concedes is genuine- got turned over to Politico. It is almost certain that it was turned over, if not by one of the justices (which I doubt), by someone employed in the Court, possibly a law clerk.

If so, this is a gross violation of the confidentiality and independence of the court. While it is true that the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court justices have become highly politicized over the years, the Court was always considered independent, and its processes were considered confidential. To my knowledge, this is the first time in the history of the Court that this has occurred.

While we don't yet know who is responsible for the compromise of this document (We should know soon), the motive would appear to be that some disgruntled person within the Supreme Court building wanted to short-circuit what appears to be a coming decision against Roe v Wade. That would involve provoking nation-wide protests, which have already begun, and a campaign of pressure against one or more justices to change their vote before it is made public. Could threats against certain justices be far behind?

It should be noted that if this is the final decision of the Court, abortion will not be outlawed. The issue will merely be returned to the states, their voters, and their legislators to either allow it, ban it, or allow it with certain restrictions. Women wanting an abortion will still, almost certainly, be able to travel to California, New York, or several other states if their own state bans it.

Since the news broke, I have been watching the reactions on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC (not continuously). Most of the discussion on Fox revolves around the leak and its serious implications for the Court. All I have seen on CNN and MSNBC are discussions about how this decision would be a disaster for women's reproductive rights. Again, I may have missed something on these two networks, but they don't seem to be concerned about the leak per se. I would guess that once the person's identity becomes known, that person will be heralded by the left as a "heroic whistleblower". 

In short, the Court is in dangerous waters, not because of the decision-whatever it is- but because of this leak. If the eventual decision is changed because of this leak and public pressure, the credibility of the Court will be destroyed. If the President and the Democrats decide to pack the Court and succeed in doing so, the Court's credibility will be destroyed. It will mean that aside from the obvious fact that the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court justices is politicized, their deliberative and decision-making process have also become politicized. We cannot have that.