As Orwell pointed out in the Newspeak Appendix to 1984, for more lucid, more useful thought, it’s helpful to have a broader arsenal of conceptual categories.
For example, my impression is that there has been an uptick over the last five decades or so in American history of what I would call “kamikaze killers.” These are guys who try to kill a lot of people and, a key element, who don’t really have a plan or hope for getting away with it. Some are mass shooters, some are suicide bombers, others are plane hijackers like 9/11, and so forth.
They want to go out with a bang and don’t care if they blow themselves up, are killed by cops, go to prison for life or the death chamber. As Machiavelli said in The Prince about assassins, this makes them hard to stop.
No doubt kamikaze killers always existed in small numbers, but they didn’t impinge much on the cultural consciousness until the Texas bell tower shooting by a man with a brain tumor in the mid-1960s.
This conceptual category — kamikaze killer — can be useful in thinking more clearly about the more general social problem of homicide.
For example, kamikaze killers are distinct from another concept that also has emerged since the 1960s, serial killers, who kill one or two people at a time and try hard not to get caught so they can carry on their murders.
The number of serial killers, according to baseball statistician Bill James, shot up as the social revolution of the late 1960s liberated all sorts of urges. They were so rare before the mid-1960s that most cops long resisted the concept of a category called “serial killer” who murders strangers one at a time. Cops were taught that victims almost always knew their murderers, so they refused to think about serial killers. James even claims that cops didn’t finally come around en masse and agree with the public that “serial killers” were a thing until Ted Bundy around 1980.
But serial killers appear to be in decline in the 2000s. Perhaps a study of what we’ve been doing right about serial killers would offer clues as to how we could better prevent kamikaze killers (keeping in mind that they are very different).
One factor that likely makes kamikaze killers more common these days than before the 1960s-1970s is that those of Christian ethnicity less fear being punished in Hell than in the past, while those of Muslim faith (who were vanishingly rare in America fifty years ago) expect to be rewarded in Heaven.
In this century in America, the death toll from Muslim kamikaze killers (well over 3,000 and counting) is vastly higher than from all other ethnicities of kamikaze killers. The per capita ratio of the death toll attributable to Muslims versus non-Muslims is sky high. So this has obvious implications for crafting intelligent immigration and visa policies. Moreover, we need an ideological change: the cognitive disorder of Islamophobiaphobia — fear of being accused of being fearful of Muslims — needs to become widely known and derided.
But the problem of non-Muslim kamikaze killers, while much smaller, also deserves attention.