The Myth of Senseless Violence and the Problem of Terrorism
Many people have a fascination with ‘senseless violence’ and are concerned about its rise in our society. In the real world, however, violence is rarely senseless. It is not random and haphazard but driven by rational motives and justifications and governed by its own internal logic. The myth of ‘senseless violence’ taps into certain moral intuitions, but it has little or nothing to do with reality. If we want to prevent violent acts, we need to understand the motivations of the perpetrators rather than portraying their violence as random, mysterious, devoid of reason. I apply these insights to the extreme atrocities committed by the group known as the Islamic State (IS) and show how the myth of senseless violence has led many policymakers and commentators astray.
I wish you thank Neil Van Leeuwen for his critical comments, and Nick Brown for carefully proofreading this chapter.