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Fatal Attraction

2011-04-14 12:56:33.632343+00 by petronius 2 comments

I'm currently reading a novel about the Troubles, the period of the 1970s in Ireland when sectarian battles between various sects of the Irish Republican Army and the Protestant Ulster Defense Force deteriorated into bombings of public places and murders in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. One particularly vicious group were called the Shankill Butchers. This gang was not formally affiliated with the anti-Catholic Loyalist militias, but killed random Catholics (and a few Protestants) in a shockingly brutal manner, torturing their victims with butcher knives before cutting their throats. So horrible were their tactics that eventually both the IRA and the Orangemen cooperated in stopping the carnage.

What intrigues me is that politics or religion had little to do with the motivations of the Butchers. Instead, they were more of a thrill-kill gang, serial killers who used the Troubles as an excuse for their savagery. The "official" sides of the war were brutal enough, but this went far beyond the pale. It also makes me wonder how much of the sectarian violence in places like Iraq and Pakistan is actually serial killers who have found the perfectly lawless environment in which to prey. And how would we tell?

[ related topics: Religion Politics Books History ]

comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2011-04-14 18:30:28.144136+00 by: petronius

Years ago the social research that finally led to a Federal anti-lynching law did not come from a liberal group, but from a journalist who found that local crime always spiked after some alleged malefactor was lynched, be he black or white. His contention was that the unleasing of community viciousness let to a period of less respect for the law in general. In the Troubles, although the two sides made a great show of organizing regiments and claiming themselves as disciplined soldiers, it really came down to small bands pulling off personalized atrocities on each other. In Iraq, the various sides killed 10 times as many locals as Coalition forces; indeed, the worst bombings were done in marketplaces and outside mosques, with no American within a mile. The tactic of leaving a state ungovernable works very well. The state remains ungovernable, even if your side wins.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-04-14 17:02:19.464929+00 by: Dan Lyke

In reading Colby Buzzell's book, I also think that the social circumstances of war leave many of the participants craving some sort of the risk that gives their lives meaning. So, yeah, not only do you have the serial killers in their home environment, you have a social space that's breeding the desire for risk and thrill at that level.

Thus the would-be serial killers who might otherwise keep their urges in-check because of the social environment have no reason to.