Tarrant mad or bad?

Christchurch mass murderer obviously did a very bad, despicable thing. But can his badness be explained by madness?

The only viable starting point for opposing such people is to understand them as neither mad nor bad, but wrong.

In response to Understanding the ideology of the Christchurch killer barrieseargant posted this comment:


“Mad or Bad?

Is Tarrant a psychopath? He may be. The vast majority of ordinary people could not kill in cold blood as he has done.

Tarrant’s manifesto and actions are bad, not mad. Driven, cold and calculating, and fully responsible for his actions, he had been captured by an evil ideology, which made him a hero in his own eyes”

Why is it such people are often framed within a false dichotomy of mad/bad? Its true people have difficulty killing in cold blood, hence the millions of dollars governments spend on taking 18-year-olds, putting them in the army and indoctrinating them to kill people they otherwise wouldn’t say boo to if left to think for themselves.

I doubt the Christchurch terrorist is mad. That would be too easy to dismiss him as “not one of us” if he was just crazy. He could be safely dismissed as the ‘other’, we could locate his decision using some kind of pop-psychology…he was neglected as a child or bullied or didn’t get enough vitamins or his mum was an alcoholic or etc.

I suspect he had a normal childhood, went to the same schools as the rest of us, probably didn’t litter, watched the same TV programmes, and did all the other things the rest of us did. We don’t like the idea, but he is as sane as anyone else.

As for the ‘bad’ part. I don’t find the use of such moralistic categories useful analytically. Sure, his actions may have had repugnant consequences in moral terms but it fails to appreciate the political motivation. Having read his manifesto, it is undoubtedly an eclectic hodge podge of ideas that have been circulating on the far Right for decades, along with personal experiences. Isn’t that how everyone forms the basis of their political views ie reading stuff and experiencing things?

Again, the implicit assumption in a lot of discourse around such people is that if we hugged them enough and they had a better sense of morality, they would choose to repent and become good liberals/social democrats or conservatives like the rest of ‘us’. Few people can handle the idea that the terrorist, in this case, took an internally consistent (once he accepted his initial working premise, which could externally be viewed as faulty) and in that sense ‘rational’ decision as part of a political ideology.

The only viable starting point for opposing such people is to understand them as neither mad nor bad, but wrong. Then the challenge comes in offering a more attractive political alternative. That’s hard work but its the only starting point that has any real hope of working. Locating his actions in personal psychology or moral failure won’t do that.


See Mark Durie’s The Christchurch Killer’s Anti-Humanist Ideology

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15 Comments

  1. Griff.

     /  3rd April 2019

    Deluded ideology.
    For some ideology is like religion it is a world view that works in the absolute of faith.
    If someones manufactures their world view on such a foundation they can not be persuaded otherwise with out overcoming a huge amount of cognitive dissonance .

    Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired.
    Jonathan Swift 1721

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  3rd April 2019

      Interesting story about one of those places that have ‘arget based team building’
      ‘It looks just like the real thing: the military uniforms, the replica firearms and the war-like scenarios.

      This is Airsoft, whose players shoot each other with pellets using replica guns.

      But Airsoft Canterbury Group leader Sean Regan says it also attracts white supremacists, is “littered with rednecks” and that he has had to suspend people for threatening violence.
      The only ideology is base on murder and a sort of fantasy from video games where they need a ‘baddie’ to score against
      https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/111629909/airsoft-war-games-littered-with-red-necks-canterbury-leader-says

      No , not a swat team , but a Taupo ‘airsoft’ game player

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  3rd April 2019

        this was my comment , not the Airsoft Canterbury guy
        ‘The only ideology is base on murder and a sort of fantasy from video games where they need a ‘baddie’ to score against’

        Reply
    • unitedtribes2

       /  3rd April 2019

      Like climate nutters. you decide which ones.

      Reply
      • unitedtribes2

         /  3rd April 2019

        Meant to be a comment to Griff. Sorry Duker

        Reply
        • Griff.

           /  3rd April 2019

          ROFL
          Kaching.
          There is always one who wants to prove how deluded they are .
          We have a classic case of reject reality because it gets in the way of ideology.

          Number of political party that share your views in this country?
          ZERO .

          Poor wee things they are ignored just like flat earthers..,…

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  3rd April 2019

            The better comparison would be “ignored just like the plate tectonics fringe group once were” –
            Even the experts at Auckland University who study atolls show they arent disappearing either. Physical observations will win in the end.

            Reply
          • Griff.

             /  3rd April 2019

            Physical observations.

            Reply
  2. Zedd

     /  3rd April 2019

    … perhaps there is more to it ?

    BUT; I think he does not deserve any more ‘oxygen’ & they should just ‘throw away the key’ (either to his prison cell OR ‘rubber room’ :/

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  3rd April 2019

      If someone’s so mad that they can’t see anything wrong with massacring people, they should be kept away from the rest of society.

      If they do this because they’re cruel, ditto.

      Reply
  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  3rd April 2019

    I’m inclined to start with the observation that evil is often banal committed by ordinary people who have just blinded themselves to human empathy via other emotions and motivations.

    When sensitivity and responsibility are lost anything is possible. The task of a community is to maintain them.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  3rd April 2019

      I wish that I could find the story of the German woman who had never stolen so much as a chocolate bar because it was illegal (no mention of its being wrong) but had no problem with taking part in genocide because it was legal.

      Most of us were brought up to know that theft was wrong as well as illegal, and I wish that I could say that I’d never done it. But what sort of person sees nothing wrong with murder because it’s legal ?

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  3rd April 2019

        Dunno, but so far Duker can’t see anything right with.anything that is illegal so he might be a candidate for not seeing anything wrong with anything that is legal.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  3rd April 2019

          It’s annoying not to be able to find that story; I’m sure it’s in one of my books on the subject. I know which it ISN’T in.

          As I remember it, there was no mention of stealing a chocolate bar (I think that was the example) being WRONG, as I was taught that it would be, just illegal. I suppose that she wouldn’t go through a red light even if she was the only one on the road.

          Reply
  1. Tarrant mad or bad? — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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