Curious op-ed piece in the Times today by Adam Lankford, an assistant professor from Alabama who claims that his examination of ”interviews, case studies and suicide notes” indicates that “rampage shooters” like Adam Lanza are “remarkably similar to aberrant mass killers–including suicide terrorists–in other countries.” He concludes that Lanza and the Virginia Tech and Columbine shooters–had they been born in Gaza and the West Bank and “shaped by terrorist organizations’ hateful propaganda”–would have become suicide bombers.
Really who knows. Lankford’s speculations contradict the far more systematic and detailed suicide terrorism study conducted by Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, which examined the case histories of 2200 instances of suicide terrorism and concluded that the overwhelming majority are in response to foreign military occupation. Pape and his co-author James Feldman demonstrated that suicide bombings were not particularly a Muslim phenomenon. Mental illness did not come up as an important causal factor.
One rampage shooting Adam Lankford failed to mention in his Times piece was that of Dr. Baruch Goldstein, the American born physician who perpetrated the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in Hebron in 1994, killing 29 Muslim worshippers and wouding 125. Goldstein’s massacre shattered the optimism surrounding the Oslo peace process and preceded by several years the wave of anti-Israeli suicide bombings orchestrated by Hamas. Israeli settlers in Jerusalem still sing songs eulogizing Dr. Goldstein.
One might have thought that since Goldstein was protected by the Israeli occupation forces and not subject to a foreign military occupation, he might be a good candidate for a theory linking mental illness and rampage shootings. But of course the Goldstein case wouldn’t fit easily into a narrative linking Adam Lanza to the “hateful propaganda” in Gaza and the West Bank.