Boredom, hate, terrorism and riots

CNN’s national security analyst Peter Bergen just wrote that attacks such as the one in Buffalo can be prevented. Yes, they can. Not always, but often.

However, this requires a lot more than the six steps Peter Bergen offers in his article. Bergen is not only CNN’s national security analyst, a vice president at New America (a think tank) and a professor of practice at Arizona State University.

What is a professor of practice?

Bergen begins by making a terrible mistake by calling this “a very American tale of domestic terrorism”, ignoring victims of similar attacks all over the world. A dreadful shooting in New Zealand, a horrible attack in Norway and a recent tragic incident in Plymouth in England come to mind as first examples. Also in Asia and Africa there have been many of these incidents, but they likely come about differently, though I can’t be sure of that.

First, “let’s stop naming the terrorists,” Peter Bergen continues. He writes that “these misguided individuals are typically zeros trying to be heroes”. Not only is this a useless suggestion because even if journalists were to refrain from naming these people, many more others still do and they would do so even more to counter that silence. Crucially, however, Bergen completely misses that this – feeling like zeros – is often exactly what is at the root of these incidents. I find it hard to believe that he completely overlooks the significance of what he is saying.

A great deal of this violence stems from the fact that so many youngsters – and not just youngsters – feel that their lives have no significance and are overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness, not to mention sheer boredom.

Second, Bergen mentions social media, and argues for the removal of content that encourages violence. This overlooks that this kind of content does not only pop up on regular social media, but still more often in the dark nooks and crannies of the internet. This also overlooks that if you ban content, you may merely be pushing it underground where it can’t be monitored. He does not even mention 4chan. That said, I agree that it is important to police fake news and fake science as any otherizing language lowers the threshold toward violence, neuroscience teaches us.


After the 2011 riots in England, some of the participants indicated that boredom had been an important driver and that merely providing access to sports facilities can help prevent such escalations.

Leaders who want to learn about how big a role boredom plays should watch the video about the “Philmarillion”, a person who for months documented every move and twitch of a particular online user based in England. This person created an entire world made up of the posts of said user, and even engaged in performance art to simulate that said user was living with him.

We should be grateful that the Philmarillion was artistically inclined.

Can you see what boredom can do to others, who have nowhere else to be and to go and no outlet for whatever ails them?

As a third step towards preventing shootings like the one in Buffalo, Peter Bergen mentions the discipline of threat management. He explains that suspects often follow a predictable path to violence, but that still does not identify them to us and does not enable us to interfere. The article does mention that the FBI has recently doubled the number of people who work on domestic terrorism and extremism, but that reflects the developments rather than predates them.

As a fourth step, Bergen mentions that “officials” need a better understanding of the concept of “leakage,” that peers usually have “the most useful information about attack planning, but were the least likely to come forward with relevant information to law enforcement”.

He then makes the following nonsensical statement:

How do you investigate a “potential act of terrorism”? Because that’s like potentially winning the lottery. You can’t investigate something that does not exist or has not happened. I think what he means is that if school officials etc are concerned about a student, law enforcement should talk with the student’s friends and take them seriously.

As the fifth step, he mentions an American policy that sounds like the UK counterpart called “Prevent”. Logos of pro-cycling and pro-wildlife activists are examples of what UK school teachers need to be on the lookout for and report. If the US policy is anything like Prevent, all we end up with is more distrust in society instead of less.

As sixth and final step, Bergen kicks against an open door by stating that kids like this shooter should never have been able to purchase his weaponry. That is certainly true, but the Plymouth shooter – in England, where guns are not a birthright, unlike in the US – not only had a shotgun, it had been confiscated yet returned to him shortly before the incident.

There currently seems to be a large number of mostly young white males out there who feel indeed, as Peter Bergen puts it, like zeros. They often feel disenfranchised, whether it is about their perceived right to have sex with any woman or another issue, but something happens right before this starts to fester and they go online, looking for echo chambers in which they finally feel heard and understood.

Guys like Payton Gendron are not that different from guys like Jake Davison.

They need people to blame, to direct their powerlessness at, whether it is non-whites in general or a particular group of people in particular, or Jews or women or immigrants.

(Women too are sometimes part of these movements, though.)

The question to ask is:

How do these youngsters end up in these online and offline echo chambers filled with hate? What happens before they go there?

The problem is that they’re still too young to monitor themselves, recognize what is happening to them, stop themselves in time and turn away, surround themselves with positivity instead. Echo chambers come in all kinds.

Apparently, it was particularly types like Bannon and Trump who have very deliberately been targeting these dark places on the internet, who whip up this hate, to make people feel that something has been taken from them that should be theirs and that it’s the Trumps of the world who will get it back for them. Divide people, promise to defend them against the “enemy” and get their votes.

Maybe it’s politicians and their close associates, then, who should all begin to be monitored to prevent potential acts of domestic terrorism?

They may be the ones who sow the seeds for this hate.

They certainly should be monitored for otherizing language and be called out on it, be made aware of how dangerous that is, if they don’t know that yet.

Where are things going wrong for these youngsters, people like Payton Gendron? At what age does this start? Around 10 or 12 or perhaps even earlier? They are often still as young as 14 when they end up on these forums where they become radicalized. What exactly is it that goes wrong in their lives?

(It certainly does not match Tony Blair’s old theories about “hooligans” and graffiti artists. Payton Gendron’s parents are two happy-looking civil engineers.)

WHY do these kids feel like fat zeros?


Payton Gendron had just started college. The pandemic probably cut it short. He went to 4chan because he was bored. Could it really be only boredom that drives young people to these places of hate?? Boredom does make angry. Boredom does lead to a buildup of energy.

What was Payton Gendron like before he started hanging out on 4chan?

Stalking and Asperger’s

IBCCES, that’s the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards. There are people who mediate in courts, who serve as advocates for autistic people. IBCCES can provide training (and a certificate) to that end.

From the IBCCES site.

This is a former police officer’s website.

That’s him:

From Michael Fitzgerald’s website…

People with Asperger’s do not necessarily want to be rigid and controlling, but they can have trouble with what we call “boundaries” in the west. They can infringe upon other people’s “territories” and do various other things without realizing how intensely that may affect that other person.

Similarly, they may not see other people as individuals in their own right. I suspect that their egos can be so fluid that they sometimes perceive other people as not really separate from themselves. They “feel” other people’s presence rather than see them as beings with physical boundaries and they often don’t attach much significance to what a person looks like. (This may also be why autistic people, if they engage in stalking behaviors, take photos. They may not recognize a person if that person changes her hairstyle or hair color, so I understand.)

They certainly see other people differently than neurotypicals do and while they may not really “like” other people, they do like having a certain presence around, like having the presence of another soul in their vicinity. They like a certain feeling rather than a certain person, maybe.

All of these things can create tension and clashes very early on and may eventually build up into a lot of resentment (feel slighted when they get rebuffed because they don’t understand what on earth they are supposed to have done wrong). That’s the impression or feeling I have come away with while thinking about this.

For decades, I turned out to have known a woman who is somewhat autistic without me having a clue about this. She’s confirmed that she is autistic. I’ve since done a lot of thinking.

It’s often said that autistic people avoid looking you in the eye. It’s my impression that that’s often not true. What autistic people don’t do is “rules” as to what an appropriate period is to look at someone’s face. They don’t do societal “rules and customs” to a large degree because they do not necessarily attach judgments to all sorts of things, unlike the rest of us. They can teach themselves a heck of a lot, though, just like the rest of us can learn, and we call can learn for example a foreign language, and hence you may have no clue that someone is autistic. There is no stereotypical property, not even a sign on the forehead.

BBC documentary maker also warned about the danger from incels a few years ago

Two posts ago, I included an ITV program in which “Eamonn and Ruth” talked about the topic with two experts.

Now I see that there also was a BBC documentary a few years ago.

This is not just about violence against women. This is about violence against men who live with women, too. The “Chads”, not just the “Stacys” and not just feminists either.

In the above video, you can hear this 16-year-old English boy saying that in the west “we cultivate the evil side of women”.

Holy crap, that is seriously creepy.

That said, yes, England is deeply misogynistic and many boys get fed a hatred for women at a very young age, before they’re able to form independent opinions. When boys under the age of 10 or 12 yell “Suck my dick!” at women the age of their grandmothers and grab their penis at the same time, you know that they learned this from someone else.

Below is the link to the BBC documentary (requires a TV licence, so it will cost you £159 to watch this legally, unless, lol, you want to watch it in black and white).

This podcast video does not require a TV licence:

The problem with these guys is not that women are horrible or that these men are not physically attractive or that that they are “genetically inferior” as many of them seem to believe.

It’s the negative views they hold of themselves. It’s also often their negativity in general.

It could well be that quite a few of these guys have Asperger’s, I thought, but I found it very tricky to say something like that, off the cuff, because of the risk of perpetuating existing stigmas or creating new ones.

However, one of the people interviewed in the BBC documentary mentions “Asperger’s” himself.

Why do these people feel that random women who they’ve never met or interacted with have caused their lives to be so miserable that they feel that they need to take revenge out on these women? It makes no sense.

Autism, and the fourth dimension

I just received an e-mail from Henny Kupferstein that was an eye opener. I knew that she works with autistic children via music, often using services like Skype. I had no idea, however, that she too is autistic!

As far as I know, I’ve never met anyone who is autistic or at least interacted with the person extensively. So I’ve been wondering what it is like to be autistic and I’ve watched videos that weren’t very enlightening to me, other than to make me realize that autistic people deal with the world in a different way, and find ways to deal with the expectations of mainstream people.

I’d previously gotten the impression, from Temple Grandin’s TED Talk, that autistic people have different abilities, special abilities.

In this video, Henny explains in detail how the visual/mathematical world works for her and that it is a thing of great beauty.

Now I understand it a lot better!

The illegality of British government actions

A pattern is starting to emerge. The British government does not display a lot of respect for the law.

At least one judge has commented that the government is wasting the tax payers’ money as well as judicial capacity.

The pattern shows unequivocally that the British government goes after the most vulnerable in British society and seeks to protect the wealthiest in society.

Apparently, the Lord Chancellor has the task of ensuring the government’s compliance with the rule of law. As of the beginning of this year, that is David Gauke, appointed by HM the Queen on advice of the Prime Minister. So the Prime Minister recommends who gets to monitor the legality of her own government’s actions? Hmm.

His predecessors were Chris Grayling (2012-2015), Michael Gove (2015-2016), Elizabeth Truss (2016-2017) and David Lidington (2017-2018). All Conservatives.