The Other I

May 23, 2017

Is “Evil Loser” a useful diagnosis?

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 4:13 pm

We woke up this morning to the news of the bombing at the concert in Manchester last night.  A suicide bomber seems to have slipped into the hall just as the concert ended, killing himself along with at least 20 people including children.  Donald Trump, in sending his condolences, described the bomber as an “Evil Loser.”

This description does not impress me as a very helpful diagnosis.   It doesn’t tell us anything about the bomber, or carry any practical implications about how we might prevent other potential murder-suicides like this.   If past incidents are anything to go by, ISIS is right in their claim today that this is an act they have inspired.

If so, then this bomber, like jihadists before, was engaged in a struggle to belong, to be important, to be a celebrity whose value would be rewarded even into eternity.  He was probably someone who felt alienated and unrecognized by the society in which he lived, and was engaged in the task of adolescence:  to develop an identity that is recognized and appreciated.  It is a need to belong – a need that, as a comment following my post yesterday points out, Hannah Arendt describes in The Origins of Totalitarianism.  The communists may have made use of this need, just as it was used to motivate the kamikaze pilots of Japan.  But also those who fought for what we call “the good side” in all the wars in which we have fought.

If the need to belong is the evolutionary foundation of religion, then the need to belong, the need to be loved, to be recognized, is an essential foundation of the ability to love and to care for others.  Perhaps as a species we are still in the state of adolescence, where too many of us are shouting to be noticed, to belong to something.

Perhaps the Manchester bomber was not an Evil Loser.  But someone screaming that he was important too.




  1. You’re kind! When one’s social need hurts others…


    Comment by tskraghu — May 23, 2017 @ 4:20 pm | Reply

    • Oh Raghu, I’m not trying to be kind! I’m trying to analyze, so we can figure out how to stop this. Obviously killing people isn’t working – it just confirms their belief that they are heroes. It doesn’t impress me as being psychologically different from martyrdom. It’s just that when we agree with the person put to death we call it sainthood.

      I’m not a pacifist. Try as I might I have never been able to convince myself that physical force should never be used to control behavior. But it does seem to me that this problem is not going to be ultimately solved primarily by physical force or punishment.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Terry Sissons — May 23, 2017 @ 4:29 pm | Reply

  2. exactly what trump is striving to be recognized despite 50 foot gold monograms on his buildings golden toilet seats, orange hair ties that brush his knees …. his money his women he is crying to be loved trashing about for this. to use his words so sad. in the states i am noticing that many newscasters are dropping “president” and just saying “trump” some comedians are saying the guy in miro largo

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by karen peterlin — May 23, 2017 @ 5:26 pm | Reply

  3. I agree with you that dismissing this man as an ‘evil loser’ is missing the point, as in, it gives us nothing to work with, to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again. And it is precisely this kind of reductionist thinking, where entire nations are arbitrarily divided into ‘good guys’ and ‘baddies’, or ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, or ‘with us’ and ‘against us’ – that has brought us to this pass. The way to tackle terrorism is to give people something else to belong to, that is inclusive. I actually thought Britain was doing a good job of that, to be honest. This guy must be an outlier, then.


    Comment by psriblog — May 24, 2017 @ 12:33 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for your comment. I’m glad to hear your point of view (though maybe it’s because we agree?)

      Seriously, I think the English-born terrorists, often of a second generation immigrant family, feel they don’t belong anywhere. Too little has been done to make them feel welcome and to give them meaningful roles in UK society. Maybe the terrorists are outliers statistically, but via the internet, many of them are finding a global community where they are being made to feel that they have an important role to play.

      There are Britons who understand this. But too many think that immigrants should go home, or be punished if they hold unacceptable views or behave in “foreign” ways. It’s not going to work.


      Comment by Terry Sissons — May 25, 2017 @ 8:13 pm | Reply

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