HELSINGIN SANOMAT international

Foreign - Tuesday 18.9.2001

The mind of a fanatic

 What does a man think as he prepares to kill thousands? We have some idea.

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By Saska Snellman

"Where does salvation lie for us and others? In hate - hate, and more hate! Only with the power of hate can we create a permanent, eternal end to that awful, stinking, all-swallowing flow of mud, which constantly threatens to drown us and the others after us."
   
These were not the words of Osama bin Laden, but rather the sworn Finnish independence advocate and opponent of all things Russian, Elmo Kaila, an ideologue of the Academic Karelia Society (an expansionist movement of the 1920s and 1930s with a massive following among Finnish university students at the time).
   
Kaila was an extremist, a fanatic. People like him can be found in Finland.
   
The history of the West is full of religious warriors, inquisitors, conquerors, and soldiers who have gone down in history as fearless heroes, although they can just as well be remembered as bloodthirsty fanatics.

New York, Tuesday September 11
8:45 am. A Boeing 767 approaches the north tower of the World Trade Center. The man at the controls knows he has only a few seconds left to live. Still, his mind is focused and his hand is steady.
   
We know what the person who is flying the plane is: a fanatic. Naturally we cannot be sure of what exactly is going through his mind, but we do have some idea, because there has been much research into the fanatical mindset.
   
For this reason we can imagine what the flier sees in front of him as he prepares for his act.
   
Certainly not the ordinary people sipping coffee, thinking back at the rush they were in as they left home: an angry spouse, children who can't find their clothes, a terrible traffic jam on the expressway. Ordinary people filled with the thoughts that ordinary people have. People like himself.
   
A fanatic is a person who does not recognise the human being inside another person.
   
Undoubtedly the person at the controls sees before him an enemy: a symbol of Western dominance which must be crushed like the head of a monster.
   
And what about the people inside the building? They are not people. They are animals, the spawn of serpents, which threaten to poison the world with their money, their entertainment, their lechery, their drugs, and above all with their flood of moral degradation.
   
With his plane he is striking the Beast straight into the heart.
   
He knows that he is sacrificing his life for the Truth. He is the Leader's chosen one. He is the pride of his family. He is completely happy. His hands do not tremble.
   
After this morning, millions would be singing his name, both in the heavens and here on earth.
   
You don't have to go all the way to Kabul to run into this kind of thinking.

Countless people have told the same story
in recent days: when they turned their televisions on they first thought that they were watching a movie.
   
What movie was it? Top Gun? Independence Day? Air Force One? Die Hard?Peacemaker?
   
Such movies have been mass-produced on an assembly line: the threat of the end of the world, the miraculous acts of a superhero, explosive firestorms, the destruction of evil, the salvation of the world.
   
In these movies the goodness of the heroes is as absolute as the evil of the enemy. No suffering, no hesitation, no pity. Just extreme violence.
   
Why have we felt a need to watch such movies? What has been the "evil" that people have wanted to eliminate in those movies?
   
The movies reveal something of the world picture of people in the West: we are virtuous, they are evil, and violence is the answer.
   
But not only for people in the West. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are cousins. They all divide the world into the forces of good and evil, of light and darkness.

So what did the man in the cockpit
think he was doing? Destroying evil and saving the world.
   
First we thought that we were watching a movie, but then we realised that we were looking in a mirror.
   
Every age has its fanatics. A small percentage of people are always susceptible to the attractions of extremism. They need a group, discipline, rituals, a leader, and an enemy. And they are ready to do anything.
   
"Fifteen thousand Muslims - straight to paradise. F**k, we're doing them a favour. Allah u akbar - screw them."
   
Finnish mercenary Luca Moconesi, alias Marco Casagrande, who fought in the Bosnian civil war, writes in his book Mostarin tien liftarit ("Hitchhikers on the Road to Mostar") about how he volunteered for a mission to blow up a dam protecting a Muslim village. The operation was never carried out, but if it had, Casagrande would have been ready to do it.

The man flying the Boeing 767
at 8:45 on Tuesday morning is not without emotion. He is full of emotions: confusion, fear, pain, hate.
   
But the Leader has told him whose fault his weakness is.
   
The Leader has taught him how to take control of his anguish.
   
The Leader has shown how to turn hate into a deadly weapon.
   
And the Leader knows, because he speaks directly with God.
   
The man does not need to do anything except obey.
   
And that he does.

Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 16.9.2001


SASKA SNELLMAN / Helsingin Sanomat
saska.snellman@sanoma.fi

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