On both sides of the Atlantic, last weekend was a par­tic­u­larly bloody time. In Isla Vista, near the campus of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­fornia at Santa Bar­bara, six stu­dents were shot to death by Elliot Rodger, a young man who blamed every­body but him­self for his inability to attract women. Hours later, a gun-​​toting ter­rorist in the city of Brus­sels opened fire at the Jewish Museum, taking the lives of four people

Both tragic inci­dents seem to have been moti­vated by intense hatred for an entire group of people — Jews in Brus­sels and women in Cal­i­fornia. Still, the dif­fer­ences between the inci­dents are also pro­found, rep­re­senting impor­tant char­ac­ter­is­tics that dis­tin­guish Amer­ican from Euro­pean acts of hate-​​fueled vio­lence generally.

Mas­sacres in Euro­pean coun­tries tend to be polit­i­cally moti­vated. The killer has a cause. He seeks to change national policy regarding immi­grants, Jews, Israel, Pales­tinians, or Mus­lims. His killing spree is designed to send a mes­sage of hate not only to each and every member of his victim’s group but also to his like-​​minded com­pa­triots. He seeks to empha­size through vio­lence that “out­siders” simply will not be tol­er­ated in his country.

 

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