Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why do people kill over satire?” you ask? Good question. Timely too. (Besides, it beats answering the question: “Why does my one friend call terrorists freedom fighters?” Seriously? If you were brought up in an overly-PC era by people who thought that being enlightened meant ignoring the truth, wouldn’t that screw up your thinking?)
Surely you must be referring to the murders of at least a dozen employees of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, France. People with no sense of humor have been hurting others for years. Eric Roston of Bloomberg Business Weekly agrees that “we’ve seen such responses to satire before, and we know the fascist impulse to murder free thought when we see it.”
But why do people kill over satire or mockery? Roston, who has researched the issue once more agrees that the “easy answer’ is that killers are “violent, self-aggrandizing, depraved.”
Roston thinks it “goes much deeper.” He believes it involves other “basic traits . . . which transcend nationality and ideology and touch the very core of who we all are . . . violence (and) religion . . .”
People kill over satire (or anything really) in part because of our supposed roots. Professor of primate behavior at Emory University and author of the 2006 book Our Inner Ape Frans de Waal stated that chimpanzees group together to kill others for food or to protect territory.
He states humans have a similar pattern of behavior “known as ‘lethal raiding.’ Raids consist of a group of men launching a surprise attack when they have the upper hand — hence when there’s little chance that they will suffer themselves.”
Roston says that sociobiologists believe religion is and has long “been central to human survival. Not because one or another faith holds the secrets to the universe, but because religion bound individuals together into tribes and communities against external threats, raising everybody’s chance of survival.”
People respond to threats in two ways: fight or flight. Roston thinks of laughter as a third response. He says: “That’s our way of standing down without running away or of standing up without really fighting.”
Charlie Hebdo does satire which is “weaponized humor.” Folks who aren’t in power and are otherwise unarmed use satire as a weapon to “reduce the stature of the mighty — or, like radical Islam, the grandiose.”
In this case a group considered both violent and fanatically religious was/is willing to kill people who are part of an organization that uses satire—or “weaponized humor” to strike out at them. They became violent to the extent of killing in response to a more intellectual attack. As Roston says: “The dead of Charlie Hebdo join a tragic pantheon of writers martyred for humor.” (Let’s hope no more writers are thusly “honored”. Je suis Charlie indeed.)
Why do people kill over satire? Now you know.
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