“Treating” evil – legislation & freedom
The ease with which Kujtim Fejzulai, the young North Macedonian terrorist responsible for the latest terrorist outrage in Vienna, could deceive psychologists, police officers and other supposed experts into believing that he had renounced Muslim extremism would have been funny, even comical . its consequences had not been so terribly tragic and fatal.
Fejzulai, an Austrian and North Macedonian national, was released early from a prison sentence imposed for trying to get to Syria from Turkey to fight for ISIS, with which he sympathized. He was released early from prison for two reasons: his youth (he was 20) and because he claimed to have seen the failure of his extremist ways.
For statistical reasons, his youth might have made more sense as a reason to keep him in prison longer, even much longer, because it is in their youth that young men like him, attracted to violence, are most likely to commit it. However, a sentimental view of the youth prevailed over a more realistic one.
The second reason for his release, however, was even more absurd, exposing the arrogant technocratic mindset of so many Western agencies and governments who not only assume that there is a technical solution to all human problems, but that they have found it. They envision that since they represent the richest and most advanced societies in the world, they must have techniques in place to change the “primitive” mindsets of Muslim extremists. Surely it is impossible for people with a worldview more likely to belong to the seventh century than the twenty-first century to deceive people with doctorates from prestigious and even venerable universities who have access to the latest technology and all information in the world?
The fact is, however, that any ignorant and stupid extremist of the seventh century is more than a competitor to any number of psychologists, criminologists, sociologists, computer scientists, etc. While I can’t in the least sympathize with his point of view, in a I’m glad he’s up to the task. Its ability to deceive so easily means that technocracy is still not triumphantly successful – as I hope it never will. Our humanity is preserved by the fact that the so-called deradicalization is a charade. What Fejzulai needed was not a technical procedure with a technical assessment of whether it had worked or not, but thirty years or more in prison to cool his heels off: for the sake of society, of course, not for him, though it is likely that too it would have saved his life.
The technocratic approach, according to which Muslim extremism is a quasi-medical or physiological problem to be “treated” like a disease, is used not only in cases of terrorism, but also in cases of crime in general. This is a consequence of the belief that crime is not a choice of the criminal, albeit a bad one, but a problem of physiological development, so punishment is a kind of moral orthodontics.
Probation officers are granted or withheld probation on the basis of speculation as to whether or not they are truly Reformed. In fact, there are no means by which the truth of such speculations can be proven beyond doubt.
This is far from a new theory. I recently picked up a volume from the Quarterly Review for December 1847, which contained an anonymous article on the treatment of prisoners. There were two theories of incarceration as punishment, the article states, the first was the protection of society through deterrence, both of the perpetrator and others who might otherwise be tempted to behave like him.
The second theory was that of moral reformation of the prisoner. This theory was succinctly put forward by a Birmingham judge who was in favor:
By a reform system we mean one in which all pain suffered results solely from the means necessary to achieve moral healing. A prison becomes a hospital for moral sickness.
Both theories are, of course, compatible with the most outrageous cruelty: such cruelty could potentially lead to both deterrence and moral reform.
In other words, efficacy in and of itself is not a complete justification for any type of punishment: civilized behavior sets its limits. The second of the theories, however, has an additional disadvantage: it often creates injustice and is inconsistent with the rule of law.
Probation officers are granted or withheld probation on the basis of speculation as to whether or not they are truly Reformed. In fact, there are no means by which the truth of such speculations can be proven beyond doubt. The case of Kujtim Fejzulai shows how easily those who devote their entire professional life to “assessing” such people can be deceived. One might have thought a priori that it was obvious that it was not very difficult to fake a rejection of terrorist ideas; in fact, only someone with an exaggerated and even arrogant belief in his own power to penetrate the minds of others would assume otherwise.
Of course, there is the opposite risk of finding someone dangerous and therefore denying them parole, which is, in fact, not dangerous. Probably this mistake is at least as common and in fact results in more severe punishment than someone paroled for equally weak reasons: although it does not have the catastrophic social impact that mistakes of the first type do.
The early release of Kujtim Fejzulai, however, has another harmful effect, the size or importance of which cannot be estimated with certainty: it is, at least for those who are already thinking in this direction, further evidence of the decadence and weakness in the EU West, a lazy one Fruit whose tree only needs to be shaken a little for the fruit to fall. If a society is as sentimental about its enemies as it was in the case of Kujtim Fejzulai, what powers of resistance could it have against determined attack?
In other words, the idea of deradicalization is an encouragement to Islamic terrorism, and the technocrat in general, and the psychologist in particular, are the ignorant ally of the machete- and Kalashnikov-wielding brotherhood of fanatics. What contempt must they hold those who claim to be able to reform them: a contempt that is in a sense justified.