Running amok in an age of meaningless terror

Complications arise when some acts of mass violence do not fit neatly into general assumptions about terrorists

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The shooting last month that left nine people dead in the German city of Hanau is being described as an extreme right-wing terrorist attack. Yet a close examination of the shooter's manifesto shows an odd mishmash of ideas that draw on extreme-right ideology, but also blend in elements of misogyny and off-the-wall conspiracy theories.

These include the belief that the United States was "under the control of invisible secret societies" and that little children were being detained, tortured and killed by satanists in "deep underground military bases". Tobias Rathjen, who subsequently killed his mother and himself, also believed in remote mind control and accused US President Donald Trump of stealing his ideas, including the America First slogan.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2020, with the headline Running amok in an age of meaningless terror. Subscribe