Are Terrorists Mentally Ill? We Asked, You Answered - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Are Terrorists Mentally Ill? We Asked, You Answered

Are Terrorists Mentally Ill? We Asked, You Answered

By OZY Editors


Because words matter.

By OZY Editors

OZY's electrifying TV show serves up provocative questions each week.OZY's electrifying TV show serves up provocative questions each week. We want to hear your thoughts:

Last week, we asked: Should terrorists be considered mentally ill? You answered, and here are your thoughts, edited for clarity.

Michelle Pacheco Warner, Cheyenne, Wyoming

It’s the same thing as the insanity defense for murder. You can commit an action considered insane, yet still know it is wrong.

Lada Hirnyj, Toronto

I have long wished that all reporting of any killing use the label “mentally deranged,” as one must be mentally unstable to kill another. Especially in the case of terrorist acts, reporting the person as mentally deranged would tarnish their glorified martyrdom and notoriety, and lower the prestige of such violent acts and the debased community they serve. It may also deter or reduce copycat killings of various forms if they are consistently labeled as mentally deranged.

Roly J. Dowling, Carlow, Ireland

Evil — that’s what they are. Evil.

Aditham Subba Rao, Bangalore, India

Terrorists to be given the “mentally ill” tag? Perhaps it’s a new fig leaf invented by impotent rulers who have repeatedly proved conclusively incapable of both foiling terrorists’ diabolical designs and discharging their most fundamental duty — protecting common people. Yet they brazenly cling to power. It’s these wretched creatures that deserve to be branded “mentally ill” for their pathological shamelessness, not terrorists.

Christina Galbis

Both [jihadist terrorists and non-ideological mass shooters] are mentally ill. Don’t tell me you’re in the right mind when you start bombing other people.


Dr. Justin Frank, professor of psychiatry, George Washington University Medical Center

Anybody killing others is, to me, mentally ill, plain and simple. Whether or not they are part of a terrorist group is another matter. 

Om Dennis

No. They should be considered fully rational and intent on committing outrageous harm.

Kevin Hudson, Salem, Oregon

Does it matter? We execute and imprison the insane and disabled anyway. Just because you’re crazy does not mean you get a pass. Serial killers, terrorists, child abusers, arsonists and such are all nuts.

Raymond Lim, Cebu, the Philippines

It matters because those who control the narrative dictate how people are treated. For example, when they label people terrorists, it opens the door to all kinds of nastiness, such as profiling of “terrorist” races or religions at airports. If crazy white Americans were labeled terrorists too, should we then profile white Americans as well, and subject them to extra security measures, vetting and profiling?

Ken Bader, Bensalem, Pennsylvania

Mental illness should not be an excuse for a crime. Commit the crime, pay the punishment.

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