We don’t have to be monsters: The new neuroscience of genocide and mass murder
The Holocaust and other genocides taught us ordinary people can enact horrors. Now we might understand the science
In 1997, UCLA neurosurgeon Itzhak Fried described a new medical syndrome, which he called “Syndrome E.” Actually, there was nothing new about it—it was as ancient as the Old Testament. What was new was thinking about it as a medical condition: “Syndrome E” was Fried’s term to describe participation in repetitive, genocidal mass murder by otherwise normal individuals, the “ordinary men” at the center of Christopher Browning’s 1992 book, “Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland,” a detailed examination of the central on-the-ground dynamic of the Holocaust, in which “mass murder and routine had become one. Normality itself had become exceedingly abnormal.”
As Browning explained, “Ultimately, the Holocaust took place because at the most basic level individual human beings killed other human beings in large numbers over an extended period of time. The grass-roots perpetrators became ‘professional killers.’” But how? That’s what Fried sought to explain, at least in a preliminary fashion.
Fried presented his analysis in a brief, three-page submission to The Lancet. He referred to several 20th century examples—the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, Cambodia under Pol Pol and Rwanda in the 1990s—noting that “Civil strife, extreme conditions, and ethnic conflicts have often had a role in these events.” But he pressed on to say “these events would not have happened without a distinct transformation in the behaviour of individuals. The uniformity and repeating nature of this transformation suggests a common syndrome affecting individuals for which I propose the term ‘Syndrome E.’”
Recently, in late April, almost 20 years later, Fried convened a multi-disciplinary conference in Paris, “The Brains That Pull the Triggers,” to explore and critique his approach. In doing so, he was motivated both by advances in neuroscience—exemplified by a presentation by Lasana Harris, “Dehumanised Perception: A Psychological Mechanism that May Facilitate Human Atrocities”—and also by the desire to engage with the difficult questions raised by such an approach—typified by Ilina Singh’s contribution, “Do Brains or Persons Pull the Trigger?: Ethics of Medicalizing Violence.”
“What struck me initially was this transformation,” Fried told Salon, “which can occur essentially in all people, where they can be moved into a situation where they will become, unfortunately, efficient killers in groups and do it on a repetitive basis.” A widespread response in the decade after the Holocaust was to view it as saying something profoundly disturbing about human nature, but Fried’s behavior-based approach throws a very different light on things, stressing the otherness involved. “This phenomenon itself—which obviously plays a major role in genocide, but not only in genocide—is sort of a radical transformation in human behavior,” Fried said. “It always puzzled me, how is it really possible?”
But something more specific brought his thinking to a head, Fried explained. “It was essentially following a challenge by The Lancet, which years ago had an editorial, which summarized one of the years and it said, ‘It’s been a wonderful year, we discovered a new phylum [Cycliophora] in the mouth of the Norwegian lobster, and we do all these wonderful scientific things, but in the same year—the previous year, we had hundreds of thousands of people killed in Rwanda and Bosnia, and science is really not dealing with these issues.’ So this was really the impetus for me,” Fried said. “I decided to approach it as a medical model, which I think is very useful in dealing with phenomena that you can observe, and do not have a full explanation for, but really defining it in operational terms.”
Much of what Fried noted was unsurprising. In a section called “Symptoms and signs,” he listed items such as repetitive acts of violence, obsessive ideation, diminished affect, rapid habituation, compartmentalization, environmental dependency and group contagion. Concerning the latter, he wrote, “The group environment is necessary for maintenance of the syndrome and for its propagation. Most individuals in the group respond uniformly to sets of stimuli, and the responses of individuals in the group serves as stimuli for other individuals.” However, one seemingly off-key item pointed toward a crucial departure in Fried’s thinking. Under the heading “Intact language, memory, and problem-solving skills,” Fried wrote, “Individuals affected by the syndrome usually appear intellectually sound and remain intact in cognitive domains such as language, memory, and the ability to plan and solve problems.”
This pointed the way toward Fried’s analysis, where he brought all these pieces together, with a central place for the concept of what he called “cognitive fracture.” It stands in direct opposition to what Fried called “the cultural mythology… that we have a primitive reptilian brain somewhere underneath, we’re holding [it] under check by our frontal lobes, and they keep the beast from springing out,” adding, “That’s how we think about ourselves.”
Although obviously a troubling view, because of the beast within, it’s also a beguiling picture of our noble higher nature, our human rationality (which we can identify with) at war with its more primitive dark side (which we can disown). But for Fried, it just doesn’t add up. “I really think it’s a completely opposite way,” he told Salon, “because obviously animals do not engage in this kind thing, most animals, at least.” Rather, he said, “What you really have here is a hyperactive cortex or prefrontal lobes, which is where the obsessive ideation is. It’s a result of evolution, which has rapidly evolved this.”
So it’s our “higher nature” that’s misfired somehow. But there’s more, Fried continued: “In this process of the fracture you no longer have the feedback of the lower centers. [Normally] you’re not going to go out now and slaughter 50 people, you will have feedback enough from your lower center. It will tell you it’s nothing that you really want to do.” That normal process breaks down due to cognitive fracture. But there are other changes as well. “You’ve got a sort of over-regulation of this prefrontal mechanism, where ideology is really getting in, which really dampens your reactivity in the amygdala area.” In his original 1997 “Syndrome E” paper, Fried wrote that the syndrome could be due to prefrontal hyperactivity “shutting off the amygdala and impairing its ability to regulate emotion and impart species-specific meaning to stimuli.”
~The Jew scientist forgot to include the reptilian behaviour of the Jews and included everyone else. The dumb goyim lemmings just keep taking it up the arse.
Maybe one of our great Scientists can tell the world how Jews are behind all the wars, all the organized crime, all the porn, all the fiat usury money changing schemes, all the race mixing, all the drug cartels, all the publishing houses, movies, media etc.
No folks our Professors and Doctors believe Jews learn this in the Frankfurt School.
If 4 white people were on an island with one Jew in the middle of the Pacific the exact same things would occur. All we have to do is a test like the reality shows. It isn’t what Jews learn in their lives that make Jews Jews it is who their father is. I didn’t say that originally, Jesus Christ said it (well I guess I said it too and proud of it). Its why these atheist psuedo Professor, Doctor white leader spokesmen will never ever get it. They are doctors and not one of them has the same definition of what a Jew is. It changes every day.
Someone needs to make me an honorary German because I back up Germans more than they do. Maybe some free wiener schnitzel at the Eagles Nest? I promise I wont wear a uniform.