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The Making of a Homegrown Terrorist: Brainwashing Rebels in Search of a Cause
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The Amazon Book Review
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"Olsson, a retired psychiatrist and psychoanalyst with 37 years of experience, deciphers the complexities of these mass murder-minded killers. He structures his enlightening book with a broad enough scope, written in clear terms, to be mind-opening." - The Keene Sentinel
"It is a highly insightful analysis." - Perspectives on Terrorism
"This very scholarly, easy to read, and outstanding book should be required reading in colleges and certainly is a basic and significant text for psychoanalysts seeking to understand terrorism. I highly recommend it." - Psychodynamic Psychiatry
About the Author
Peter A. Olsson, MD, is a retired psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who practiced and taught psychiatry, psychotherapy, and psychoanalysis in Houston, Texas, for 25 years and in New Hampshire for 12 years.
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Top Customer Reviews
With compelling logic, Olsson shows that the terrorist mindset is particularly likely to be triggered in young men and women who see themselves as “in between” significant life stages or stations. For example, a typical terrorist might feel “in between” adolescence and adulthood, or school and gainful employment, or military service and civilian life, or prison and civilian life. People who see themselves as “in between” feel alienated from the dominant socio-economic and political order and easily develop intense resentment and anger. Often they long for an authoritarian father figure who can give meaning and purpose to their lives. They are easily led, easily conscripted as combatants for a “noble cause,” and typically develop an “us versus them” mentality steeped in anger and rage, a psychological state encouraged and promoted by their fanatical handlers.
An important insight provided by Olsson is that feelings of alienation and disenfranchisement are particularly easy to ignite in individuals whose perceptions have been shaped by religious fundamentalism, especially certain traditions in Islam and Christianity. Individuals from these fundamentalist traditions are more likely to see the world in black-and-white terms that, to their minds, justify and even demand acts of violence. Olsson concludes that Islam is not solely responsible for modern terrorism, but it is a particularly effective abettor of terrorism in Muslim subcultures that feel disenfranchised by the rise of the West. Many Islamic terrorists are from wealthy families and are well educated and sophisticated; nevertheless, often for deep psychological reasons related to Middle Eastern culture, they are intellectually vulnerable to Imams and other authority figures with jihadist agendas.
Islam’s role in terrorism is a delicate topic in today’s atmosphere of political correctness where any negative comments about Islam will be condemned by some Muslims as “Islamophobic.” Olsson’s analysis of Islam’s nexus with terrorism is entirely objective and free of religious bias. This book is a valuable corrective to the many media spokespersons who seem willing to go to any length to avoid being called Islamophobic. While the motives of these public spokespersons may be well intended, the media’s failure to speak plainly and factually muddles popular understanding of the sources of terrorism. Written in clear, jargon-free prose, this book performs the admirable function of speaking truth to the distortions of political correctness. Highly recommended.
There is a proviso to this type of analysis as Olsson clearly notes on page 107: "It is unethical for a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst to make a medical psychiatric diagnosis or recommend treatment without face-to-face consultation meetings. the limitations of the author's psychobiological approach needs to be noted."
Since these people are literally hiding in plain sight, the very important clues that Dr. Olsson offers are extremely valuable and should be required reading for every FBI interrogator. As the book describes, the emotional journey from early childhood through adolescence until full adult judgmental abilities are reached is a long process in today's complex society. Family members, friends, coaches, teachers, and mentors need to be observant of warning changes in ideas and behaviors. As young life moves from stage to stage, it is the in-between periods that cause the most stress. Dr. Olsson uses the term "in-betweeners" in his careful description of clues to look for. Such "persons are more open to persuasion and are more suggestible to accepting things, ideas and new behaviors" and "less likely to consider that such offerings might have strings attached." (pg. 11) A list of underlying dynamics on page 62 is extremely valuable.
A very unusual aspect of this book is the background information Dr. Olsson provides. For example there is a history of the foreign relations between this country, the Saudis and Pakistan, which helps to explain what Pakistanis might think about the United States. There is a careful description of family life in Chechnya and that country's long and arduous relationship with Russia, as background to understanding the Boston Marathon bombers, the Tzarnaev brothers. In discussing Bill Ayer (Weather Underground) Dr. Olsson carefully reviews "Just War" Theory on page 120, since President Johnson's enlarging and continuing the Vietnam War was Ayer's major complaint. Providing this type if information is extremely helpful to readers not familiar with the surrounding factors.
To help further education on this topic the book has an additional reading list, an extensive glossary of terms and concepts, a bibliography of references, and a fine index. It has a copy of the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act, H.R. 1953, 110th Congress. This book should be in every library, and every law enforcement institution in this country.
Patricia A Barth, PhD
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