Bandura, A. Mechanisms of moral disengagement. In W. Reich, Origins
of Terrorism: Psycholigies, ideologies, theologies, states of mind, 1990.
There are psychological processes which can disengage morality from
conduct. This can happen by:
* reconstruing conduct as serving moral purposes
* obscuring personal agency in bad activities
* disregarding consequences of actions
* blaming or dehumanizing victims
Situations like the military can turn killing into a moral act. It happens
when non-violent acts appear to be ineffective and when there is a serious
threat to a person's way of life. Justification can take many forms for
Democratic societies find it difficult to develop counterterrorist measures.
Terrorist acts are unpredictable, servere, disruptive, uncontrollable.
We also sanitize our actions with the words we use. We can compare our
immoral acts against larger atrocities.
Modern terrorists coerce the media into publicizing their grievances and
try to gain sympathy and support.
Displacement of Responsibility
Terroists often seem themselves as patriots doing the state's bidding, thus
absolving responsibility. People who take hostages put the responsibility
in the adversaries hands. The responsibility can be diffused through the
acts of many people. Group decision making can diffuse responsibility.
Disregard for Consequences
People minimize the consequences of acts they are responsible for. It's
easier to hurt others when they are not visible. Superiors who make decisions
are removed from those who follow orders.
People find violence easier if they don't consider they victims as human
The road to terrorism is gradual.
The mechanisms of moral disengagement involve cognitive and social machinations
but not literal self-deception.