Lessons from the Red Terror About Islamist Organizations: an Interview with Prof. Anna Geifman
PJM: We identify terror today with radical Islam, yet your study shows that the motivations for terror on a grand scale have a broader source than Islam. What is it that unites Red terrorists and Islamic jihadists?
Geifman: Terrorism is a variant of a phenomenon which psychiatrist and historian Robert Lifton called “totalism.” Its devotees — anarchists, Marxists, or Islamists — want to impose a new order based on an “all-or-nothing claim to truth.” They operate within distinctive parameters of a “theology of Armageddon — a final battle between good and evil” – in which the stakes are nothing less than universal salvation. As outlined in Eric Hoffer’s classic, The True Believer, such movements have mastered the art of “religiofication,” that is, converting political grievances into messianic aspirations and “practical purposes into holy causes.”