When people ask me in regular conversation what subject I am most interested in and I answer Genocide…I get the weirdest looks. You like Genocide? Isn’t that wrong? No. No, I do not like Genocide. It is probably the one subject I have the most feelings of hatred and anger toward- and that is the reason I study it. If anything has ever affected me more on a bystander level, because I have no personal connection to any events of genocide, it’s the eradication of an innocent people based on such small, and sometimes irrational, differences.
This being said, I have written several essays on the inner workings of genocide and how it can happen. How a group of people can become so violent so fast. One of the major factors in how genocide is carried out is the US/THEM mentality through the view of the in-group on the out-group - at its extreme. Genocide is what occurs when the out-group is seen as everything that causes the in-group’s pain and the only option that remains is to exterminate the problem: exterminate the people responsible for the in-group’s struggles.
Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or part, of an ethnic, racial, religious or national group. A huge part of this definition is the term “group,” which implies members being associated with the group. And it doesn’t stop there. There is a list of other terms coined for the annihilation of specified groups. (And I am just going to list them now…)
Classicide: the intended mass killing of an entire class
Democide: the murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder.
Ecocide: the willful destruction of environment and eco systems through a) pollution…and b) military efforts to undermine a population’s sustainability and means of substance.
Eliticide: the destruction of members of the socioeconomic elite of a targeted group- political leaders, military officers, business people, religious leaders, and cultural/intellectual figures.
Ethnocide: (synonym for genocide) the destruction of a group’s cultural, linguistic, and existential underpinnings, without necessarily killing members of the group.
Femicide: the systematic murder of females for being female.
Fraticide: the killing of factional enemies within political (notably communist) movements.
Gendercide: the selective destruction of the male and female component of a group, or of dissident sexual minorities (homosexuals or transvestites).
Judeocide: the Nazi extermination of European Jews.
Linguicide: the destruction of the displacement of languages.
Memoricide: the destruction “not only…of those deeme undesirable on the territory to be ‘purified’ but…[of] any trace that might recall their erstwhile presence (schools, religious buildings and so on)”.
Omnicide: “The death of all”: the blanket destruction of humanity and other life forms by weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons.
Politicide: mass killing according to political affiliation, whether actually or imputed.
Poorcide: the genocide of the poor through structural poverty.
(All definitions can be found in Adam Jones’ book Genocide: An Introduction).
Although Chip Barlet was not talking about Genocide when he wrote his article “Islamophobia, Antisemitism, and the Demonized Other” he nailed the fundamental aspects of US/THEM thinking that comes with fear of the out-group.
James Waller studied the fundamentals of the violence of group dynamics in his book Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Mass Killing. He also comments on the normal associations people have with social groups and how aggression and hard situations flip a switch within average people, allowing them to be capable of murder. It is within all of us to become violent under duress and with a promise of victory.
The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 was the systematic destruction of the Tutsi population in Rwanda by the lower, and larger, Hutu class. The Hutu-run government utilized RTLM Radio Propaganda, “Hate Radio”, to spread violent distaste for the Tutsi class, in which they felt threatened by. An ideology of the Hutu superiority spread to suggest that the Tutsi class was “all that was bad in the world.” This established the Tutsi class as the out-group. When the plane of Hutu President Juvenal Habryimana was shot down April 6, 1994 Hutu extremists took it as an attack from the Tutsi population and declared their need for the extermination of Tutsi people. It was the spark that set off the anger within the Hutu under the influence of the Hutu Hate Radio that began the genocide. Within 100 days the Hutu slaughtered their Tutsi neighbors, family members, and people that associated with the Tutsi population, killing between 500,000-800,000. (source)
People do not normally kill neighbors, friends and family members. Murder is considered a crime committed mainly by the disturbed. But in times of genocide the moral compass within humans fall apart and behavioral norms are shifted for the better of the represented group. The rules instituted by the in-group enforce member behavior in favor of the in-group. This new reality allows members of the in-group to believe they are the “right group” and the ethnocentric mindset separates the two classes, stripping the out-group of their identity. This “dehumanizing” process allows ordinary people to participate in mass murder.
The group of an individual’s identity provides a security none other can offer. When a threat risks the stability of the group, measures are taken to ensure the group does not falter- at any cost. The in-group can become an unstoppable force and a fearful one., if left unchecked. And when violence is considered the only option events, such as genocide, can occur.
Now that I’ve concluded the most extreme version of the in-group vs. the out-group I’ll follow up with a much less intense post next week. Stay tuned.