Canadian PM says we shouldn’t “commit sociology” and try to explain terrorism

When asked about a recently uncovered train terrorism plot, the Canadian Prime Minister said we should not “commit sociology”:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said this is not the time to “commit sociology” when asked about the arrests of two men this week who are accused of conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack on a Via train.

Harper was asked during a news conference with Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister about concerns with the timing of the arrests. He was also asked about when it’s appropriate to talk about the root causes of involvement with terrorism.

The Conservatives had taken Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to task when he suggested last week it was important to look at the root causes of the Boston Marathon bombings after offering condolences and support to the victims. They said he was trying to rationalize the bombings or make excuses when the Liberal leader said the bombings happened because someone felt excluded from society.

“I think, though, this is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression,” Harper said. “These things are serious threats, global terrorist attacks, people who have agendas of violence that are deep and abiding threats to all the values our society stands for.

“I don’t think we want to convey any view to the Canadian public other than our utter condemnation of this kind of violence, contemplation of this violence and our utter determination through our laws and our activities to do everything we can to prevent it and counter it,” Harper said.

This echoes some conversations in recent years:

George Will warned against committing sociology after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

-After the riots in London, some said we should not try to explain why some people would riot (which is a relatively rare event in Western society).

Is this a new conservative talking point?

Just because we want to try to understand why some people commit terrorist acts (and most others do not) does not mean the explanations excuse or condone the actions. It also does not necessarily imply that society is entirely at fault. But, we do know that social forces can affect people even as individuals have some agency. In the end, thinking about causes of terrorism (and rioting) can help us develop ways to stop it in the future.

5 thoughts on “Canadian PM says we shouldn’t “commit sociology” and try to explain terrorism

  1. Pingback: Rioting in the Swedish suburbs | Legally Sociable

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  4. Pingback: The Chicago Tribune in 1968 and conservatives today: sociologists excuse rioters | Legally Sociable

  5. Pingback: Speculating on why sociology is less relevant to the media and public than economics | Legally Sociable

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