“A mass movement,” wrote Eric Hoffer in “The True Believer,” “appeals not to those intent on bolstering and advancing a cherished self, but to those who crave to be rid of an unwanted self.
“Their innermost craving is for a new life—a rebirth—or, failing this, a chance to acquire new elements of pride, confidence, hope, a sense of purpose, and worth by an identification with a holy cause.”
Such a man was Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a criminal with a decade-long record of drug-dealing, assault and robbery, who shot and killed a guard at Ottawa’s National War Memorial and then burst into Parliament and shot two others before being cut down.
A psychiatric evaluation of Zehaf-Bibeau in 2011 found, “He has been a devoted Muslim for seven years, and he believes he must spend time in jail as a sacrifice to pay for his mistakes in the past.”
Now Zehaf-Bibeau is known to his countrymen and the world. Now his deeds are celebrated by the Islamic State he sought to join.
To the True Believer, writes Hoffer,
“Chaos is his element. When the old order begins to crack, he wades in with all his might to blow the whole hated present to high heaven. … He alone knows the innermost craving of the masses in action, the craving for communion, for the mustering of the host, for the dissolution of cursed individualism in the zest and grandeur of a mighty whole. Posterity is king.”