Schneider: This has been statistically proven. The more open and transparent a system is, the more it incurs the suspicion that there is something in the background, something invisible that controls things.
SPIEGEL: Would that make WikiLeaks an assassin, in the sense of paranoiac reason?
Schneider: WikiLeaks is driven by the same paranoiac desire to shed light into every corner and wrest every last secret from the hands of the powerful. This is paradoxical in itself, because those behind WikiLeaks need secrecy themselves. They have to do everything in their power to protect their sources, and in doing so they create their own secrets and secretive individuals, which a new group could target with its own suspicions.
SPIEGEL: It is notable how often the symbols and numbers from which paranoiacs derive meaning come from literature and film.
Schneider: Assassins are intensive users of the media. The media are the source of their suspicion, which simultaneously creates a strong urge to appear in precisely the same media. John Hinckley, who tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981, was a movie buff. Hinckley was deeply impressed by Martin Scorsese's film "Taxi Driver" and stalked Jodie Foster, who was 13 at the time. He wrote her poems and countless letters. Of course, they remained unanswered. Then he wrote the following monstrous sentence in a letter to the New York Times: "The shooting was the greatest love offering in the history of the world." This short, unhappy, miserable guy framed his thoughts in such global, historical dimensions. It was his dream to live in the White House with Jodie Foster.
SPIEGEL: Of course, Ronald Reagan was the one standing in his way. But doesn't that would-be assassin contradict your theory of paranoiac reason? Reason doesn't seem to come into play here.
Schneider: Yes, it does. He knew the entire history of assassinations. He knew about his predecessors and, in a sense, identified with them. He knew what would happen after the act, that images would be created and circle the globe within a day. He knew that he was stepping from an unseen state into the public eye. And then, he thought, the woman I worship will see me. The idea of moving from the obscure into the public realm is a strong incentive.
SPIEGEL: Which assassins are you particularly interested in?
Schneider: Mark David Chapman, for example, the man who shot John Lennon. Not because I have any particular sympathy for him, but his story is moving and devastating. He believed that he was reading about himself in J.D. Salinger's novel "The Catcher in the Rye." Immediately after the deed, with Lennon and still lying in the lobby of the Dakota building, Chapman reached for the book and began reading. He also talked about synchronicities that eventually encouraged him to commit the crime.
SPIEGEL: By synchronicity you mean that events that are in fact unrelated are nevertheless brought into relation with one another?
Schneider: The term was coined by C.G. Jung and refers to the relationship between events that are only random on the surface. For example, the name of the man who sold the murder weapon to Chapman in Honolulu was Ono, like Lennon's wife. When Chapman reached for a magazine on the flight to New York, John Lennon was on the cover. There was an entire series of these details that he saw as synchronicities and that helped him rationalize his decision to commit the murder: It's clear, I have my mission. "I had to do it" is a sentence one hears again and again among assassins.
SPIEGEL: The original assassin, in your analysis, was Brutus, Caesar's murderer. Was this man paranoid?
Schneider: Not in the clinical sense, of course. But Brutus, like his fellow assassins, pursued a fundamental suspicion, namely that Caesar wanted to become king. This would have spelled the death of the republic. Although Caesar insisted that he didn't want the crown, the conspirators' interpretation of his behavior led them to the opposite conclusion.
SPIEGEL: They pursued their suspicions.
Schneider: A person who becomes an assassin is always an interpreter first: of numbers and facts, of gestures, or sentences and of silences. The case of Brutus is so interesting and is still discussed today because there were understandable reasons for the murder of Caesar. Dante placed him in hell, but to this day Brutus has important supporters, starting with Cicero. In fact, his reputation is practically flawless.
SPIEGEL: When does suspicion cross the line into paranoia?
Schneider: When all of the non-rational moments that are part of reason disappear. That's when it turns pathological. When there are no longer any doubts in a person's thoughts, and there is no hesitation in his actions. When empathy is no longer possible and the person becomes consumed by the feeling that it is absolutely necessary that certain things be done to prevent the worst from happening. That's when the person is no longer paranoiac but paranoid.
SPIEGEL: But what about someone like Georg Elser, who tried to assassinate Hitler? You can't exactly call that paranoia.
Schneider: In that case, it wasn't the assassin who was paranoid, but his opponents, which included both Hitler and large segments of German society. It is quite possible, and Stalinism is a case in point, that the majority of a group shares irrational, delusional views.
SPIEGEL: You mentioned Sherlock Holmes as an example of what you call a healthy paranoia. In other words, the detective is our doctor who treats acute contingency intolerance?
Schneider: Absolutely. He destroys contingency, because he is able to deduce something that makes sense out of seemingly random clues. We delegate our hope that evil can be recognized and therefore combated to crime-solving heroes like Holmes, to investigators and police officers.
SPIEGEL: You call the assassin the "black angel of chance." He is invisible, he appears out of nowhere, like Loughner or the shooters behind the Columbine massacre, and he causes devastation by committing murder seemingly at random.
Schneider: The randomness is the key. Sebastian B., the Emsdetten school shooter, believed that Columbine killer Eric Harris was God, and Dylan Klebold, Harris's friend, saw himself as "some kind of God." None of these young men -- the typical assassin is male and around 20 -- was insane or intellectually deficient. They played God when they committed their crimes. They were demons of chance. The arrogance of being in control of the lives and deaths of random individuals for a few hours or minutes gave them the ultimate high. One of the last entries in Dylan Klebold's diary was: "Have fun!"
SPIEGEL: And what about Islamist suicide bombers?
Schneider: Unlike the Loughners and school shooters, who derive the unavoidability of their deed from their paranoid thoughts, these radical believers receive their decision to act from an outside source. They live in a collective paranoiac conviction that nothing happens without God's will. They also act for a recognizable reason. For our world, their actions on Sept. 11, 2001 were an extreme case of contingency: unpredictable, horrible and simply incomprehensible at first. Politically speaking, they were backed by the will to teach our system a lesson in uncertainty. It was an attempt to promote paranoid thinking in our society. However, there was a reason behind their actions that we can now understand. It is no longer an isolated, paranoid act, which has one advantage.
SPIEGEL: Which is?
Schneider: We now have a relatively accurate picture of Islamist suicide assassins. There is now a phenotype that investigators can use as a model. The attackers of Sept. 11 were unpredictable, but their potential successors, 10 years later, are not. We know enough about men of this type to be able to act preventively.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Schneider, thank you for this interview.
Interview conducted by Philipp Oehmke and Elke Schmitter
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