With the US having just celebrated “Random Acts of Kindness” day, it’s clearly time that we return our thoughts to the dark side of the force.
However, I also should just say that viewer discretion is advised. This article is certainly “work safe,” but because of the nature of the topics discussed, if you’re a kid, you should talk to your parents before reading any further.
Some individuals can be badly affected by reading about acts of violence, as well. If you find that this article causes you emotional trauma, we would recommend seeking appropriate support.
So, for the brave at heart, let’s get to the juicy bits. Here are the top 10 seemingly random acts of violence that weren’t actually random.
Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge
The history of nation-states is filled with stories of one ethnic or religious group, deciding to go to war with their own family, friends, and neighbors, based on these differences. This isn’t something which one has to look too far back in history to experience. In the past 60 years, ethnic cleansing has occurred in multiple civilized European nations. This includes the former Yugoslav Republics of Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s and Cyprus in the 1960s and 1970s.
But the best example of this dark, evil side of humanity, is the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge who in three long years managed to exterminate 25% of the population of Cambodia. The government’s ultimate motivation was to create a social-agrarian society. To do so, they needed to “purify” the Cambodian population.
These purges happened between 1975 and 1978. What more needs to be said—the Cambodian leaders killed 1 in 4 people in less than 1,000 days, for being Chinese, Vietnamese, Muslim, Christian—anything the government felt was not good enough for their new society.
The Burning of the Reichstag
No top ten list is ever complete without a reference to the Nazis. While other atrocities directly linked to the Nazis are definitely not random, this one resulted in the extent of Adolf Hitler’s power.
Our entry in this category is the Burning of the Reichstag, on February 27, 1933. The Reichstag was a key Nazi establishment. The day after the fire, the German government passed legislation to deprive rights like free speech, the freedom to assemble, privacy, and the free press. It also ultimately led to Adolf Hitler’s election.
The Nazis blamed communists for this random act of violence, but whether the unemployed Dutch construction worker, Marinus van der Lubbe, was indeed actually responsible, we will never know. Lubbe was eventually found not guilty by a West German court. But how random was this fire, really? Walter Gempp, who was the head of the Berline fire department, pointed out evidence that the Nazis were directly involved with the fire. He was later dismissed from his position in the fire department and his claims, thrown out.
Genocide against Indigenous Peoples
Random acts of violence don’t always have to involve guns or fistfights, sometimes it’s biological warfare. British colonists’ tactics to claim American land and reduce the native population were absolutely despicable. One of these tactics was to give the Native Americans blankets infected with smallpox. The “random” outbreak among Native Americans in 1763 hit them hard. Though we can’t be entirely sure that it was the blankets that infected them, they did catch the virus from British colonists.
Turning our attention to Mexico, the spread of germs may not have been intentional, but it certainly helped Cortes conquer the Aztecs. In 1520, an outbreak of smallpox on the Mexican coast spread to the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. The European virus reduced the city’s population by 40%.
General Dyer, Butcher of Amritsar
The year is 1919, and the British Raj controls India. Due to local events, public meetings are banned, and the local acting General Reginald Dyer is enforcing draconian measures as retribution.
Having heard of an illegal public meeting, Dyer arrived with a machine gun on a truck (which thankfully they did not use) and his troops. He ordered the crowd to disperse, lined up his troops and promptly ordered them to fire until they spent all their ammunition.
Whether you believe the official British Government inquiry or the reports from those supporting the independence movement, this single event was instrumental in India and Pakistan’s Independence.
The problem with being a despotic leader of an international pariah state is that your hold on power is the only thing that keeps you influential. Kim Jong-Nam was the eldest son of Kim Jong-il and the half-brother of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader.
For Jong-un, having an elder brother alive and well created a risk to his power base. So North Korean intelligence operatives paid some women to “play a prank” on Jong-nam. They jumped out in front of him, wet him with some liquid, and then covered his face with a cloth.
Little did they know the liquid was not water or perfume, and the cloth was not normal. When used together, they activated releasing VX, an internationally-banned, deadly nerve agent.
A therapist could have a field day picking this story apart, but it certainly ensured that everyone knew which of Jong-il’s children was in charge.