Mass Shootings: Lone Wolf or Stochastic?

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Demonstrators in Dayton, Ohio, the site of a mass shooting August 4, 2019 (Photo: MEGAN JELINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators in Dayton, Ohio, the site of a mass shooting August 4, 2019 (Photo: MEGAN JELINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Following the recent mass shootings, Americans are coming together to explore new methods for preventing violent extremism (PVE).

For starters, we need to rethink how we look at the label of “lone wolf” terrorist. The new buzzword for these “lone wolf” acts of terrorism that has popped up is “stochastic (randomly occurring but statistically predictable) terrorism.”

It’s an concept being explored in the wake of our recent domestic terror and mass shooting sprees.

Writing in the The Washington Post, Juliette Kayyem proposes there is, in fact, no lone wolf. Kayyem is the assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security and the faculty chair of the homeland security program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. According to Kayyem,

Public speech that may incite violence, even without that specific intent, has been given a name: stochastic terrorism, for a pattern that can’t be predicted precisely but can be analyzed statistically. It is the demonization of groups through mass media and other propaganda that can result in a violent act because listeners interpret it as promoting targeted violence – terrorism.”

In other words, this is terrorism that’s statistically predictable but individually random due to incitement by decentralized propaganda outlets. The term was originally used by Leftist to describe white supremacist violence, but it also refers to Islamist violence.

Moving the needle to more particular language is as important in the conversation on preventing violent extremism and mass shootings as the more predominant narratives such as background checks and banning assault weapons. The underlying root issue with preventing mass shootings is understanding behavior drivers, which is where the need for a preventing violent extremism program comes in.

Writing for The Daily Wire, Clarion Project’s National Correspondent Shireen Qudosi advocated for a preventing violent extremism program rooted in community resilience. The program, consistent with Clarion’s PVE initiative, is

“…designed to bring together key stakeholders across law enforcement, education, clergy, civil leaders and business. The second front of the preventing violent extremism program goes further and caters specifically to youth through educational programming.”

These are the tougher conversations we need to have. Almost 20 years after September 11, 2001, we’re just beginning to understand Islamist extremism. We can’t afford to make the same mistake with domestic terrorism.



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