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Stochastic Terrorism: Triggering the shooters.


By FZ - Posted on 12 January 2011

Posted by G2Geek on the Daily Kos

January 10, 2011- Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass communications to stir up random lone wolves to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.

This is what occurs when Bin Laden releases a video that stirs random extremists halfway around the globe to commit a bombing or shooting.

This is also the term for what Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity, and others do.  And this is what led directly and predictably to a number of cases of ideologically-motivated murder similar to the Tucson shootings.


 

Update: the mechanism spelled out.

(This update is to resolve some ambiguity.) 

The person who actually plants the bomb or assassinates the public official is not the stochastic terrorist, they are the "missile" set in motion by the stochastic terrorist.  The stochastic terrorist is the person who uses mass media as their means of setting those "missiles" in motion.

Here's the mechanism spelled out concisely:

The stochastic terrorist is the person who uses mass media to broadcast memes that incite unstable people to commit violent acts. 

One or more unstable people responds to the incitement by becoming a lone wolf and committing a violent act.   While their action may have been statistically predictable (e.g. "given the provocation, someone will probably do such-and-such"), the specific person and the specific act are not predictable (yet). 

The stochastic terrorist then has plausible deniability: "Oh, it was just a lone nut, nobody could have predicted he would do that, and I'm not responsible for what people in my audience do."

The lone wolf who was the "missile" gets captured and sentenced to life in prison, while the stochastic terrorist keeps his prime time slot and goes on to incite more lone wolves.   

Further, the stochastic terrorist may be acting either negligently or deliberately, or may be in complete denial of their impact, just like a drunk driver who runs over a pedestrian without even realizing it. 

Finally, there is no conspiracy here: merely the twisted acts of individuals who are promoting extremism, who get access to national media in which to do it, and the rest follows naturally just as an increase in violent storms follows from an increase in average global temperature.

And now we return to the rest of the original diary...
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The lone wolves.

The term "lone wolf" is used in law enforcement and intel to refer to an individual who is emotionally unstable, who lacks obvious ties to known criminal gangs or terrorist groups, and who pops up seemingly out of nowhere to commit a violent or terrorist act. 

The three-letter agencies can keep an eye on organized groups, and do a damn good job at stopping violent actors associated with those groups.  At least three intended car bombings were stopped last year by the FBI intercepting the bombers and substituting fake explosives in time to save hundreds of lives and arrest the would-be bombers. 

Lone wolves don't have obvious connections through which they can be discovered.  They don't communicate much if at all about their intentions.  They keep their plans to themselves.  And then, apparently at random, they pop up from obscurity and commit murder.  They are law enforcement's and intel's worst nightmare, and on Saturday one of them became America's nightmare.    
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Stirring the pot.

At any given time there are hundreds of thousands of Americans with combinations of personality characteristics (such as emotional instability, a paranoid ideology, and a propensity for violence) that put them at risk of going off the deep end and becoming lone wolves.  All it takes is the right push, the right nudge at the right time, to dislodge a few of them and send them on their way to fifteen minutes of fame surrounded by dead bodies. 

There's nothing mysterious about this process.  It is not much different to other instances where a person is almost ready to make a decision, and the right combination of inputs makes them act.  For example you have an old car and it begins to break down more often: now you're thinking about replacing it, and you might be swayed by something in an automobile advertisement.  Anyone who is familiar with marketing and advertising knows how this works, and advertisers often target their messages to people who are "ready to buy" and just need a little persuading.  Political candidates often target their ads to the undecideds, hoping that a little nudge will win them some votes.  This is perfectly normal and hardly insidious. 

It becomes insidious when these practices are used in such a manner as to deliberately or negligently stir up lone wolf violence. 

So let's take Beck, Hannity, and O'Reilly.  There is no question that their emotional rhetoric appeals to people who are emotionally unstable.  And, since their audiences are tracked and analyzed in detail, there is no question that they know it. 

When they go on TV and shout and sputter, rant and rave, and weep and wail, they are not expecting to persuade liberals or even undecideds to change their votes.  They are "playing to their base," that they know includes people who are emotionally unstable.  In short they are "stirring the pot."  And if you turn up the temperature and keep stirring, you know that the pot will boil.  Little bubbles will come up from the depths and pop.

FULL STORY HERE:

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