What Is Lone Wolf Terrorism?

The term "Lone Wolf" has been used to describe those individuals estranged from society.
The term "Lone Wolf" has been used to describe those individuals estranged from society.

What Is Lone Wolf Terrorism?

Lone wolf terrorism is the term used to describe violent acts committed by a single perpetrator. This person acts independently and without the help of outside organizations. A lone wolf terrorist may, however, follow the ideology of a particular organization or group and may commit acts of terror to show their support of said group. The planning and methods utilized by a lone wolf terrorist are independent. Even if the individuals believes in the mission or objective of a larger organization, they may never have contact with the group. In this way, they remain outside of law enforcement detection and cannot be easily monitored, which makes them difficult to stop.

History Of The Term: Lone Wolf Terrorism

The term “lone wolf” has been used since as far back as the 19th century to describe the one person who breaks away from the pack. The term has been used in film and in mystery novels since at least 1914. A man who called himself the “Lone Wolf” tortured and terrorized women in Boston in the US in 1925. The term has been used to describe those individuals estranged from society; those who never belong.

The term “lone wolf” has been associated with terrorism dating back to as early as the 1980s. Louis Beam, a member of the KKK and the Aryan Nation, wrote a piece for his followers, encouraging a revolution without leaders. He believed that a revolution against the US government would be most successful if fought by independent individuals.

This idea continued to be promoted in the 1990s, by Tom Metzger and Alex Curtis. These two individuals, known white supremacists in the US, followed the recommendation of Louis Beam and encouraged fellow white supremacists to engage in independent acts of violence in order to avoid being deterred by law enforcement officials. The FBI and the San Diego Police Department began an investigation into Alex Curtis, calling it “Operation Lone Wolf”.

Today, the term is used by the media, politicians, law enforcement officials, and the general public.

The Spread Of Lone Wolf Terrorism

Lone wolf terrorism was adopted by al Qaeda after September 11, 2001, when US military forces attacked its operational base in Afghanistan. Leaders of al Qaeda prompted their followers to take part in independent acts of violence against their perceived enemies at any given moment. Years later, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS and ISIL), followed suit, encouraging followers to partake in acts of lone wolf terrorism.

This adoption of lone wolf terrorism tactics has effectively changed the fact of terrorism. Where terrorist acts were once associated with large, orchestrated events led by a long chain of command, terrorist acts are now increasingly led by autonomous cells or by individuals.

In fact, statistics show that throughout North America and western Europe, lone wolf terrorism associated with radical Islam has increased between 1990 and 2013. This increase has been seen in the number of targeted countries, a number of injuries and deaths, and a number of attacks against the military.

Lone Wolf Terrorism And Mental Health

Mental health experts believe that lone wolf terrorists tend to possess psychological abnormalities, incited by personal or political grievances. Their mental instability may be the leading factor that makes it difficult to fit in or belong in everyday society. This rejection may push them toward radical or extreme ideological groups and their causes. One study has shown that a lone wolf terrorist is 13.5 times more likely to have a mental illness than a terrorist who works within a large group.


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