The title “Terrorism” gets used, a lot. ‘Lone Wolf Terror’ by ‘white males’ has been a recent pet fetish phrase of the perpetually hyperventilating masses. It’s just the flavor of the week until a new boogie man can be chosen. Prior to that it was every military aged Muslim and Sikh (because they look kinda muslimish and that was scary) before that it was someone else… and so on and so forth.
The FBI has data to put all the speculation to rest and firmly establish things we know and things we don’t know about “Lone Wolf” terrorists.
No, not Lord of the Rings, those bad guys issuing forth from the twisted halls of Mordor and such were very easy to define. Humans are harder. Check your preconceptions and read.
240 possible cases were initially reviewed for this study and it was found that only 52 met the criteria. The time frame is from 1972 to 2015. The individual incidents themselves may not be the only incident a given LWT was involved with, but they perpetrated an event at some point that met all the criteria. The report does not name perpetrators in order to give focus to the data over the individual incidents. But for anyone curious enough and within the time parameters the incidents and their actors are readily identifiable.
What do we see?
Women do participate in terroristic violence, however with the attack inside the United States it has always been jointly with other people.
The average was 37.7 years of age. Islamic extremists trended the youngest with an average down to 26.3. It speaks to the radicalization targeting that groups like ISIS have employed, their sophistication, and how well they target younger demographics in a minority population that does experience marginalization, poverty, and stereotype stigmas.
Military age males make up the majority however, 68% of attackers were between 15 and 45.
Citizenship: 90% were US citizens. All were legal residents
A common border wall boogieman used is ‘lone wolf terrorists’ crossing into the US and performing attacks. Well ICE and DHS are well aware of that threat and are doing well in stopping it. But internal radicalizations are a much more difficult problem to crack. What a free people consume for information is.. well.. free. Their thoughts and motivations are their own. And if no one picks up on the elements of radicalization towards a violent cause, any cause, then it is nearly impossible to prevent.
You cannot stop something only one person knows about and they’re the one doing it.
Most ‘Lone Wolves’ live here and are from here. This speaks to disenfranchisement and disillusionment from within the greater national society rather than seeing the USA as some mighty foreign monstrosity.
Here’s the one that everyone gets bent about.
Yes, the majority of Lone Wolf Terrorists within the United States were white male. But, as a demographic block of the US Population, they’re a major chunk also. 65% is higher than the demographic average. Middle Eastern is by far the highest based on population. Black, Bi-racial, and Asian are the most proportionally represented. Hispanics are vastly underrepresented.
What does it mean? It means we should probably be looking at political motivations and radicalization methods instead of ‘race’ alone. We have two clearly disproportionately vulnerable subsets to radicalization, what other factors are present? Race isn’t the key. It is an indicator though and I suspect the radicalization methodology for both have similarities but play very different tunes to get the end result of an attack.
Relationship: Single, 48%, Married 21%, Seperated 23%
Relationship data doesn’t give us much on the surface, but it does suggest that radicalization happens to more isolated individuals. Children were another factor, 33% had kids but only 11% had their kids under their care during the year prior to their attack. Isolated.
Education: Terror is more for the educated
Two doctors, five masters, eleven or twelve bachelors, and a total of 75% of offenders had collegiate level education.
Employment: 16% Were Full Time Workers
There’s a saying about idle hands and the devil’s handiwork. That checks out. 54% had no employment or continuing education at all. Only 37% were financially self-sufficient. These people had spare time and often were not financially solvent.
Religion: Half and Half
Only half of the Lone Wolf attackers identified as religious. With half of that half being nominally Christian, one third a variant of Islam, one Jewish individual, and three of other faiths. Twentysix in total (50%).
Others expressed belief of some variety but didn’t affiliate (17%) while a full third were expressly non religious or no data indicated they held any belief along those lines. 38% had recently went exploring religion, or religions before their attack. Looking for meaning or purpose perhaps.
Religion is therefore a poor indicator beyond a tangential method/motivation.
Nineteen served and they had a variety of discharge types. Their service job types (MOS) ran the spectrum and attack lethality was not linked to military service.
It’s an enlightening dataset and there are plenty of factors we can track as early warning “hotspots” that when put together into the right mix drastically increase the likelihood a radicalization and attack could occur. But these aren’t “rules”. They don’t flag any single demographic as “that’s where all the terrorists are coming from!”, not even close.
It gives us warning symptoms. Idol hands, isolated, searching for purpose. Is it any wonder that when given or forming a purpose for themselves that sometimes it is a violent one?
Look at the whole thing, the myriad factors that were common and uncommon among the terrorists. Also pay attention to the fact that these are just potential hotspots, like a worn place on the skin that might become a blister if continued to be placed under abrasive pressure.
People are complex, even terrorist people.