Are we misinterpreting lone wolf terrorism?

The well organised and intricate terrorist attacks such as 9/11 and the Madrid bombings have seemingly been replaced by much more random and frightening acts of lone wolf terrorism. Lone wolf terrorism sheds the perception of terrorism as being a group endeavour and instead highlights the potential for an individual to become inspired to commit acts of violence without the direction or knowledge of the organisation. In this sense, lone wolf terrorism is essentially all about the individual rather than the group, thus increasing the difficulty of preventing an attack. The key long lasting consequence of lone wolf terrorism is the sentiment that there are a multitude of terrorists hiding within society which results in a rise of xenophobia and religion-centred hate crimes. However, if lone wolf terrorism is the act of an individual then shouldn’t it be considered detached from both the terrorist organisation and the demographic they belong to? And if this is the case, should the investigation into these lone wolf terror attacks be centred around the individual’s mental health and whether terrorism was simply used to give the perpetrator a sense of identity and purpose?

Debates surrounding the impact that a lack of personal identity and purpose have on lone wolf attackers is split into two differing theories; psychoanalytic and non-psychoanalytic. This article will focus on the psychoanalytic theory which suggests that unconscious factors drive a person’s mental and social life and categorises lone wolf attackers as individuals which lack a personal and social identity as well as having low self-worth. The likelihood of an absence of personal identity is proliferated through the continual growing interconnectedness of states diminishing the sense of a national identity. Therefore, resulting in a vacuum surrounding personal identity which drastically increases the possibility of psychological disturbances within the individual.

In particular, a study conducted on 88 lone wolf attackers from 15 countries found the following characteristics to be present in some or all of the perpetrators; mental illness, vocational problems, high-stress levels, problems with intimate partner relationships, social awkwardness, violent communications, and high intelligence. I find that many of the characteristics noted within the study are associated with problems interacting within society, therefore contributing to the idea that these individuals lack an identity, a sense of purpose and a grounding. The absence of these feelings, coupled with psychological problems, leaves these individuals susceptible to becoming involved with terrorist organisations for the sole purpose of having a place of which to belong.


Equally, the impact of social media on the mindset of lone wolves is frequently overlooked. Outlets such as Facebook or Instagram encourage the younger generation to view their lives as an ongoing drama and conform to a certain look, culture and way of thinking. Now, should the individual not adhere to these principles, then their personal identity would be out of touch with the status quo and out of place in society.

Furthermore, the increasing use of ‘live’ features on social media as well as mass news outlets provides the perpetrator with a colossal audience for an attack which is guaranteed to provide them with worldwide attention, name recognition and global fame. These factors can be considered key motivations behind an attack when one considers the lone wolves psychological desires to have an identity, to be remembered and to matter. Therefore, violent outlets become a means for these individuals to be immortalised through social and mass media, as well as find a purpose and prove their ability to alter the normal workings of a society that they feel no personal or emotional attachment to.

In my opinion, when a lone wolf attack happens there is general sense that the reasons and motivations for the attack are limited to the terrorist organisation the individual associates themselves with. What is required is an understanding of the impact that psychological disturbances and an absence of personal identity can have on an individual. After all, despite their idiosyncratic nature, lone wolves are essentially narcissistic in nature who rather than operating for the will of the group, instead use violence as a means of punishing the society that they feel no connection to. The change I would recommend is viewing lone wolf terrorism as an incident where an individual suffering from a mental illness or a disassociation from reality and society is taken advantage of by the ideas of a terrorist organisation to find a sense of identity and purpose.



Far-right Virginia attacks: Why Trump did not single out the alt-right

In the wake of the racially-motivated violence in Virginia as well as Trump’s condemnation of the attacks from ‘many sides’, new questions and criticism have arisen about the President’s relationship with the so-called alt-right. Thought to have emerged in the wake of Pat Buchanan’s failed bid for Republican Presidential nomination in 1992, the alt-right is comprised of individuals who are frustrated by political correctness, feminism, immigration and the ‘suppression’ of the white identity. The final characteristic frequently linked with the alt-right relates the movement to groups seeking white supremacy such as the Ku Klux Klan, thus making Trump’s willingness to be associated with and unwillingness to criticise the alt-right questionable. Therefore, one must seriously wonder why Trump was not able to solely criticise the alt-right for the blatant racially motivated violence that occurred in Virginia.

Indeed, it seemed obviously out of place for President Trump to refrain from using his vicious rhetoric that we have seen so frequently through his attacks of Hilary Clinton, John McCain, mainstream journalism and fellow Republican politicians. Instead, his response to the violence in Virginia appeared vague and unwilling to give his true opinion out of fear of receiving widespread criticism or losing support. After all, Trump’s campaign as an insurgency outsider nomination was often tied and supported by various alt-right groups which most commonly were linked with white supremacy. Support from these groups as well as Trump’s tailor-made policies and rhetoric to target white Americans enabled the President to gain 63% of the white male vote and 52% of the white female vote in the 2016 Presidential election according to the Independent. In this sense, it would be unsurprising that Trump would be unwilling to singularly condemn white supremacists and risk losing their votes and support, thus framing the President as a man willing to put his career aspirations over the lives of the electorate.

830783084A second explanative factor to consider could be the President’s wish to not create further confusion and divides within his administrative staff. Although, Trump’s presidency has been marked by constant resignations or sackings of high level administrative staff, the dismissal of the disruptive Anthony Scaramucci from communications director after eleven days seemed to signify the end of the period of confusion. Therefore, when one considers the number of individuals tied to the alt-right within the Trump administration, most notably White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, it should be expected that Trump would resist outright criticising the movement. However, this argument again highlights the President’s intention to place unity within his administration over the recognition of the victims of the attacks in Virginia.

Reflecting upon these arguments, the violence in Virginia and the President’s response, one must truly question whether Trump is fulfilling the role of President. After all, as stated in the constitution the role of the President includes being the chief of state and chief citizen of all citizens of the United States. In this sense, the President is obligated to place the requirement to represent the electorate over his career aspirations and desires for re-election. Considering his comments in the aftermath of the alt-right violence in Virginia, one can conclude that Trump has failed to achieve this requirement.

How much of a threat is biological terrorism?

In a recent speech given to the Munich security conference, philanthropist and business magnate Bill Gates argued that biological terrorism is the greatest threat posed to the world currently. Intriguingly, Mr. Gates noted that biological terrorism had the potential to inflict a greater number of causalities than nuclear war, with tens of millions being at threat from a single attack. The evidence highlighted by Mr. Gates’ originated from his ongoing funding and drive to improve global health through the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, which concluded there to be a lack attention given to the link between health security and international security within Western nations. In this sense, Mr. Gates’ is critically referring to the over emphasis placed upon the threat posed by lone wolf terrorism and the ideal of the enemy within, rather than consider the larger and much more problematic threat of biological weapons. On the other hand, can you truly blame western nations for focusing upon lone wolf terrorism over biological terrorism given that it has directly affected the majority of western nations in recent years. Therefore, one must question how great a threat biological terrorism is and whether there is any evidence of terrorist groups trying to procure and use biological weapons in the past.

In the years following the end of the cold war researchers argued that the use of biological weapons over nuclear weapons was far more likely given the differences in size and availability, though many of these studies also noted the volume of international treaties and conventions nullified any states attempts to use such weapons. However, in the post 9/11 security paradigm the global antagonist is no longer a rogue state but rather a multitude of terrorist organisations spread across the globe who are not bound to any international treaties or agreements, thus making the potential use of biological weapons very real. In fact, US and UK intelligence services have in the past noted that the Islamic state have attempted to develop biological weapons in Syria and Iraq. A claim supported by UK minister for security Ben Wallace who contends that terrorist organisations such as Islamic state lack any sense of morality which may be a barrier to the use of biological weapons.

The growth in concerns about the use of biological weapons is primarily resultant of the improvement in technology simplifying the changing of the molecular structure of deadly diseases, along with the emergence and spread of new forms of disease. An obvious example of such a disease would be the Ebola virus which killed 11,310 people and infected 28, 616 people between 2013-2016 in West Africa. Although, a 2015 study conducted by a UK top-secret military research centre in Wiltshire found that Ebola lacked the immediate devastating effect desired by terrorists, however noted that it would effectively spread fear amongst the public. Resulting from these findings, one must question whether the use of biological weapon would be the most effective means of attaining the high number of causalities desired by terrorist organisations and therefore would such organisations consider using biological weapons.

In order to answer the above question, one must delve into the history of biological weapon use in terrorist organisations. Interestingly, upon studying a selection of attempted terrorist attacks using biological weapons there are two consistent similarities found within most examples. These are that they occur within America and are undertaken by white supremacist groups. In these select cases the chemical agents used have ranged from ricin, typhoid and the bubonic plague. All of which have been attempted to be released in a multitude of differing ways such as poisoning the water supply. In this sense, the number of differing toxins and methods of releasing such toxins would suggest that Mr. Gates argument for increasing the attention and spending given to the defence of biological weapons is entirely warranted. Therefore, one must consider Mr. Gates’ warnings over the lack of interest and funding given to biological warfare defence gravely concerning.

4 things you didn’t know about the DUP

Since the Conservative party’s failure to acquire a working majority in the House of Commons, the Democratic Unionist party of Northern Ireland have been at the forefront of discussions regarding the future of British politics. Through seemingly holding the key to the continuation of the Conservatives agenda, the DUP have been able to acquire an unprecedented £1 billion in additional funding for Northern Ireland despite warranted protestation from Wales and Scotland as well as accusations of threatening the continuation of the Good Friday Agreement. While there has been much coverage of the DUP’s policies and beliefs shown in their 2017 electoral manifesto, this article has identified four key facts about the DUP which have been overlooked by mainstream media. The facts identified seemingly infer that historically the DUP have been continually linked to Ulster Loyalist paramilitary groups, therefore questioning their suitability for a case by case allegiance with the Conservative party.

  • DUP was founded by a protestant fundamentalist preacher

Ian Paisley founded the DUP in 1971 after forging a successful and influential career as a protestant evangelical minister. Using this influence, Paisley involved himself in ulster unionist/loyalist politics and eventually become identifiable as the face of hard-line unionism which opposed any effort at power sharing between the unionist and Irish nationals. In this sense, Paisley rejected the principles of peace outlined in the Good Friday Agreement and in fact attempted to form a loyalist union militia out of reaction to the beginning of the Northern Irish peace process. Notably, Paisley’s extremist views were also evident within his sermons which were frequently anti-Catholicism, anti-ecumenism and in particular anti-homosexuality. The anti-homosexuality sentiment seen within Paisley’s religious and political views culminated in the formation of the ‘save ulster from sodomy’ campaign in 1977. The campaign headed by Paisley was formed in opposition to the Northern Ireland campaign for homosexual law reform and regularly involved picketing gay rights events whilst also denouncing homosexuality as a crime against god which would inevitably lead to the total demoralisation of society, an opinion Paisley held onto throughout his political career. Although, it is worth noting that Paisley’s views did become more progressive in a political sense, as seen through his acceptance of the St. Andrews agreement in 2007 which ensured shared power between the DUP and the Republican Sinn Fein.

  • In 2017 the DUP was endorsed by the Loyalist Committees Council whose members include groups proscribed under the Terrorist Act 2000

In the build, up to the 2017 General Election the DUP received endorsement by the Loyalist Committee’s Council who are regarded as an umbrella collective of loyalist paramilitary groups which have been labelled as being engaged in terrorist activities. Notable groups within the DCC are the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Red hand committee who all were charged with engaging in politically motivated guerrilla terrorist attacks including murder during the troubles for the purposes of conserving the union. Unsurprisingly, resulting from the committee’s links with domestic terrorism, the DUP’s leader Arlene Foster rejected the endorsement and cited the party’s fundamental objection to support from groups involved in paramilitarism and criminality.

On the other hand, despite this, the support given to the DUP from the Loyalist Committee Council is reflective of the party’s historical ties with far-right extremism. After all, as previously noted the DUP’s founder Ian Paisley was seen as a leading figure in the resistance to the peace process in Northern Ireland and even tried to form his own paramilitary group. In this sense, one can conclude that despite the rejection by the modern DUP, support and ties with right wing extremism is continually evident throughout the party’s history.

  • The DUP support the Orange order

The DUP has historically been a member of and voiced their support for the Orange order organisation. The Orange order organisation was formed in 1795 as an international protestant fraternal organisation which is primarily based in Northern Ireland. The Orange order was founded with the sole aim of protecting and furthering global Protestantism through the defence of civil and religious liberties including being anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality. Furthermore, due to their fundamental protestant standing, the Orange order do not accept non-protestant members unless they convert and maintain protestant values, as a consequence critics of the order have accused it of being sectarian, triumphalist and supremacist. The sentiment of superiority and supremacy within society from the Orange order frequently results in divisions within society and also infers that the policies of the DUP will favour protestants over Catholics. A claim further supported when one considers that the sermons of the DUP’s founder Ian Paisley were frequently anti-Catholic and anti-ecumenism.

Equally, critics assert that the Orange order also supports loyalist paramilitary groups such as the UVA, thus proving the legitimacy of the claim that the DUP has ties to far-right extremism in Northern Ireland. Worryingly, the Orange order is seemingly deliberately provoking violence and religious hatred within society by conducting pro-protestant marches through known Catholic and nationalist neighbourhoods. Therefore, the DUP’s suitability for the role it currently holds in British politics is incredibly questionable given its close relationship with an organisation which is intentionally inciting violence in Northern Irish society.

  • Arlene Foster oversaw the Renewable Heat initiative which collapsed over claims of corruption and overspending.

The failure of the Renewable Heat initiative and the political fall-out which followed has arguably been the greatest controversy in Northern Irish politics in the last five years. Overseen by now DUP leader Arlene Foster in her role as Minister for enterprise, trade and investment, the renewable heat initiative was designed to pay applicants to use renewable energy instead of more environmentally harmful fuels, however the rate paid was more than the cost of heating, meaning that the applicant was constantly making a profit. In fact, the lack of proper cost control and knowledge of the price of energy is projected to cost the tax payers roughly £500 million. However, despite being in charge and thus holding clear culpability, DUP leader Arlene Foster refused to stand down during the allegations on the basis that doing so would admit guilt. Consequently, Sinn Fein leader and deputy minister of the Northern Irish assembly Martin McGuiness resigned in protest to Foster’s stubbornness and determination to remain as DUP party leader and minister of the Northern Irish assembly. In this sense, Foster’s inability to admit her guilt for the renewable heat initiative controversy threw the balance of Northern Irish politics into turmoil.

Notably, Fosters replacement as minister for enterprise, trade and investment Jonathan Bell claimed he was pressured and forced by the DUP to keep the renewable heat initiative operational despite its clear faults. Intriguingly, Bell’s outspokenness resulted in him being suspended from the DUP, thus implying there is a need for conformity within the party and that differing opinions on policy are not welcomed. In the end, the political fall-out and resignation of key members of the Northern Irish Assembly lead to a snap election being called on March 2nd 2017, in which the DUP registered a catastrophic set of results and lost 10 MLA’s which placed the party only one seat ahead of Sinn Fein as Northern Ireland’s dominant party.

To conclude, the article has shown that the DUP’s history has been continuously dogged by controversy and links to far-right Northern Irish extremism. Therefore, one must truly question whether the DUP is the best party for the Conservatives to enter a case by case agreement with. Despite this, the reality is that the DUP are now a vital aspect of British politics and will remain so regardless of their questionable views and history.

By Jonathan Evans