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Male, white, aggressive and anti-federalist: the historical profile of the ‘lone wolf’, according to the FBI

The agency describes a model of domestic terrorism marked by a violent past, paranoid hatred towards Washington and fed back by propaganda.

Forty years of attacks carried out by 52 American terrorists in their own country have served the FBI to publish, this week, one of the first large-scale studies on this kind of violence and those who perpetrate it: virtually all men, most white race, single, with some degree of university education, military past, criminal record and, above all, an extremist precept against the US Government, radicalized by propaganda.

The report is blunt in terms of gender description. “Perhaps the only demographic trend that has been consistently seen is the overwhelming representativeness of male perpetrators. Although women can, and have in fact done acts of selective violence, all the 52 perpetrators investigated in this study on terrorism were men,” sentence the document.

The repulsion that these terrorists exhibit towards the idea of ​​centralism and, by extension, the authority that imposes it, is the main factor that defines their ‘modus operandi’: 32 percent of the investigated attacks pointed against officials or police officers.

This suspicion is fueled by the most widespread mental disorder among the ‘lonely wolves’, paranoia. “More than half of the terrorists investigated exhibited an intense distrust of others, and even came to harbor the belief that the rest of the people conspired to harm them. Nothing really concrete:” really, general and vague, “he says. the report, “like their fears of conspiracies, the permanent surveillance of the Government and the existence of secret organizations.”

These ideas end up cycled through the consumption of propaganda, at the beginning of a vicious circle: the search for information that validates their beliefs, which in turn leads them to seek more information. A 77 of the terrorists consumed radical material or propaganda before committing their attacks, according to the report, which also highlights the personalism of this material: its ideology is reinforced when it is communicated through an “influential or charismatic leader.”

As particular information in this regard, despite the rise of social networks in the dissemination of this information – of the 40 attacks that occurred after 1999, the year of the emergence of the network, 60 percent of those responsible consumed propaganda through online platforms – the study highlights the importance of physical media such as printed paper, in the form of pamphlets or radical magazines, or audio compact discs that pass from hand to hand, privately .

Although it might seem that these terrorists live in a world of diffuse ideas, their way of operating sentences quite the opposite. These notions end up concentrating on a pragmatic, real terrorism. Of the 52 terrorists investigated, no less than 38 “chose their objective because they were instrumental to their objectives or their ideology,” according to the study. The most used tool to carry them out – six out of ten attacks – was the firearm.

The average domestic terrorist already knew firsthand the violence before he attempted. Eight out of ten previously exhibited “hostile or aggressive behavior” and virtually all of them – 96 percent – “wrote texts or starred in videos intended for sharing with others.” More than half starred in episodes of physical violence or psychological abuse. And it is this “will that they have demonstrated in their lives to exercise violence when it comes to solving what they understand as problems, which increases the risk of them re-exercising it,” he adds.

It is difficult, says the report, that such a combination of factors goes unnoticed. “Rarely,” explain those responsible, “these lonely wolves live in complete isolation.” Moreover, “they interact with family members, colleagues and strangers across a whole spectrum of social contexts, both inside and outside the networks.”

In fact, nine out of ten relatives were aware of the aggressor’s ideas, but only a quarter of those who knew it expressed their concern to the authorities, guided mainly by the fear that these individuals could harm them or their loved ones. .

The FBI concludes its report with an important warning: a profile is by no means a sufficient tool to combat domestic terrorism because there is no specific combination of factors that necessarily lead to selective violence.

However, and with this study, the FBI asks citizens to recognize these traits – prior violence, anti-government sentiment and paranoid thinking – as an indication of alarm and put them in the context of terrorist danger. “You have to educate these potential witnesses and provide them,” the report notes, “the tools and mechanisms that allow them to report their concerns.”

The bureaucracy continues to be an endemic problem when dealing with these cases, regrets the report before revealing, once again, the lack of communication between agencies and the jurisdictional friction between the security forces, hence conclude with a call for the creation of “coordinated strategies” not only within the law, but in the creation of social policies that “deter these individuals, disconnect them from any violent trajectory and reduce the risk of a lethal attack.”

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