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“Poor Prospects—Not Inequality—Motivate Political Violence”, Bartusevičius & Leeuwen 2022

“Poor Prospects—Not Inequality—Motivate Political Violence”⁠, Henrikas Bartusevičius, Florian van Leeuwen (2022-05-30; ; similar):

[J-curve theory of revolution] Despite extensive scholarly interest in the association between economic inequality and political violence, the micro-level mechanisms through which the former influences the latter are not well understood. Drawing on pioneering theories of political violence, social psychological research on relative deprivation, and prospect theory from behavioral economics⁠, we examine individual-level processes that underpin the relationship between inequality and political violence.

We present 2 arguments: despite being a key explanatory variable in existing research, perceived lower economic status vis-à-vis other individuals (an indicator of relative deprivation) is unlikely to motivate people to participate in violence; by contrast, although virtually unexplored, a projected decrease in one’s own economic status (prospective decremental deprivation) is likely to motivate violence.

multilevel analyses of probability samples from many African countries provide evidence to support these claims.

Based on this, we posit that focusing on changes in living conditions, rather than the status quo, is key for understanding political violence.

[Keywords: civil conflict, political violence, economic inequality, relative deprivation, decremental deprivation, social psychology, prospect theory, individual-level analysis]

“The Brides of Boko Haram: Economic Shocks, Marriage Practices, and Insurgency in Nigeria”, Rexer 2022

2022-rexer.pdf: “The Brides of Boko Haram: Economic Shocks, Marriage Practices, and Insurgency in Nigeria”⁠, Jonah M. Rexer (2022-01-08; ; backlinks; similar):

[cf. Henrich et al 2012 against polygyny] Marriage markets in rural Nigeria are characterised by bride price and polygamy⁠. These customs may diminish marriage prospects for young men, causing them to join militant groups.

Using an instrumental variables strategy, I find that marriage inequality increases civil conflict in the Boko Haram insurgency. To generate exogenous shocks to the marriage market, I exploit the fact that young women delay marriage in response to favourable pre-marital economic conditions, which increases marriage inequality primarily in polygamous villages. The same shocks that increase marriage inequality and extremist violence also lead women to marry fewer and richer husbands, generate higher average marriage expenditures, and increase insurgent abductions⁠.

The results shed light on the marriage market as an important driver of violent extremism.

…Interviews with militants suggest that recruitment is driven by poverty and unemployment in northern Nigeria (Onuoha 2014). However, marriage may be a potent force in funneling recruits to Boko Haram. Boko Haram is distinguished from other jihadist groups by its use of mass abductions of schoolgirls, which suggests that controlling large numbers of adolescent girls is strategically important to the group. Boko Haram has explicitly used offers of marriage to attract young men, and bride price emerges as a key concern among young members (Cold-Ravnkilde & Plambech 2015; Hudson & Matfess 2017). Recent qualitative evidence shows that young men in northern Nigeria do in fact join Boko Haram for marriage: women are abducted for this purpose, trained as wives, and men are rewarded for their service with affordable, recognised marriages (Hudson & Matfess 2017). Boko Haram is reported to have paid bride prices to families of abducted girls (Hudson & Matfess 2017).

“The Online Behaviors of Islamic State Terrorists in the United States”, Whittaker 2021

2021-whittaker.pdf: “The online behaviors of Islamic state terrorists in the United States”⁠, Joe Whittaker (2021-01-03; backlinks; similar):

Research Summary: This study offers an empirical insight into terrorists’ use of the Internet. Although criminology has previously been quiet on this topic, behavior-based studies can aid in understanding the interactions between terrorists and their environments. Using a database of 231 US-based Islamic State terrorists, four important findings are offered: (1) This cohort utilized the Internet heavily for the purposes of both networking with co-ideologues and learning about their intended activity. (2) There is little reason to believe that these online interactions are replacing offline ones, as has previously been suggested. Rather, terrorists tend to operate in both domains. (3) Online activity seems to be similar across the sample, regardless of the number of co-offenders or the sophistication of attack. (4) There is reason to believe that using the Internet may be an impediment to terrorists’ success.

Policy Implications: The findings of this study have two important policy implications. First, it is vital to understand the multiplicity of environments in which terrorists inhabit. Policy makers have tended to emphasize the online domain as particularly dangerous and ripe for exploitation. While this is understandable from one perspective, simplistic and monocausal explanations for radicalization must be avoided. Terrorists operate in both the online and offline domain and there is little reason to believe that the former is replacing the latter. The two may offer different criminogenic inducements to would-be terrorists, and at times they may be inseparably intertwined. Second, when policy responses do focus on online interventions, it is vital to understand the unintended consequences. This is particularly the case for content removal, which may inadvertently be aiding terrorists and hampering law enforcement investigations.

“Agenda Seeding: How 1960s Black Protests Moved Elites, Public Opinion and Voting”, Wasow 2020

2020-wasow.pdf: “Agenda Seeding: How 1960s Black Protests Moved Elites, Public Opinion and Voting”⁠, Omar Wasow (2020-05-21; ; backlinks; similar):

How do stigmatized minorities advance agendas when confronted with hostile majorities? Elite theories of influence posit marginal groups exert little power. I propose the concept of agenda seeding to describe how activists use methods like disruption to capture the attention of media and overcome political asymmetries. Further, I hypothesize protest tactics influence how news organizations frame demands. Evaluating black-led protests between 1960 and 1972, I find nonviolent activism, particularly when met with state or vigilante repression, drove media coverage, framing, Congressional speech and public opinion on civil rights. Counties proximate to nonviolent protests saw presidential Democratic vote share among whites increase 1.3–1.6%. Protester-initiated violence, by contrast, helped move news agendas, frames, elite discourse and public concern toward “social control.” In 1968, using rainfall as an instrument, I find violent protests likely caused a 1.6–7.9% shift among whites towards Republicans and tipped the election. Elites may dominate political communication but hold no monopoly.

“In the 1980s, a Far-Left, Female-Led Domestic Terrorism Group Bombed the U.S. Capitol: Historian William Rosenau Investigates the May 19th Communist Organization in a New Book about the Little-known Militant Group”, Thulin 2020

“In the 1980s, a Far-Left, Female-Led Domestic Terrorism Group Bombed the U.S. Capitol: Historian William Rosenau investigates the May 19th Communist Organization in a new book about the little-known militant group”⁠, Lila Thulin (2020-01-06; similar):

Amidst the social and political turmoil of the 1970s, a handful of women—among them an onetime Barnard student, a Texas sorority sister, the daughter of a former communist journalist—joined and became leaders of the May 19th Communist Organization. Named to honor the shared birthday of civil rights icon Malcolm X and Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, M19 took its belief in “revolutionary anti-imperialism” to violent extremes: It is “the first and only women-created and women-led terrorist group”, says national security expert and historian William Rosenau.

M19’s status as an “incredible outlier” from male-led terrorist organizations prompted Rosenau, an international security fellow at the think tank New America, to excavate the inner workings of the secretive and short-lived militant group. The resulting book, Tonight We Bombed the Capitol, pieces together the unfamiliar story of “a group of essentially middle-class, well educated, white people who made a journey essentially from anti-war and civil rights protest to terrorism”, he says.

…Eventually, M19 turned to building explosives themselves. Just before 11PM. on November 7, 1983, they called the U.S. Capitol switchboard and warned them to evacuate the building. Ten minutes later, a bomb detonated in the building’s north wing, harming no one but blasting a 15-foot gash in a wall and causing $3.3$1.01983 million in damage. Over the course of a 20-month span in 1983 and 1984, M19 also bombed an FBI office, the Israel Aircraft Industries building, and the South African consulate in New York, D.C.’s Fort McNair and Navy Yard (which they hit twice.) The attacks tended to follow a similar pattern: a warning call to clear the area, an explosion, a pre-recorded message to media railing against U.S. imperialism or the war machine under various organizational aliases (never using the name M19)…As M19’s spree turned more and more violent, M19’s members became evermore insular and paranoid, nearly cultish, living communally and rotating through aliases and disguises until, in 1985, law enforcement captured the group’s most devoted lieutenants. After that, Rosenau writes, “The far-left terrorist project that began with the Weathermen…and continued into the mid-1980s with May 19th ended in abject failure.”

…People talk about polarization now, but just look at the early 1970s where literally thousands of bombs were set off per year. The important thing is just to realize that there are some similarities, but these are very different periods in time and each period of time is unique.

“The Role of Sensation Seeking in Political Violence”, Schumpe et al 2020

2020-schumpe.pdf: “The Role of Sensation Seeking in Political Violence”⁠, Birga M. Schumpe, Jocelyn J. Bélanger, Manuel Moyano, Claudia F. Nisa (2020; ; backlinks; similar):

Adventure and excitement have often been invoked to explain why people engage in political violence, yet empirical evidence on the topic has thus far been anecdotal. The present research sought to fill this gap in knowledge by examining the role of sensation seeking in political violence and integrating this concept with The-Significance-Quest-Theory (Kruglanski et al 2009⁠; Kruglanski et al 2013).

Extending prior research on violent extremism, Study 1 found that sensation seeking mediated the relation between meaning in life and willingness to self-sacrifice and support for political violence. Study 2 established temporal precedence of the variables in the mediation model, using a longitudinal design. Studies 3 and 4 experimentally replicated findings of Studies 1 and 2. In Studies 5a and 5b, we found that sensation seeking predicts support for a real life violent activist group. In Studies 6a and 6b, the positive evaluation of a violent activist group by individuals high in sensation seeking was explained by how exciting they perceived the group to be. Finally, Study 7 introduced an intervention targeting the sensation seeking motive by presenting participants with a peaceful (less exciting vs. exciting) activism group.

As hypothesized, providing individuals high in sensation seeking with a peaceful yet exciting group mitigated their support for extreme behavior.

[Keywords: political violence, search for meaning, self-sacrifice, sensation seeking]

“Questing for Transcendence”, Greer 2019

“Questing for Transcendence”⁠, Tanner Greer (2019-04-29; ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

Will Wilkinson explored one possibility in an essay he wrote a few years ago on American country music. Wilkinson begins with the observation that American conservatives (ie. the consumers of country music) tend to be low on “openness” in the Big-5 personality scale. Folks who rate high on openness are the sort attracted to novelty: world travels, new drugs, and so forth. Country music, he suggests, captures the emotional lives of a different group of people:

Emotional highlights of the low-openness life are going to be the type celebrated in “One Boy, One Girl”: the moment of falling in love with “the one”, the wedding day, the birth one’s children (though I guess the song is about a surprising ultrasound). More generally, country music comes again and again to the marvel of advancing through life’s stations, and finds delight in experiencing traditional familial and social relationships from both sides. Once I was a girl with a mother, now I’m a mother with a girl. My parents took care of me, and now I take care of them. I was once a teenage boy threatened by a girl’s gun-loving father, now I’m a gun-loving father threatening my girl’s teenage boy. Etc. And country is full of assurances that the pleasures of simple, rooted, small-town, lives of faith are deeper and more abiding than the alternatives.

My conjecture, then, is that country music functions in part to reinforce in low-openness individuals the idea that life’s most powerful, meaningful emotional experiences are precisely those to which conservative personalities living conventional lives are most likely to have access. And it functions as a device to coordinate members of conservative-minded communities on the incomparable emotional weight of traditional milestone experiences…

But why would you want your kids to grow up with the same way of life as you and your grandparents? My best guess (and let me stress guess) is that those low in openness depend emotionally on a sense of enchantment of the everyday and the profundity of ritual. Even a little change, like your kids playing with different toys than you did, comes as a small reminder of the instability of life over generations and the contingency of our emotional attachments. This is a reminder low-openness conservatives would prefer to avoid, if possible. What high-openness liberals feel as mere nostalgia, low-openness conservatives feel as the baseline emotional tone of a recognizably decent life. If your kids don’t experience the same meaningful things in the same way that you experienced them, then it may seem that their lives will be deprived of meaning, which would be tragic. And even if you’re able to see that your kids will find plenty of meaning, but in different things and in different ways, you might well worry about the possibility of ever really understanding and relating to them. The inability to bond over profound common experience would itself constitute a grave loss of meaning for both generations. So when the culture redefines a major life milestone, such as marriage, it trivializes one’s own milestone experience by imbuing it was a sense of contingency, threatens to deprive one’s children of the same experience, and thus threatens to make the generations strangers to one another. And what kind of monster would want that?

Country music is a bulwark against cultural change, a reminder that “what you see is what you get”, a means of keeping the charge of enchantment in “the little things” that make up the texture of the every day, and a way of literally broadcasting the emotional and cultural centrality of the conventional big-ticket experiences that make a life a life.3

…Yet there is one segment of society that seems to get it. In the years since my [Mormon missionary] service, I have been surprised to find that the one group of people who consistently understands my experience are soldiers…both many ex-missionaries (known as “RMs” or “Return Missionaries” in Mormon lingo) and many veterans have such trouble adapting to life when they return to their homes. This comparison occurred to me first several years ago, when I read a Facebook comment left by a man who had served as a Marine mechanic in Afghanistan…I did not save the comment at the time, but I remember it well enough to reproduce a paraphrase here:

“I do not know if I want to live any more. I served in Afghanistan from [various dates of various deployments] and am now working as a salesman for [a prominent American company]. I despise this world I am in now—everything is so selfish and so self centered. In Afghanistan every single decision I made had a purpose; every single thing I did was for something bigger than myself. Everything I did, I did to save lives. Every deed helped accomplish our mission. Here in America no one does anything except for themselves. We work to earn a buck—what is the point to living like this? There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I was back in that hellhole. There what I did mattered. Here it is all meaningless.”

“Gender in the Jihad: Characteristics and Outcomes among Women and Men Involved in Jihadist-inspired Terrorism”, Brugh et al 2019

2019-brugh.pdf: “Gender in the jihad: Characteristics and outcomes among women and men involved in jihadist-inspired terrorism”⁠, Christine Shahan Brugh, Sarah L. Desmarais, Joseph Simons-Rudolph, Samantha A. Zottola (2019-01-01)

“‘Vegan Bodybuilder’: How YouTube Attacker, Nasim Aghdam, Went Viral in Iran”, Wakabayashi et al 2018

“‘Vegan Bodybuilder’: How YouTube Attacker, Nasim Aghdam, Went Viral in Iran”⁠, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Thomas Erdbrink, Matthew Haag (2018-04-04; ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

In Iran, she was known as Green Nasim⁠, a social media star with followings on YouTube, on Instagram and elsewhere. · In the United States, she cast a very different profile, a proponent of vegan diets, animal rights and home exercise who had increasingly become agitated by one of the tech companies that helped give her a platform… · The police said Ms. Aghdam’s anger over what she believed to be unfair treatment by YouTube had set her on a 500-mile drive from her home near San Diego to YouTube’s offices on the northern edge of Silicon Valley. · “People like me are not good for big business, like for animal business, medicine business and for many other businesses. That’s why they are discriminating and censoring us”, she said in a video posted online last year criticizing YouTube. “This is what they are doing to vegan activists and many other people who try to promote healthy, humane and smart living.”

…Ms. Aghdam was in her late 30s. In several of her videos, she said she was born in Iran, in the city of Urmia, where most people also speak Turkish, as she does in some of her videos. Ms. Aghdam had YouTube pages in Persian, Turkish and English. She explained that she and her family were members of the Baha’i faith, which faces persecution in Iran, a country with a Muslim majority. · Several of her colorful—and sometimes bizarre—videos had gone viral in Iran. Her website, which said it was quoting Western news outlets, identified her as “the first Persian female vegan bodybuilder.” · “Now the media will be faced with a new type of Iranian female which does not fit within any of their usual categorizations”, a Twitter user named Katayoon said Wednesday. · “This was shocking and saddening”, one Iranian, Bahare, wrote on Twitter of Ms. Aghdam. “We laughed so much but now it turns out all those videos were so serious for herself.” · Ms. Aghdam became especially famous for one clip in which she wears a revealing purple dress, showing cleavage, and begins to slowly strip off her clothes to reveal a pair of fake plastic breasts. “Don’t trust your eyes”, read a caption in English on the clip.

…Her personal website and videos posted to YouTube and elsewhere were filled with complaints about YouTube. “When searching for my website in google, at top of link they add ‘an error occurred’ but there is no error!” a website under Ms. Aghdam’s name,, said in February 2016. “They add it to keep you from my visiting my site.” · Life in the United States had not been good, she said in one video from March 30. “There they kill you by ax”, she said of Iran. “Here they kill you with cotton”, referring to an Iranian expression meaning dying by something that you do not know is dangerous. · In another video, she responded to viewers who had begun to wonder if she was mentally ill: “I don’t have any special mental or physical disease, but I live on a planet filled with disease, disorders, perversions and injustices.” · The American dream appeared to be tarnished for her after she began to face hurdles in the United States. · “If you are superficial, you will think it is heaven here, that you can go naked outside and have sex left and right like other animals without any morality”, she said in one video in Persian. “But if you enter the system, you will see that it is worse than Iran”, she said. “Those who want to inform people against the system and big companies get censored.”

“Mass Shootings: Definitions and Trends”, Smart 2018

“Mass Shootings: Definitions and Trends”⁠, Rosanna Smart (2018-03-02; ; similar):

There is no standard definition of what constitutes a mass shooting. Media outlets, academic researchers, and law enforcement agencies frequently use different definitions when discussing mass shootings, leading to different assessments of the frequency with which mass shootings occur and about whether mass shootings are more common now than they were a decade or two ago.

…These definitions matter. Depending on which data source is referenced, there were seven, 65, 332, or 371 mass shootings in the United States in 2015 (see table below), and those are just some examples. More-restrictive definitions (eg. Mother Jones) focus on the prevalence of higher-profile events motivated by mass murder, but they omit more-common incidents occurring in connection with domestic violence or criminal activity, which make up about 80% of mass shooting incidents with four or more fatally injured victims (Krouse & Richardson, 2015).

…In 2014, the RAND released a study showing that “active shooting incidents” had increased at an average annual rate of 16% between 2000 and 2013 (Blair and Schweit, 2014). In contrast to the varied definitions for mass shootings, there is an agreed-upon definition among government agencies for active shooter: “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearm(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims” (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008, p. 2). Using a modified version of this definition to include incidents that had multiple offenders or occurred in confined spaces, Blair and Schweit (2014) found that active shootings had increased from only one incident in 2000 to 17 in 2013.

…In their analysis of mass shooting trends from 1999 to 2013, Krouse and Richardson (2015) distinguished between mass shootings occurring in public locations that are indiscriminate in nature (“mass public shootings”), mass shootings in which the majority of victims are members of the offender’s family and that are not attributable to other criminal activity (“familicide mass shootings”), and mass shootings that occur in connection to some other criminal activity (“other felony mass shootings”). The two figures below show trends in these types of mass shooting incidents and fatalities, respectively, using the data provided in Krouse and Richardson (2015). Extending the data back to the 1970s, two studies found evidence of a slight increase in the frequency of mass public shootings over the past three decades (Cohen, Azrael, and Miller, 2014; Krouse & Richardson, 2015). However, using an expanded definition that includes domestic-related or felony-related killings, there is little evidence to suggest that mass shooting incidents or fatalities have increased (Cohen, Azrael, and Miller, 2014; Krouse & Richardson, 2015; Fox & Fridel, 2016). Thus, different choices about how to define a mass shooting result in different findings for both the prevalence of these events at a given time and whether their frequency has changed over time.

…Definitional issues aside, the relative rarity of mass shooting events makes analysis of trends particularly difficult. Chance variability in the annual number of mass shooting incidents makes it challenging to discern a clear trend, and trend estimates will be sensitive to outliers and to the time frame chosen for analysis. For example, while Krouse and Richardson (2015) found evidence of an upward trend in mass public shootings from 1999 to 2013, they noted that the increase was driven largely by 2012, which had an unusually high number of mass public shooting incidents. Additionally, Lott (2015) showed that the RAND study’s estimate of a dramatic increase in active-shooter incidents was largely driven by the choice of 2000 as the starting date, because that year had an unusually low number of shooting incidents; extending the analysis to cover 1977 onward and adjusting the data to exclude events with fewer than two fatalities, Lott (2015) found a much smaller and statistically insignificant increase (less than 1% annually) in mass shooting fatalities over time.

“Revealed: Male Rape Used Systematically in Libya As Instrument of War: Videos and Testimony Expose Brutal Tactics Used by Several Factions in Fractured Country”, Allegra 2017

“Revealed: male rape used systematically in Libya as instrument of war: Videos and testimony expose brutal tactics used by several factions in fractured country”⁠, Cécile Allegra (2017-11-03; backlinks; similar):

Male rape is being used systematically in Libya as an instrument of war and political domination by rival factions, according to multiple testimonies gathered by investigators. Years of work by a Tunis-based group and witnessed by a journalist from Le Monde have produced harrowing reports from victims, and video footage showing men being sodomised by various objects, including rockets and broom handles. In several instances, witnesses say a victim was thrown into a room with other prisoners, who were ordered to rape him or be killed.

The atrocity is being perpetrated to humiliate and neutralise opponents in the lawless, militia-dominated country. Male rape is such a taboo in Arab societies that the abused generally feel too damaged to rejoin political, military or civic life. One man, Ahmed, told investigators he was detained for four years in a prison in Tomina, on the outskirts of Misrata. “They separate you to subjugate you”, he said. “‘Subjugate the men’, that’s the expression that they use. So that you never hold your head up again. And they were filming everything with their phones.”They take a broom and fix it on the wall. If you want to eat, you have to take off your pants, back on to the broom and not move off until the jailer sees blood flowing. Nobody can escape it.”

…In one camp, south of Tripoli, a man called Ali recounted his experience. He was 39 but looked 65 and walked with a cane. “Some of us were locked in a room, naked, for a whole night with groups of migrants”, he said. “The guards did not release them until they had all raped each other. Fortunately, I didn’t go through that, I only got the stick and the wheel.” The “wheel” involved being put naked and folded double, through a tyre suspended from the ceiling, making it easier for torturers to penetrate him with weaponry. Ali said he now had physical problems, “leaks” as he called them.

In another camp in southern Tripoli, Fathia said women were not immune. She said her entire family was violated by a militia from Misrata, with the men being deliberately targeted. “They dragged me in the street, in front of everyone, saying: ‘You raped our girls. We’ll do the same thing to you.’”The worst thing they did to me”, she whispered, “is to rape me in front of my eldest son. Since then, he won’t speak to me.” Asked about other inmates who suffered a similar ordeal, Fathia said: “I only heard men’s voices. They were screaming, day and night.”

“Rumiyah #3”

2016-rumiyah-3.pdf: “Rumiyah #3” (2016-11-01; backlinks)

“Why the Tails Come Apart”, Thrasymachus 2014

“Why the tails come apart”⁠, Thrasymachus (2014-08-01; ; backlinks; similar):

Many outcomes of interest have pretty good predictors. It seems that height correlates to performance in basketball (the average height in the NBA is around 6’7″). Faster serves in tennis improve one’s likelihood of winning. IQ scores are known to predict a slew of factors, from income⁠, to chance of being imprisoned⁠, to lifespan⁠.

What’s interesting is what happens to these relationships ‘out on the tail’: extreme outliers of a given predictor are seldom similarly extreme outliers on the outcome it predicts, and vice versa. Although 6’7″ is very tall, it lies within a couple of standard deviations of the median US adult male height—there are many thousands of US men taller than the average NBA player, yet are not in the NBA. Although elite tennis players have very fast serves, if you look at the players serving the fastest serves ever recorded⁠, they aren’t the very best players of their time. It is harder to look at the IQ case due to test ceilings, but again there seems to be some divergence near the top: the very highest earners tend to be very smart⁠, but their intelligence is not in step with their income (their cognitive ability is around +3 to +4 SD above the mean, yet their wealth is much higher than this) (1).

The trend seems to be that even when two factors are correlated, their tails diverge: the fastest servers are good tennis players, but not the very best (and the very best players serve fast, but not the very fastest); the very richest tend to be smart, but not the very smartest (and vice versa). Why?

  • The simple graphical explanation
  • An intuitive explanation of the graphical explanation
  • A parallel geometric explanation

“Terrorism—A (Self) Love Story: Redirecting The-Significance-Quest Can End Violence”, Kruglanski et al 2013

2013-kruglanski.pdf: “Terrorism—A (Self) Love Story: Redirecting The-Significance-Quest Can End Violence”⁠, Arie W. Kruglanski, Jocelyn J. Bélanger, Michèle Gelf, Rohan Gunaratna, Malkanthi Hettiarachchi, Fernando Reinares et al (2013-10-01; backlinks; similar):

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s concepts of self-love (amour propre) and love of self (amour de soi même) are applied to the psychology of terrorism.

Self-love is concern with one’s image in the eyes of respected others, members of one’s group. It denotes one’s feeling of personal-significance, the sense that one’s life has meaning in accordance with the values of one’s society. Love of self, in contrast, is individualistic concern with self-preservation, comfort, safety, and the survival of self and loved ones.

We suggest that self-love defines a motivational force that when awakened arouses the goal of a the-significance-quest. When a group perceives itself in conflict with dangerous detractors, its ideology may prescribe violence and terrorism against the enemy as a means of s. gain that gratifies self-love concerns. This may involve sacrificing one’s self-preservation goals, encapsulated in Rousseau’s concept of love of self.

The foregoing notions afford the integration of diverse quantitative and qualitative findings on individuals’ road to terrorism and back. Understanding the-significance-quest and the conditions of its constructive fulfillment may be crucial to reversing the current tide of global terrorism.

“Slowing Moore’s Law: How It Could Happen”, Branwen 2012

Slowing-Moores-Law: “Slowing Moore’s Law: How It Could Happen”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2012-03-16; ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

Weak points in the networks powering technological progress: chip factories

Brain emulation requires enormous computing power; enormous computing power requires further progression of Moore’s law⁠; further Moore’s law relies on large-scale production of cheap processors in ever more-advanced chip fabs⁠; cutting-edge chip fabs are both expensive and vulnerable to state actors (but not non-state actors such as terrorists). Therefore: the advent of brain emulation can be delayed by global regulation of chip fabs.

“The Political Effectiveness of Terrorism Revisited”, Abrahms 2012

2012-abrahms.pdf: “The Political Effectiveness of Terrorism Revisited”⁠, Max Abrahms (2012-02-16; backlinks; similar):

Terrorists attack civilians to coerce their governments into making political concessions. Does this strategy work?

To empirically assess the effectiveness of terrorism, the author exploits variation in the target selection of 125 violent sub-state campaigns. The results show that terrorist campaigns against civilian targets are statistically-significantly less effective than guerrilla campaigns against military targets at inducing government concessions. The negative political effect of terrorism is evident across logit model specifications after carefully controlling for tactical confounds.

Drawing on political psychology, the author concludes with a theory to account for why governments resist compliance when their civilians are targeted.

[Keywords: terrorism, coercion, civilian targeting, political psychology]

“Does Terrorism Really Work? Evolution in the Conventional Wisdom Since 9/11”, Abrahms 2011

2011-abrahms.pdf: “Does Terrorism Really Work? Evolution in the Conventional Wisdom since 9/11”⁠, Max Abrahms (2011; backlinks; similar):

The basic narrative of bargaining theory predicts that, all else equal, anarchy favors concessions to challengers who demonstrate the will and ability to escalate against defenders. For this reason, post-9 /  ​11 political science research explained terrorism as rational strategic behavior for non-state challengers to induce government compliance given their constraints.

Over the past decade, however, empirical research has consistently found that neither escalating to terrorism nor with terrorism helps non-state actors to achieve their demands. In fact, escalating to terrorism or with terrorism increases the odds that target countries will dig in their political heels, depriving the non-state challengers of their given preferences.

These empirical findings across disciplines, methodologies, as well as salient global events raise important research questions, with implications for counterterrorism strategy.

“Hatred and Profits: Getting Under the Hood of the Ku Klux Klan”, Fryer & Levitt 2010

“Hatred and Profits: Getting Under the Hood of the Ku Klux Klan”⁠, Roland G. Fryer, Steven D. Levitt (2010-08-31; backlinks; similar):

The Ku Klux Klan reached its heyday in the mid-1920s, claiming millions of members. In this paper, we analyze the 1920s Klan, those who joined it, and the social and political impact that it had. We utilize a wide range of newly discovered data sources including information from Klan membership roles, applications, robe-order forms, an internal audit of the Klan by Ernst and Ernst, and a census that the Klan conducted after an internal scandal. Combining these sources with data from the 1920 and 1930 U.S. Censuses, we find that individuals who joined the Klan were better educated and more likely to hold professional jobs than the typical American. Surprisingly, we find few tangible social or political impacts of the Klan. There is little evidence that the Klan had an effect on black or foreign born residential mobility, or on lynching patterns. Historians have argued that the Klan was successful in getting candidates they favored elected. Statistical analysis, however, suggests that any direct impact of the Klan was likely to be small. Furthermore, those who were elected had little discernible effect on legislation passed. Rather than a terrorist organization, the 1920s Klan is best described as a social organization built through a wildly successful pyramid scheme fueled by an army of highly-incentivized sales agents selling hatred, religious intolerance, and fraternity in a time and place where there was tremendous demand.

“It’s a Crime, but Is It a Blunder? The Efficacy of Targeting Civilians in War”, Cochran & Downes 2010

2010-cochran.pdf: “It’s a Crime, but Is It a Blunder? The Efficacy of Targeting Civilians in War”⁠, Kathryn McNabb Cochran, Alexander B. Downes (2010-07-19; backlinks)

“An Economic Analysis of the Financial Records of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq”, Bahney et al 2010

“An Economic Analysis of the Financial Records of al-Qa’ida in Iraq”⁠, Benjamin Bahney, Howard J. Shatz, Carroll Ganier, Renny McPherson, Barbara Sude, Sara Beth Elson, Ghassan Schbley (RAND) et al (2010; ; backlinks; similar):

This monograph analyzes the finances of the militant group al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) in Anbar province during 2005 and 2006, at the peak of the group’s power and influence. The authors draw on captured documents that give details on the daily financial transactions of one specific sector within Anbar province and of the financial transactions of the AQI provincial administration. Some of their conclusions are: AQI was a hierarchical organization with decentralized decision-making; AQI in Anbar was profitable enough to send substantial revenues out of the province in 2006; AQI relied on extortion, theft, and black market sales to fund its operations in Anbar; AQI needed large, regular revenue sources to fund its operations, but its administrative leaders did not hold much cash on hand. The authors’ interpretation of data on compensation practices and participants’ risk of death indicates that AQI members were poorly compensated and suggests that they were not motivated primarily by money to join the group. The authors also find that mounting attacks required organizational expenditures well beyond the cost of material used in attacks. One major conclusion is that disrupting AQI’s financial flows could disrupt the pace of their attacks.

“Hit or Miss? The Effect of Assassinations on Institutions and War”, Jones & Olken 2009

2009-jones.pdf: “Hit or Miss? The Effect of Assassinations on Institutions and War”⁠, Benjamin F. Jones, Benjamin A. Olken (2009-07-01; backlinks; similar):

Assassinations are a persistent feature of the political landscape. Using a new dataset of assassination attempts on all world leaders from 1875 to 2004, we exploit inherent randomness in the success or failure of assassination attempts to identify the effects of assassination. We find that, on average, successful assassinations of autocrats produce sustained moves toward democracy. We also find that assassinations affect the intensity of small-scale conflicts. The results document a contemporary source of institutional change, inform theories of conflict, and show that small sources of randomness can have a pronounced effect on history.

…To implement this approach, we collected data on all publicly-reported assassination attempts for all national leaders since 1875. This produced 298 assassination attempts, of which 59 resulted in the leader’s death. We show that, conditional on an attempt taking place, whether the attack succeeds or fails in killing the leader appears uncorrelated with observable economic and political features of the national environment, suggesting that our basic identification strategy may be plausible.

We find that assassinations of autocrats produce substantial changes in the country’s institutions, while assassinations of democrats do not. In particular, transitions to democracy, as measured using the Polity IV dataset (Marshall & Jaggers 2004), are 13% more likely following the assassination of an autocrat than following a failed attempt on an autocrat. Similarly, using data on leadership transitions from the Archigos dataset (Goemans et al 2006), we find that the probability that subsequent leadership transitions occur through institutional means is 19% higher following the assassination of an autocrat than following the failed assassination of an autocrat. The effects on institutions extend over [long] periods, with evidence that the impacts are sustained at least 10 years later.

“Fully Committed: Suicide Bombers' Motivation and the Quest for Personal-Significance”, Kruglanski et al 2009

2009-kruglanski.pdf: “Fully Committed: Suicide Bombers' Motivation and the Quest for Personal-Significance”⁠, Arie W. Kruglanski, Xiaoyan Chen, Mark Dechesne, Shira Fishman, Edward Orehek (2009-05-08; backlinks; similar):

A motivational analysis of suicidal terrorism is outlined, anchored in the notion of significance quest. It is suggested that heterogeneous factors identified as personal causes of suicidal terrorism (eg. trauma, humiliation, social exclusion), the various ideological reasons assumed to justify it (eg. liberation from foreign occupation, defense of one’s nation or religion), and the social pressures brought upon candidates for suicidal terrorism may be profitably subsumed within an integrative framework that explains diverse instances of suicidal terrorism as attempts at significance restoration, significance gain, and prevention of significance loss. Research and policy implications of the present analysis are considered.

“Terrorism Is Not Effective”, Branwen 2009

Terrorism-is-not-Effective: “Terrorism Is Not Effective”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2009-04-14; ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

More effective ways to kill = terrorists are stupid, or killing not most important thing to them

Terrorism is not about causing terror or casualties, but about other things. Evidence of this is the fact that, despite often considerable resources spent, most terrorists are incompetent, impulsive, prepare poorly for attacks, are inconsistent in planning, tend towards exotic & difficult forms of attack such as bombings, and in practice ineffective: the modal number of casualties per terrorist attack is near-zero, and global terrorist annual casualty have been a rounding error for decades. This is despite the fact that there are many examples of extremely destructive easily-performed potential acts of terrorism, such as poisoning food supplies or renting large trucks & running crowds over or engaging in sporadic sniper attacks.

“Terrorism Is Not About Terror”, Branwen 2009

Terrorism-is-not-about-Terror: “Terrorism Is Not About Terror”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2009-04-09; ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

Terrorists act irrationally from a rational activism perspective, and groups act in ways most consistent with terrorism being about social status and belonging

Statistical analysis of terrorist groups’ longevity, aims, methods and successes reveal that groups are self-contradictory and self-sabotaging, generally ineffective; common stereotypes like terrorists being poor or ultra-skilled are false. Superficially appealing counter-examples are discussed and rejected. Data on motivations and the dissolution of terrorist groups are brought into play and the surprising conclusion reached: terrorism is a form of socialization or status-seeking.

“The Melancholy of Subculture Society”, Branwen 2009

The-Melancholy-of-Subculture-Society: “The Melancholy of Subculture Society”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2009-01-12; ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

Internet links small groups, helping dissolve big groups; good, bad? But a bit sad.

The future of technology isn’t what it used to be—a discussion of the collapse of Japanese influence on technology & design. Why did Japanese companies cease to be the admired cutting-edge of computer, video game, Internet, or smartphone technology, underperforms in critical areas like software design (such as programming languages) and is instead one of the last havens of fax machines & feature phones, with prestigious but largely useless humanoid robotic programs?

“Underfunding in Terrorist Organizations”, Shapiro & Siegel 2007

2007-shapiro.pdf: “Underfunding in Terrorist Organizations”⁠, Jacob N. Shapiro, David A. Siegel (2007-06-01; ; backlinks; similar):

A review of international terrorist activity reveals a pattern of financially strapped operatives working for organizations that seem to have plenty of money. To explain this observation, and to examine when restricting terrorists’ funds will reduce their lethality, we model a hierarchical terror organization in which leaders delegate financial and logistical tasks to middlemen, but cannot perfectly monitor them for security reasons. These middlemen do not always share their leaders’ interests: the temptation exists to skim funds from financial transactions. When middlemen are sufficiently greedy and organizations suffer from sufficiently strong budget constraints, leaders will not fund attacks because the costs of skimming are too great. Using general functional forms, we find important nonlinearities in terrorists’ responses to government counterterrorism. Restricting terrorists’ funds may be ineffective until a critical threshold is reached, at which point cooperation within terrorist organizations begins to break down and further government actions have a disproportionately large impact.

[Keywords: terrorism, funding, trade intermediaries, budget constraints, terrorists, bombings, spending, Nash equilibrium, nonlinearity, renewable resources]

“CRYPTOME”, Assange 2006

“CRYPTOME”⁠, Julian Assange (2006-12-03; backlinks):

[These essays on conspiracies by Julian Assange ( were retrieved today from his website The first from the currently active site, dated November 10, 2006, and the second at, dated December 3, 2006.]

“Scale Invariance in Global Terrorism”, Clauset & Young 2005

“Scale Invariance in Global Terrorism”⁠, Aaron Clauset, Maxwell Young (2005-02-03; backlinks; similar):

Traditional analyses of international terrorism have not sought to explain the emergence of rare but extremely severe events. Using the tools of extremal statistics to analyze the set of terrorist attacks worldwide between 1968 and 2004, as compiled by the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT), we find that the relationship between the frequency and severity of terrorist attacks exhibits the “scale-free” property with an exponent of close to two. This property is robust, even when we restrict our analysis to events from a single type of weapon or events within major industrialized nations. We also find that the distribution of event sizes has changed very little over the past 37 years, suggesting that scale invariance is an inherent feature of global terrorism.

“Deaths from International Terrorism Compared With Road Crash Deaths in OECD Countries”, Wilson & Thomson 2005

“Deaths from international terrorism compared with road crash deaths in OECD countries”⁠, N Wilson, G. Thomson (2005; backlinks; similar):

Objective: To estimate the relative number of deaths in member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) from international terrorism and road crashes.

Methods: Data on deaths from international terrorism (US State Department database) were collated (1994–2003) and compared to the road injury deaths (year 2000 and 2001 data) from the OECD International Road Transport Accident Database.

Results: In the 29 OECD countries for which comparable data were available, the annual average death rate from road injury was ~390× that from international terrorism. The ratio of annual road to international terrorism deaths (averaged over 10 years) was lowest for the United States at 142×. In 2001, road crash deaths in the US were equal to those from a September 11 attack every 26 days.

Conclusions: There is a large difference in the magnitude of these two causes of deaths from injury. Policy makers need to be aware of this when allocating resources to preventing these two avoidable causes of mortality.

“An Unaddressed Issue of Agricultural Terrorism: A Case Study on Feed Security”, Kosal & Anderson 2004

2004-kosal.pdf: “An unaddressed issue of agricultural terrorism: A case study on feed security”⁠, M. E. Kosal, D. E. Anderson (2004-11-01; backlinks; similar):

In the late winter of 2003, a number of livestock animals in the Midwest were poisoned due the accidental contamination of a popular commercial feed with a lethal additive. Although all the evidence indicates this incident had no malicious or terrorist intent, it is informative as a case study highlighting potential security implications with respect to a terrorist event directed at U.S. agriculture.

“From the Okhrana to the KGB: Continuities in Russian Foreign Intelligence Operations Since the 1880s”, Andrew 1989

1989-andrew.pdf: “From the Okhrana to the KGB: Continuities in Russian foreign intelligence operations since the 1880s”⁠, Christopher M. Andrew (1989-01-01; backlinks)

“Why Men Love War: Like All Lust, for As Long As It Lasts It Dominates Everything Else”, Junior 1984

“Why Men Love War: Like all lust, for as long as it lasts it dominates everything else”⁠, William Broyles Junior (1984-11-01; backlinks; similar):

“What people can’t understand”, Hiers said, gently picking up each tiny rabbit and placing it in the nest, “is how much fun Vietnam was. I loved it. I loved it, and I can’t tell anybody.” Hiers loved war. And as I drove back from Vermont in a blizzard, my children asleep in the back of the car, I had to admit that for all these years I also had loved it, and more than I knew. I hated war, too. Ask me, ask any man who has been to war about his experience, and chances are we’ll say we don’t want to talk about it—implying that we hated it so much, it was so terrible, that we would rather leave it buried. And it is no mystery why men hate war. War is ugly, horrible, evil, and it is reasonable for men to hate all that. But I believe that most men who have been to war would have to admit, if they are honest, that somewhere inside themselves they loved it too, loved it as much as anything that has happened to them before or since. And how do you explain that to your wife, your children, your parents, or your friends?

…I spent most of my combat tour in Vietnam trudging through its jungles and rice paddies without incident, but I have seen enough of war to know that I never want to fight again, and that I would do everything in my power to keep my son from fighting. Then why, at the oddest times—when I am in a meeting or running errands, or on beautiful summer evenings, with the light fading and children playing around me—do my thoughts turn back fifteen years to a war I didn’t believe in and never wanted to fight? Why do I miss it?

I miss it because I loved it, loved it in strange and troubling ways. When I talk about loving war I don’t mean the romantic notion of war that once mesmerized generations raised on Walter Scott. What little was left of that was ground into the mud at Verdun and Passchendaele: honor and glory do not survive the machine gun. And it’s not the mindless bliss of martyrdom that sends Iranian teenagers armed with sticks against Iraqi tanks. Nor do I mean the sort of hysteria that can grip a whole country, the way during the Falklands war the English press inflamed the lust that lurks beneath the cool exterior of Britain. That is vicarious war, the thrill of participation without risk, the lust of the audience for blood. It is easily fanned, that lust; even the invasion of a tiny island like Grenada can do it. Like all lust, for as long as it lasts it dominates everything else; a nation’s other problems are seared away, a phenomenon exploited by kings, dictators, and presidents since civilization began.

“Conservative Shift among High-exposure Survivors of the September 11th Terrorist Attacks” “Conservative shift among high-exposure survivors of the September 11th terrorist attacks” (backlinks)

“Bombs, Ballots, and Coercion: The Madrid Bombings, Electoral Politics, and Terrorist Strategy”

2011-dannenbaum.pdf: “Bombs, Ballots, and Coercion: The Madrid Bombings, Electoral Politics, and Terrorist Strategy” (backlinks)

“'The Ultimate Mowing Machine'; Inspire Issue 2, Fall 2010”

2010-inspire-2.pdf: “'The Ultimate Mowing Machine'; Inspire issue 2, Fall 2010” (backlinks)

“Ideology: Its Resurgence in Social, Personality, and Political Psychology”

2008-jost.pdf: “Ideology: Its Resurgence in Social, Personality, and Political Psychology” (backlinks)