Society: on stochastic terrorism

An unrolled tweet thread, in which I try to tie together some ominous societal and political threads I’ve been watching for several years.

A #politics #society thought that’s been on my mind…. A concept that explains a *lot* of the menace rising around us: _stochastic terrorism_. Please, come share my dread 😨… 1/

2/ I’ve become more interested in politics and philosophy as i age. Stochastic terrorism is one of the key socio-political concepts I’ve learned about in the last few years. It has incredible explanatory power.

3a/ Here’s an armchair description of stochastic terrorism: (amendments welcome)
Terror achieved by ‘playing the numbers’ through many loosely- or even non-coordinated actors, rather than thru a single planned event. The overall result is certain, even if each event isn’t.

3b/ Think: casual, everyday brutality, given cover by influential people. This is *cultivated*, knowingly, often with plausible deniability (at least at first).

4/ As it spreads, a steady hum of threat and small-scale violence develops. Eventually, breakthrough events occur, more violent and damaging than before. (Feel familiar?)

5/ This is part of the calculus. The leader of the terror doesn’t need to directly initiate any specific incident. They’ve set the tone and pointed at the target(s). The crowd does the rest.

6/ Fear and anger get diffracted through hundreds or thousands or millions of misanthropic minds, nursing grievances they’ve been stoked to carry. People lash out using the tools and know-how they have at hand. Words. Rules. Muscles. Weapons. Training. Allies.

7/ At some point the terroristic goal is met stochastically. And the people who were supposed to suffer, do.

8/ I first learned about stochastic terrorism somewhere in 2016-19, in an article mapping it to the US’s d increasing right-wing populist surge. (Excellent article. Don’t remember where it was. Will see if i can find it.)

9/ In this model I’ve recognized things like increased bullying, social media swarming, militias, menacing use of flags and icons, deliberately unfair and exclusionary legislation. All different manifestations of one phenomenon.

10/ For several years it has helped me make sense of trends in 🇺🇸, and regrettably 🇨🇦 too. And it explains that nagging feeling of risk that’s always lurking in the back of my mind.

11/ What group will be made to suffer next? What identifying mark—real, imagined, fabricated—will be the next pretext for abuse? When do I somehow tick the wrong box, and it’s my turn?

12/ None if this is the target’s fault, of course. The aggressors need not claim any principled “reason.” And people you might not expect to be vulnerable, may still be. (You never know what intersections people have.)

13/ I’ll add that many of you who I follow (mostly educators and explicitly political/social people) are real models for handling this environment. You (re)act courageously, and you help me envision things *I* might do. (🙏🏼 thanks)

14/ When you read headlines, try using the lens of stochastic terror. Shootings and other violent acts, assaults on human and civil rights, content-policing, etc. Even if unwitting and not directly linked, they *may* be serving a common stochastic end.

15/ (Hmm, this last bit may sound conspiratorial. I just mean it’s always fair and important to interrogate the ideas, influences, and acts we see around us. But also 💯 yes there *are* specifics to be concerned about right now.)

n/ I hope the notion of _stochastic terror_ is useful for others like it has been for me. Please RT, reply, and share resources if you’ve got any you like.

Originally tweeted by Mike Deutsch (@mdeutschmtl) on April 7, 2022.