Anyone who has read my work or seen/heard me in the media over the past few years knows that I really, really dislike the term ‘lone wolf’.
My objections are threefold:
- it is inaccurate most of the time,
- it get used far too quickly in the absence of any confirming information, and
- it lionises terrorists and romanticises terrorism, neither of which we want or need.
Today I want to focus on the first point made above, i.e. that lone wolves are seldom lone. By this I mean two things:
- they rarely act 100% on their own (yes they are exceptions but they are rare), and
- they NEVER get to the point in their ideological journey going solo (hence the other popular term I do not use – ‘self-radicalisation).
In this light, next time you read an article or see a news item where the assailant is called a ‘lone wolf’, ask yourself:
- what is this designation based on? Is there any immediately available information that supports the label? Do the same for ‘self-radicalisation’.
- which ‘experts’ are using the term (see my previous blog on the difficulty in who is a real expert and who is not)?
I am puzzled why a lot of people still fail to understand this very important point
I’d like to end this piece with a quote from Nautilus, an on-line science site that I have taken to reading over the past few years. I think it complements what I am trying to convey here quite nicely.
“Human beings are intensely social animals. We live in hierarchical social environments in which our comfort, reproduction, and very survival depend on our relationships with other people. As a result, we are very good at thinking about things in social ways. In fact, some scientists have argued that the evolutionary arms race for strategic social thinking—either for competition, for cooperation, or both—was a large part of why we became so intelligent as a species.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting. He worked as a strategic analyst in the Canadian intelligence community for over 30 years, including 15 at CSIS, with assignments at Public Safety Canada and the Ontario Provincial Police. He specializes in radicalization and homegrown Al Qaeda/Islamic State/Islamist-inspired extremism. He has spoken to audiences about terrorism across Canada and the US and around the world. firstname.lastname@example.org