Think of cigarette smoking. We don’t know who will get cancer from the smoke – even though we can be confident that the death rate goes up the more people smoke. Or think of an advertiser who has no idea which viewers will buy their product — yet spends millions confident that the ad campaign will pay for itself. As Gabby Giffords said so well, words and images have consequences. She had no way of knowing who the shooter would be, or when violence would strike, or that she herself would be among the victims.
Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass communications to stir up random lone wolves to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.
his is what occurs when Bin Laden releases a video that stirs random extremists halfway around the globe to commit a bombing or shooting.
This is also the term for what Beck, O’Reilly, Hannity, and others do. And this is what led directly and predictably to a number of cases of ideologically-motivated murder similar to the Tucson shootings.
. . . Here’s the mechanism spelled out concisely:
The stochastic terrorist is the person who uses mass media to broadcast memes that incite unstable people to commit violent acts.
One or more unstable people responds to the incitement by becoming a lone wolf and committing a violent act. While their action may have been statistically predictable (e.g. “given the provocation, someone will probably do such-and-such”), the specific person and the specific act are not predictable (yet).
The stochastic terrorist then has plausible deniability: “Oh, it was just a lone nut, nobody could have predicted he would do that, and I’m not responsible for what people in my audience do.”