Why do we call school shooters and other Americans who enact random violence, “lone wolves?” Why not call them “terrorists?”
Well, they are terrorists, but they’re not the same breed of terrorist as the militant Islamic Jihadi. Here are the key differences:
- A militant Jihadi does what he does because he is on the so-called “significance quest.” He has suffered some insult to his family, his community, his nation, or his faith and his motivation for what he does is to restore honor and dignity to his ingroup by perpetrating an act of violence.
We have no idea why lone wolves do what they do.
- Once a Jihadi has achieved his goal–the restoration of significance–he ceases to be a Jihadi and returns to normal life.
For the lone wolf, normal life seems to be what he is targeting; there is no restoration of normalcy because (it appears) normalcy is the very thing he wishes to destroy.
- The Jihadi acts in concert with others to achieve his goal. Jihadis meet in cells that are often overseen by other leaders of the terrorist cult.
The lone wolf acts alone, without supervision, and sometimes with the belief that others will follow his lead.
Thus, militant Jihadi terrorists work in a prosocial way, while lone wolves do not. For the Jihadi, it’s all about community and restoring the power of community. For the lone wolf, we still have little to no idea what the motivation may be.
“But the end results are the same!” And the end results of dying from old age and dying from COVID-19 are the same, but I think we’d all prefer to die in our beds at the age of 93.