By ann summers
So whenever threats come up and/or actual events, this term gets tossed around: stochastic terrorism is an imprecise idea that while easily uttered and sounding scientistic, does not contain sufficient objectivity in a democracy that demands actionable expectation of intended, likely and imminent violence. Did Trump incite violence or more technically incite (stochastic) terrorism and did he do it via media? Are we becoming the unwitting agents in the continuation of violence.
In Wilmington, N.C., on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said: “Hillary wants to abolish—essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people—maybe there is, I don’t know.”
In a general election campaign, Mr. Trump’s loose talk is treated differently. Donald Trump is the presidential nominee of a major political party. He is one of two people in this country with a realistic chance of becoming commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful military. His words have greater weight and consequence. What was entertaining is understandably being called unpresidential.
And Trump’s own response…
Because what Trump has done is clear: He has incited violence against Hillary Clinton and/or her judges, even if he doesn’t know exactly who will carry that violence out.
1) demonized her whenever he can by calling her “Crooked Hillary” and constantly degrading her;
2) organized a convention around which the central theme, repeated over and over, was that Clinton is a criminal who needs to be locked up, clearly using fear and moral disgust as motivators; and
3) is now using violent metaphors (or “jokes,” if that’s what you think his statements were) against her, just short of an explicit call to arms.
Now we just have to hope that #4 doesn’t come about – that violence does not erupt. Though, if it does, we know exactly what Trump and his supporters will say: that they never could have foreseen this tragedy.
The problem is about this foresight and the need to have science-fiction thought-police plot clairvoyance or a time machine in terms of public safety / security. “But we can predict that there could be a presently unknown lone wolf who hears his call and takes action in the future”
Can we really? Can we predict that there could be a presently unknown lone wolf who hears Trump’s call and takes action in the future? What is true about this expectation? Should there be less/more proportional force in anticipation…
So should we arrest Trump and/or should arrest/shoot to kill whoever attempts to carry out Trump’s directive within what what time frame.
Naming our fear desensitizes it; however, if we rename the dog whistle with a mathematical term will it have more authority, even if it’s more about expectations to some but calling it Bayesian doesn’t sound analytic enough even if it is a misuse of the term, stochastic.
- with physical violence it is more actionable
- without physical violence it is less actionablebut
But is it always a media effect?
There are good and bad empirical examples with different agents — some mediators, some actors and are they identical to stochastic terrorists (and hence subject to the same sanctions and warrants)?
Some non-random media action/object causes some action that is predictable, yet it is also unpredictable, because…what….probability?
And more importantly, when applied to terroristic acts (which might not actually be terrorism(as political) because of indeterminacy) they are allowed to be similarly and imprecisely applied to the actions and objects both before and after their occurrence.
So Rolling Stone calling Trump a stochastic terrorist defined by bloggers has what real effect -— will someone try to affect a citizen’s anti-terrorist arrest on tehDonald or should folks be herded into FEMA camps because thought crimes.
In other words, what Trump just did is engage in so-called stochastic terrorism. This is an obscure and non-legal term that has been occasionally discussed in the academic world for the past decade and a half, and it applies with precision here. Stochastic terrorism, as described by a blogger who summarized the concept several years back, means using language and other forms of communication “to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.”
Let’s break that down in the context of what Trump said. Predicting any one particular individual following his call to use violence against Clinton or her judges is statistically impossible. But we can predict that there could be a presently unknown lone wolf who hears his call and takes action in the future.
Stated differently: Trump puts out the dog whistle knowing that somedog will hear it, even though he doesn’t know which dog.
Those of us who work against anti-abortion violence unfortunately know all about this. Valerie Tarico wrote about this form of terrorism following the Planned Parenthood murders in Colorado Springs last November. The pattern she noted there is 100 percent applicable to Donald Trump and his supporters right now – except that we haven’t yet had the major act of violence at the end of the string.
“1. A public figure with access to the airwaves or pulpit demonizes a person or group of persons.
2. With repetition, the targeted person or group is gradually dehumanized, depicted as loathsome and dangerous—arousing a combustible combination of fear and moral disgust.
3. Violent images and metaphors, jokes about violence, analogies to past ‘purges’ against reviled groups, use of righteous religious language—all of these typically stop just short of an explicit call to arms.
4. When violence erupts, the public figures who have incited the violence condemn it—claiming no one could possibly have foreseen the ‘tragedy.'”
Is this eight year old boy a stochastic terrorist? #ManyPeopleAreSaying that when he gets to ninth grade, he might bring a home-made clock to school to show to his English teacher.
According to Scottsdale County Day School policy, drawings of weapons are grounds for expulsion.
The school handbook states that grounds for expulsion include ‘Any behavior that is deemed threatening such as violent behavior, drawings depicting weapons, blood, or aggression, or any verbal actions causing or threatening to cause harm to a person, group of persons, animal, or facility.’