You are hereOpen Left: "Stochastic Terrorism"--A powerful, highly accurate new meme

Open Left: "Stochastic Terrorism"--A powerful, highly accurate new meme

January 11, 2011- In a recent discussion thread, Sadie Baker called attention to a very important DKos diary with a powerful new meme, "Stochastic Terrorism".  The diarist has been using the term for some time now, and many others have described this process as well.  But the time has never been ripe before for this particular picture-perfect formulation to gel.  Now, however, the time is ripe--it cuts through so much BS all at once (particularly the way that individualist assumptions and framing cloud people's understanding), and puts the facts together most succinctly:

Stochastic Terrorism: Triggering the shooters.
by G2geek
Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 05:37:39 PM PST

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.

This 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.

Update: the mechanism spelled out.

(This update is to resolve some ambiguity.)

The person who actually plants the bomb or assassinates the public official is not the stochastic terrorist, they are the "missile" set in motion by the stochastic terrorist. The stochastic terrorist is the person who uses mass media as their means of setting those "missiles" in motion.

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."

The lone wolf who was the "missile" gets captured and sentenced to life in prison, while the stochastic terrorist keeps his prime time slot and goes on to incite more lone wolves.

Further, the stochastic terrorist may be acting either negligently or deliberately, or may be in complete denial of their impact, just like a drunk driver who runs over a pedestrian without even realizing it.

Finally, there is no conspiracy here: merely the twisted acts of individuals who are promoting extremism, who get access to national media in which to do it, and the rest follows naturally just as an increase in violent storms follows from an increase in average global temperature.

I would actually disagree with this last paragraph.  There's not a conspiracy in any sort of cloak-and-dagger sense.  But there's definitely a long-term strategic plan.  There's a hegemonic struggle.  And it's not just "individuals".  There are entire media organizations based around pushing these sorts of provocations on a regular basis.  The provocations to violence are only one part of a wider range of provocations, all of them couched within a framework of conservative victimology.



National Hispanic Media Coalition
After Downing Street
Progressive Democrats of America
Justice Through Music
National Association of Latino Independent Producers
The Backbone Campaign
Voters For Peace
Chelsea Neighbors United
Locust Fork News Journal
Liberty Tree
People's Email Network
Hispanic/Latino Defamation Coalition SF
ePluribus Media