Some people have the damnedest reasons for carrying out a terrorist attack.
OSLO, NORWAY – You have all heard the term ‘lone wolf’ when it comes to terrorism. This concept refers to those attacks which appear, on the surface, to be the work of individuals who toil completely alone, with no input from anyone else. The mere solitary nature of these deeds makes it very hard to detect and intercede before they succeed.
I for one have never liked the phrase ‘lone wolf’. I think it is inaccurate and betrays a serious lack of understanding of how terrorism occurs. The simple truth is that there is rarely to never any real cases of true ‘lone wolfism’. Allow me to explain.
Terrorism is by definition an ideologically-driven phenomenon. Ideologies are group phenomena. No one person develops an ideology from scratch on his or her own: it is always a team effort. Hence, acts carried out in furtherance of that ideology are by definition group actions.
It may occur that a single person ends up planning and executing a terrorist act since some are truly very simple to carry out (a vehicle attack, a stabbing, a shooting, etc.). But the thought process that got them to that point was anything but an individual journey. They got their ideas from somewhere, not their own minds.
Oslo train station attack
There are occasions on which at first glance an attack sure seems to be a ‘lone wolf’. On this day in 1982 a bomb went off inside the central train station in Oslo, Norway, killing one woman and causing extensive damage to the building. A second bomb which was found eight days later failed to detonate: an unnamed 18-year old male was arrested and charged. His proffered motive for the bombing was to extort the Norwegian State Railway for money. He was also convicted of 30 other criminal offences, including theft, vandalism and shootings: he also planned to bomb a train track and was jailed for eleven years.
On this day in 1982, a young Norwegian man seeking to extort money from the Norwegian State Railway planted a bomb at the central station killing one woman.
Was this even terrorism? It was ‘terrorising’ to those there I am sure but all things that terrorise do not constitute terrorism. It could just as easily have been labeled a garden-variety crime. If that is true then the unnamed young man was neither a lone wolf nor a terrorist. This adds little to our understanding of how terrorists get to be terrorists. I just wish we could get rid of the phrase ‘lone wolf’.