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Cerberus unleashed: The three faces of the lone wolf terrorist



The concept of the “lone wolf” terrorist slowly emerged in recent decades, often drawing media attention as a “new” or “dangerous” threat. It has only been in the past several years that the concept has begun to receive serious attention from scholars and experts, and no consensus has yet emerged on exactly what a lone wolf terrorist actually is. It is commonly believed that extremist or terrorist movements promote the notion of lone wolf violence because of the difficulties authorities have in detecting or preventing such acts, which gives lone wolves the chance to strike again. Many extremists do promote this sort of decentralized activity, but, as the example of the white supremacist movement shows, there are just as many extremists who oppose the use or promotion of lone wolf violence. An analysis of several dozen incidents of apparent lone wolf violence from the past two decades in the United States, incidents in which suspected lone wolves actually succeeded in killing at least one person, reveals some patterns and similarities among lone wolf offenders. These include, among others, the typical status of the offender on the periphery of the movement which they support, the tendency to use simple and easily acquirable weapons such as firearms, and the fact that most lone wolf offenders never succeed in launching a second act of violence.

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