December 3, 2019
It is a lone wolf attack. The London Bridge terrorist twenty eight years young Usman Khan had no body other in his group and did the act of killing two people and wounding three others at his own. London Police has also confirmed the same that they are not actively seeking any other suspect as yet who could be part of the terror attack. There is much more to write and say about psychology of such attacks but it cannot be covered under one topic.
Usman Khan had been living in the north of Birmingham and had been known to law enforcement authorities since he was one of the nine-persons who plotted to blow London Stock Exchange in 2012. There are many qualifications of a potential lone wolf. A willingness, a “stimulus” to generate willingness and “motives” by means of which one is persuaded to get recruited or perform acts of terror and violence at one’s own. The law enforcement outfits have to understand that the complete process of transformation of such an individual.
Transformation of a lone wolf is developmental till the time he reaches the recruiting pitch. Lot many factors play during this time. His religious beliefs, his response to various interpretations are most significant ones. If he is not happy with the present regime of his country or cannot understand the political issues rather interprets these as per his own understanding, he is likely fall for terrorist narrative pretty soon thus his transformation would be expedited. The whole process may extend over few weeks, few months even a year. Human are more complex and more diverse in their nature, to be understood through any theory or any idea of a social scientist. Yet, an effort can be made to peek inside human mind that determines the behaviour.
A number of theories exist about the psychoanalysis of human mind which provide a base to modern social and psychological scientists to build their own models. These theories give an insight into human motivational forces, drives, refusal to accept external realities, retreat into fantasy in order to resolve inner and outer conflicts, idealization that further lead towards somatisation.
A simple motive is sufficient for a lone wolf to get excited and do malicious acts without remorse. Providing someone with a motive for some action is motivation which is available in surroundings of a lone wolf; fanatic clerics, friends, internet, social media all play a role to motivate such elements. Motive is the cause; motivation is being caused, or the causing. It takes a simple story of injustice and cruelty against ones tribe, caste or religion, to arouse the lone actor to act towards an aggressive action. Beyond doubt this motivation has roots in physiological, behavioural, cognitive and social areas of a terrorist. People are motivated to behave in certain ways because they are evolutionarily programmed to do so. Researchers have developed a number of different theories to explain motivation but each individual theory tends to be rather limited in scope. However, by looking at the key ideas behind each theory, we can gain a better understanding of motivation as a whole that will help us Usman Khan.
Having gone through the subject as deep as a layman can go, what I have understood is by trying to combine and amalgamate many of existing yet separate theories, the stimuli is generated by mind processes as well as external events that occur in the environment. This stimulus is turned into a strong energy (drive or desire) due to inner latent urges and needs. In other words drive or desire is the visible and expressed by our needs and urges.
While studying people like London bridge terrorist, we need to see what stimulus existed in the lone wolfs surrounding or how environments in his surrounding fiddled with his personality to generate a stimulus which generate sufficient energy (drive or desire) to stab two innocent people to death. Whether is there a possibility that an assumed internal stimulus (his mind process and thinking) in a lone wolf is reinforced by an external one? Are there sufficient motives to be identified that generated drive and desire? How was he “aroused” and awaken to do such a crime? What were his habits and how they channelize the energy his drive into this undesired behaviour? Was there sufficient incentive (besides his other motives i.e. needs and instincts) for him to put finesse in his work? All these questions need to be addressed while understanding why such incidents happen.
Terrorism and extremism is a deviation from our normal behaviour in our daily life. We may call any individual or group of individual who demonstrate deviation from normal behaviour a “Deviant”. Deviant, in simple words means, the act being different from the popular belief, usually in a bad way. The general population determines the deviant behaviour. Thus the lone wolves or terrorists are deviants. The list for known deviant behaviour is too long but each of the deviant behaviour has acceptance amongst some people or communities amongst us.
Prostitution, homosexuality, abortion suicide, cannibalism, drug use, crime, murder are all sort of deviations. Some may be deviations are benign and can only be reflected in novels like “Fifty shades of gray”. Recent studies have shown that even a gang affiliation is included in the long list of deviant behaviour which relates more with the terrorists and criminals. What generates “Deviant behaviour” is a difficult question to answer and must be left for specialists in relevant field. But such acts of violence and terrorism can definitely be seen in the realm of deviation. Presence of a lone wolf in a particular area tends to have a caustic influence upon people around him.
A lone wolf has a natural tendency to gather other deviants around himself as it is natural inclination to search for his own kind because the pressures of society. He will be uncomfortable unless he is with his own like-minded deviants. How he persuades others to follow his footsteps and ultimately raises his gang, is the subject of another column. However such incidents make us more worried to think that the likes of the London Bridge Wolf may still be lurking in our streets.
Original Headline: Psychology of the lone wolf
Source: The Daily Times, Pakistan