The tragic mass murders of the weekend taught me a new term. Maybe you already knew it; it was new to me. Here it is: “stochastic terrorism.”
According to dictionary.com, it refers to: “Acts of violence by random extremists, triggered by political demagoguery.”
CNN brought an expert on the phenomenon Sunday morning, Juliette Kayyem, who explained it. Kayyem also wrote an op-ed, published in the Washington Post, headlined “There are no lone wolves,” explaining it further.
If you don’t read her piece, just focus on the dictionary definition and you’ll get much of the idea. A demagogue, engaging in demagogic rhetoric, may trigger people, to whom the demagogue has no connection, to commit acts of violence, like just getting a gun and going somewhere and shooting a bunch of strangers.
As hard as they might try to root out organizations of terrorists, it’s close to impossible for those trying to protect us from getting ahead of an instance of stochastic terrorism. How could they?
There’s no law against demagoguery, including demagoguery that might reach the ears and depraved minds of people full of hate, that might be “triggered” by some, let’s say, race-based political rhetoric that leads them to believe that the heroic and patriotic thing to do would be to shoot up random strangers at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, or on a crowded street in Dayton, Ohio.
Asked on Sunday how to deal with such attacks, President Donald Trump said: “We have done much more than most administrations, not talked about very much but we have done actually a lot. But perhaps more has to be done.” He added: “If you look at both of these cases, this is mental illness. These are really people that are very seriously mentally ill,” he said.
He didn’t mention the term “stochastic terrorism,” and I haven’t seen a comment yet from the president about the idea that Saturday’s mass shootings might be in that category. I can’t say for sure whether he is familiar with the word “stochastic.” I wasn’t, before yesterday.
But during the presidential campaign, Trump did state: “I’m very highly educated. I know words, I know the best words. But there’s no better word than stupid.”