Steve A. Stone
Do you understand stochastic terrorism?
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By Steve A. Stone
March 18, 2023

Dear Friends and Patriots,

We didn’t notice when our Department of Justice began to apply a wholly new legal theory. It escaped our attention, though not that of those in leftist academia. We first saw it applied in the Middle East, as a term used in relation to a sophisticated form of terror attack. We later saw it used by our own military in their identification of a number of high-value human targets, who were subsequently eliminated. Now, we’re watching the evolution of that former battlefield analysis concept into a new way to deny all of us certain fundamental rights, specifically the right of free speech.

In looking at this issue, I realized the terminology needed to be explained by examining current definitions. There are no old ones to refer to, so here are the ones in operative use today:

    Stochastic, def.: Stochastic refers to the property of being well described by a random probability distribution. Although stochasticity and randomness are distinct in that the former refers to a modeling approach and the latter refers to phenomena themselves, these two terms are often used synonymously. Wikipedia

    Stochastic terrorism, def.: While the exact definition has morphed over time, it has commonly come to refer to a concept whereby consistently demonizing or dehumanizing a targeted group or individual results in violence that is statistically likely, but cannot be easily accurately predicted. Wikipedia

The second definition goes on with the following explanatory text:

    The term was initially used to suggest that a quantifiable relationship may exist between seemingly random acts of terror and their intended goal of “perpetuating a reign of fear” via a manipulation of mass media and its capacity for “instant global news communication”. For example, careful timing and placement of just a few moderately explosive devices could have the same intended effect as numerous random attacks or the use of more powerful explosives if they were shrewdly devised to elicit the maximum response from media organizations. . . .

    A variation of this stochastic terrorism model was later adapted by an anonymous blogger posting on Daily Kos in 2011 to describe public speech that can be expected to incite terrorism without a direct organizational link between the inciter and the perpetrator. The term “stochastic” is used in this instance to describe the random, probabilistic nature of its effect; whether or not an attack actually takes place. The stochastic terrorist in this context does not direct the actions of any particular individual or members of a group. Rather, the stochastic terrorist gives voice to a specific ideology via mass media with the aim of optimizing its dissemination.

    It is in this manner that the stochastic terrorist is thought to randomly incite individuals predisposed to acts of violence. Because stochastic terrorists do not target and incite individual perpetrators of terror with their message, the perpetrator may be labeled a lone wolf by law enforcement, while the inciters avoid legal culpability and public scrutiny.

    In their 2017 book Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism, criminologist Mark S. Hamm and sociologist Ramón Spaaij discuss stochastic terrorism as a form of “indirect enabling” of terrorists. They write that “stochastic terrorism is the method of international recruitment used by ISIS”, and they refer to Anwar al-Awlaki and Alex Jones as stochastic terrorists.

Gee, one two-word term merits all that! Do you think someone is trying hard to make a compelling case?

In an article entitled “The “Stochastic Terror” Lie,” which appeared in The Social Order on 14 Nov. 2022, reporter Christopher F. Rufo wrote the following, which I excerpted today from a longer article:

    In an opinion piece for Scientific American, writer Bryn Nelson insinuated that my factual reporting on Drag Queen Story Hour was an example of “stochastic terrorism,” which he defines as “ideologically driven hate speech” that increases the likelihood of unpredictable acts of violence. On the night of the attack, Nelson argued, I had appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight to discuss my reporting, and, hours later, the alleged attacker, David DePape, radicalized by “QAnon” conspiracy theories about “Democratic, Satan-worshipping pedophiles,” broke into the Pelosi residence and attacked Paul Pelosi with a hammer.

    Under the concept of “stochastic terrorism,” logic, evidence, and causality are irrelevant. Any incident of violence can be politicized and attributed to any ideological opponent, regardless of facts.*

    Last year, left-wing organizations and the Department of Justice collaborated on a campaign to suppress parents who oppose critical race theory, under the false claim that sometimes-heated school-board protests were incidents of “domestic terrorism.”

    The obvious goal is to suppress speech and intimidate political opponents. “Stochastic terrorism” could serve as a magic term for summoning the power of the state.

(*Bolding of text was done by this author.)

The questions that arise involve the limits of the First Amendment. We understand limits such as “you can’t yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater,” but to comment and opinionate on current events and the people who are involved has always been the stock in trade of journalism. It appears the First Amendment is now being constrained even further by virtue of actions taken by the Department of Justice, which now sees adversarial speech as causative with respect to subsequent events. If people like Tucker Carlson speak out in negative terms about any individual or organization that is subsequently the target of a violent act, the DOJ seems poised under their theory of stochastic terrorism to charge him and force him off the air. All of the sudden free speech is only as free as the DOJ is willing to allow. While the free speech of The New Black Panthers to advocate in favor of riots and the murder of white people, especially Jews, as a means to cleanse the nation of the stain of “whiteness” and the legacy of slavery is not glanced at by DOJ, despite church and synagogue burnings and shootings, people like Tucker Carlson may become targets of DOJ actions by virtue of their on-line opinionating on politics, culture, and people in the news.

I don’t argue for “fairness” in treatment. You know I don’t believe in such things. I do argue for equality under the law, and I do argue that people who commit violent acts should pay for their crimes, but speech in itself should only rarely be considered as violence. We already have the crimes of incitement on the books and a legal history that defines its boundaries. Why does DOJ believe that crime needs to be enlarged upon? What is it they fear?

This entire subject reveals, among other things, a purposeful misapplication and misunderstanding of statistics. The word “stochastic” belongs in the realm of statistics, not math or science. A probability is never a certainty, and unless the derived distribution of data being examined indicates a very high probability – beyond the two sigma range, it should only be considered something that could happen. People who understand statistics know that it’s not evidentiary. It can be predictive, but the ability of even the best statistics to be predictive depends entirely on the quality and quantity of the data under examination. Statistics truly follows the GIGO principle. Garbage In – Garbage Out. To trust a statistical derivation enough to use it as pretext for law enforcement action seems to closely align with the theme of the fantasy movie “Minority Report.”

Allow me to use an historical analogy to explain further. Everyone should know that John Hinckley shot President Reagan. Those who followed that incident and the legal proceedings afterward know that Hinckley had a copy of J.D. Salinger’s book, Catcher In The Rye, in his hotel room. Hinckley stated that he was a fan of Mark David Chapman, who assassinated John Lennon. Mark David Chapman had stated he identified with the main character in Catcher In The Rye so much he had wanted to change his name to Holden Caulfield. According to the theory used by today’s DOJ it would appear if J.D. Salinger was still alive he could be liable for a charge of accessory to murder under their theory of stochastic terrorism. According to their theory it was his writing, his speech, that provoked the murder of John Lennon and the attempt on President Reagan’s life. You see how that works?

We are in a very dangerous age; an age when our government is creating new legal theories out of the ether and imposing those theories on us. The only way we citizens can combat those theories is to challenge them in courtrooms. We all understand how long that might take. Will the Republic stand long enough for courts to save us – even if there are judges willing to do it? That’s a question that haunts me.

In Liberty,

Steve

© Steve A. Stone

 

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Steve A. Stone

Steve A. Stone is and always will be a Texan, though he's lived outside that great state for all but 3 years since 1970, remembering it as it was, not as it is. He currently resides in Lower Alabama with a large herd of furry dependents, who all appear to be registered Democrats. Steve retired from the U.S. Coast Guard reserves in 2011, after serving over 22 years in uniform over the span of four decades. His service included duty on two U.S. Navy attack submarines, and one Navy and two U.S. Coast Guard Reserve Units. He is now retired after working as a senior civil servant for the U.S. Navy for over 31 years. Steve is a member of the Alabama Minority GOP and Common Sense Campaign. He is also a life member of SUBVETS, Inc., the Submarine League, and the NRA. In 2018, Steve has written and published 10 books.

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