Lone Wolf Terrorism: Types, Stripes and Double Standards
112 Northwestern Law Review (2018)
31 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2018
Date Written: March 21, 2018
The recent spike in mass shootings, topped by the October 1, 2017 Las Vegas massacre, dubbed the “deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history,” has brought newfound urgency and attention to lone wolf violence and terrorism. Although a topic of pressing concern, the phenomenon – which centers on mass violence inflicted by one individual – is under-examined and under-theorized within legal literature. This neglect facilitates flat understandings of the phenomenon within scholarly and popular discourses, and enables the racial and religious double standards arising from law enforcement investigations and prosecutions of white and Muslim lone wolves.
This Essay contributes a timely re-conceptualization of the phenomenon, coupled with a typology, adopted from social science, for understanding the myriad forms of lone wolf terrorism. In addition to providing nuanced theoretical frameworks to further examine lone wolf terrorism within legal scholarship, this Essay examines how the assignment of the lone wolf designation by law enforcement generally functions as: (1) a presumptive exemption from terrorism for white culprits; and (2) a presumptive connection to terrorism for Muslim culprits. This double standard is rooted in the distinct racialization of white and Muslim identity in the U.S., and driven by War on Terror baselines that profile Muslim identity as presumptive of terror threat.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation