Can “Dangerous Speech” be Used in Explaining “Lone-Wolf” Terrorism?


“Lone wolf terrorism” challenges security scholars and practitioners alike with its unpredictable and ambiguous nature. One of the greatest of these challenges is contextualizing the part of socialization and indoctrination in such attacks. What role do extremist communities and speech play in shaping the beliefs a “lone wolf” kills for? The concept of “dangerous speech” developed by Susan Benesch is offered as a possible answer to this question. “Dangerous speech” helps to define the line between hate speech and speech which demonstrably incites its audience toward violence. This project investigates whether the guidelines for “dangerous speech” can be applied to analyze “speech” surrounding acts of “lone wolf terrorism.”

The significance of “lone wolf” terrorism is thought to be rising in recent years, as concern grows among policymakers and scholars over threats posed by individual attackers unaffiliated with a standing organization. This investigation of the connection between speech and violence is also offered as a contribution to a larger conversation over the relationship between ideology and violence against civilians.

Download Working Paper Read Policy Brief


TSAS WP14-11

Skip to content