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Militant leaders and the patterns of terrorism

Dr Austin Doctor, University of Nebraska

Thursday 8th February 2024, 4.00pm to 5.30pm Online event – to register please e-mail [email protected]

The lethality and the frequency of terrorist attacks conducted by militant organizations vary considerably. Some militants perpetrate extreme and systemic levels of terrorist violence, some only do so occasionally, and others never conduct terror operations. To predict group-level differences in this outcome, we draw on conceptual frameworks in the political science and psychology fields to argue that prior military experience shapes leaders’ willingness to engage in terrorist violence. But not all experiences are created equal. We argue that formal experiences such as those associated with military training serve as a restricting influence on terrorist violence, while less formal and less structured experiences such as time in active combat are associated with increases in future terrorist violence. Using new data on the individual backgrounds of militant leaders active between 1989 and 2013, we find support for our hypotheses. This study contributes to the academic literature by bringing the leader back into explanations of wartime terrorist activity. Our findings also carry notable policy implications for policy makers, warfighters, and counterterrorism practitioners.

From Traitors to Zealots

Dr Daniel Koehler, German Institute on Radicalization and De-radicalization Studies
Thursday 22nd February 2024, 4.00 pm – 5.30 pm, Online event – to register please e-mail [email protected]
What makes a neo-Nazi become a convinced anti-fascist or a radical left-winger become a devout Salafist? How do they manage to fit into their new environment and gain acceptance as a former enemy? The people featured in this book made highly puzzling journeys, first venturing into extremist milieus and then deciding to switch to the opposite side. By using their extraordinary life-stories and their own narratives, this book provides the first in-depth analysis of how and why people move between seemingly opposing extremist environments that can sometimes overlap and influence each other. It aims to understand how these extremists manage to convince their new group that they can be trusted, which also allows us to dive deep into the psychology of extremism and terrorism. This fascinating work will be of immense value to those studying radicalization and counter-radicalization in terrorism studies, social psychology and political science.


God Guns and Sedition:  Far- Right Terrorism in America

Bruce Hoffman – Jacob Ware
Tuesday 12th March, Parliament Hall, 5.00 pm – 6.30 pm

Shocking acts of terrorism have erupted from violent American far-right extremists in recent years, including the 2015 mass murder at a historic Black church in Charleston and the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. These incidents, however, are neither novel nor unprecedented. They are the latest flashpoints in a process that has been unfolding for decades, in which vast conspiracy theories and radical ideologies such as white supremacism, racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, and hostility to government converge into a deadly threat to democracy.

God, Guns, and Sedition offers the definitive account of the rise of far-right terrorism in the United States—and how to counter it. Leading experts Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware trace the historical trajectory and assess the present-day dangers of this violent extremist movement, along with the harm it poses to U.S. national security. They combine authoritative, nuanced analysis with gripping storytelling and portraits of the leaders behind this violence and their followers. Hoffman and Ware highlight key terrorist tactics, such as the use of cutting-edge communications technology; the embrace of leaderless resistance or lone-wolf strategies; infiltration and recruitment in the military and law enforcement; and the movement’s intricate relationship with mainstream politics. An unparalleled examination of one of today’s great perils, God, Guns, and Sedition ends with an array of essential practical recommendations to halt the growth of violent far-right extremism and address this global terrorist threat.