The assumption is that while not all radicals become terrorists, all terrorists are radicals.
The Abdeslam brothers, with their sudden escalation from dancing in nightclubs to killing in them over the course of a few months, seem to challenge this picture. They also raise a deeper and more troubling question for those seeking to understand the genesis of terrorist acts: What if they were not “radicalized” and underwent no dramatic metamorphosis at all? What if their violence had only the most tenuous connection to what they believed, whatever that was? What if the story of how they came to be involved in terrorism had no real coherent narrative arc? What if the script of terrorism doesn’t always feature the drama of radicalization?This article reminded me of a New Yorker piece (which I posted but can't locate) by Malcolm Gladwell of Tipping Point fame called Thresholds of Violence, How school shootings catch on. Excerpt...
In a famous essay published four decades ago, the Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter set out to explain a paradox: “situations where outcomes do not seem intuitively consistent with the underlying individual preferences.” What explains a person or a group of people doing things that seem at odds with who they are or what they think is right?...
Most previous explanations had focussed on explaining how someone’s beliefs might be altered in the moment. An early theory was that a crowd cast a kind of intoxicating spell over its participants. Then the argument shifted to the idea that rioters might be rational actors: maybe at the moment a riot was beginning people changed their beliefs. They saw what was at stake and recalculated their estimations of the costs and benefits of taking part.
But Granovetter thought it was a mistake to focus on the decision-making processes of each rioter in isolation. In his view, a riot was not a collection of individuals, each of whom arrived independently at the decision to break windows. A riot was a social process, in which people did things in reaction to and in combination with those around them. Social processes are driven by our thresholds—which he defined as the number of people who need to be doing some activity before we agree to join them. In the elegant theoretical model Granovetter proposed, riots were started by people with a threshold of zero—instigators willing to throw a rock through a window at the slightest provocation. Then comes the person who will throw a rock if someone else goes first. He has a threshold of one. Next in is the person with the threshold of two. His qualms are overcome when he sees the instigator and the instigator’s accomplice. Next to him is someone with a threshold of three, who would never break windows and loot stores unless there were three people right in front of him who were already doing that—and so on up to the hundredth person, a righteous upstanding citizen who nonetheless could set his beliefs aside and grab a camera from the broken window of the electronics store if everyone around him was grabbing cameras from the electronics store.
Granovetter was most taken by the situations in which people did things for social reasons that went against everything they believed as individuals. “Most did not think it ‘right’ to commit illegal acts or even particularly want to do so,” he wrote, about the findings of a study of delinquent boys. “But group interaction was such that none could admit this without loss of status; in our terms, their threshold for stealing cars is low because daring masculine acts bring status, and reluctance to join, once others have, carries the high cost of being labeled a sissy.” You can’t just look at an individual’s norms and motives. You need to look at the group.Meanwhile... State seeks to pick up pace on bringing Syrian refugees to US
[T]he settlement has provoked a significant backlash, mostly from Republicans, who argue it puts the U.S. at risk from terrorism.
“It's clear that ISIS wants to, has planned on attempting to infiltrate refugee populations. This is a problem. If one person gets through who is planning a terrorist attack in our country, that's a problem,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, who recently returned from a trip to the region, said Thursday.
“The administration — whether it's Homeland Security or the FBI, cannot tell us that they can adequately screen people. There isn't really a Syria to talk to on that end of the equation to vet people, so it is a problem,” Ryan told reporters.
The State Department says it has fallen behind schedule in meting Obama’s goal partly due to a lack of personnel available to interview refugees.