[ stuh-kas-tik ter-uh-riz-uhm ]
The public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted: “The lone-wolf attack was apparently influenced by the rhetoric of stochastic terrorism.”
On Sunday August 23rd, 2020 sometime before 5:00 PM, Jacob Blake was barbecuing outside his apartment in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Blake, a 29 year old black man, a father of 6, a son, an uncle and a brother, has been described by his sister as being a loving father and family man.
Blake came from a religious family, went to high school in Evanston, Illinois and was a member of the wrestling team. His family had a history of civil rights advocacy. His grandfather, Rev. Jacob Blake Sr, organized demonstrations and marches after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and through his activism, his efforts led to the Evanston city council banning racial discrimination in housing at the local level.
On Sunday at approximately 5:11 PM, Kenosha police received a 911 call for a possible domestic incident at Blake’s address. The dispatcher also issued an alert to responding officers that there was a warrant out for an individual associated with the incident address.
Around 5:13 PM, the dispatcher updated officers that the caller stated Blake was attempting to leave the address. Seconds later, the first officer arrived on scene. 5:14 the second officer pulled up. At 5:15, a third officer radios the dispatcher requesting additional officers to respond. The dispatcher assigned 3 more squads to respond to the scene.
Nearby, a bystander began recording the incident from a cellphone. This first video’s perspective showed Blake and officers in the beginnings of an altercation on the passenger side of a gray SUV parked on the street in front of Blake’s house. This was two minutes after police arrived at Blake’s address.
A second video was shot from across the street. The clip shows Blake being followed by three officers, guns drawn, to the driver’s side door of the SUV. As Blake attempts to enter the vehicle, an officer grabs his shirt, and seven shots are heard as Blake is shot in the back at close range. A second later, the car horn starts to blare as Blake collapses into the SUV, and a woman nearby starts to scream and jump in horror. Unable to be seen in the video, were Blake’s three children in the vehicle.
At 5:15, officers radio “shots fired”and request EMS “ASAP” Approximately 3 minutes had elapsed from the first officer’s arrival to Blake being shot. This timeline is important in that it begs the question, What happened in those three minutes?
A third video records officers administering first aid to Blake who is lying on the ground, with blood pooling around him. He is later transported by paramedics via ambulance to nearby Bradford High School for medical evacuation by helicopter.
At the time of writing this piece, Blake is in critical condition, paralyzed from the waist down and facing multiple surgeries for additional injuries.
Blake, is only one of many unarmed black men shot by police in America. His and countless other lives taken by police continue to drive the Black Lives Matter movement. Black Lives Matter has gained massive momentum since the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis Minnesota. The movement and it’s protests, have spanned hundreds of cities across the US and has gained world wide attention, with demonstrations of solidarity in multiple countries.
After Blake’s shooting, the bystander videos immediately went viral, spreading rapidly on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Soon national news outlets were reporting on the incident as Kenosha was rocked with protests that later devolved into violence. By 11:05 PM that night, police were using pepper spray and firing rubber bullets into the crowds of protesters in an attempt to disperse them.
Governor Tony Evers declared a state of emergency that night. Protests continued through the 24th. On the 25th, Evers mobilized 2000 National Guardsmen to assist police. Property including buildings and vehicles were damaged and set on fire. The majority of property damage and arson would later be described by Sheriff David Beth as being perpetrated by individuals not from Kenosha county, and not interested in protesting. This phenomenon is consistent with most of the Black Lives Matter protests that have turned violent. Outside agitators and bad actors have been arrested at multiple protests for similar actions. Often those arrested are found to be tied to opposition groups, anarchists and white supremacy groups.
In addition to the police and National Guard, a significant amount of civilians armed with firearms descended on the Kenosha riots. Law enforcement denies any coordination with these groups or in their arrival there, however viral cell phone footage depicts police at the riots thanking these vigilantes and sharing bottles of water with them.
One of these armed civilians, Kyle Rittenhouse, 17 years old, of Antioch, Illinois was initially filmed shooting one man in a parking lot and later filmed shooting two protesters after an altercation and pursuit. He then was filmed walking past police carrying his AR-15, while bystanders screamed at the police that he was the shooter. Rittenhouse was allowed to leave the scene and fled to Illinois. He was later arrested and charged with first degree intentional homicide. Rittenhouse, former member of a police cadet program, is noted to have been a gun enthusiast as well as an avid Trump supporter, based on social media posts, and his attendance at a Des Moines Trump rally. His obsession ended two protesters lives, Joseph Rosenbaum, 36 and Anthony Huber, 26 and wounded a third, Gaige Grosskreutz, 26.
The murders perpetrated by Rittenhouse did not occur in a vacuum. They are occurring during a time in American history where an extremely divisive, corrupt president has frequently and consistently called for violence, and has been the trigger and inspiration for dozens of violent incidents. This statement is not an opinion. It cannot be denied. It is fact, and the evidence is available to the public. There are many instances recorded of Trump fomenting violence as well as apprehension of many perpetrators who are adherents to Trumps cult-like following. ABC News reported on 54 cases of Trump inspired violence in a report last May.
While Trump may not have specifically instructed those perpetrators to commit violence, his influence on them cannot be denied. Through his rhetoric, Trump can fairly be described as a Stochastic Terrorist. Stochastic Terrorism is a term defined as follows.
“the public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted”
Trump supporters will try to brush off his fiery violence-inciting rhetoric as Trump just “being Trump” and that the perpetrators of violence acted on their own behalf. However, history and current analysis states otherwise. Jim Ludes writes in a 2016 article for The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy, about Trump’s high profile rally comment on Hillary Clinton and “Second Amendment people”.
“The reality is that Trump’s stated intention—accurate or not—is irrelevant. The danger is that someone not in on the “joke” could hear it as a call to action. It’s been well documented that Trump rallies often feature shouts from the crowd of “kill her.”
While Trumps rally rhetoric often blurs the lines between suggestive innuendo and explicit calls for violence, he is not just a dim-witted, belligerent blowhard. He has been documented as being much craftier than that when requesting acts from others that go beyond legal boundaries. Trump’s ex-attorney and “fixer”, Michael Cohen, describes how Trump goes about this.
“He doesn’t give you questions, he doesn’t give you orders. He speaks in code. I understand his code because I’ve been around him for a decade”
When these two methods of suggesting illegal actions from others are taken into context, a different picture appears of Donald J Trump. Trump is transparently aware of how his suggestions can be used against him. He is not stupid or oblivious. He knows what he wants, and he knows how to obtain results without putting himself at risk. Like a mob boss, there’s one method of delivering orders to subordinates in code, as Cohen states, resulting in plausible deniability. His rally rhetoric to supporters is often delivered in just a vague enough way that, again, there is plausible deniability.
Stochastic Terrorism relies on a charismatic, commanding leader with a following that is vulnerable to suggestion, either due to mental capacity, personal mental health, or personal circumstances. Often through repetitive statements and themes, multiple media sources and similar but separate incidents, the future “lone wolf” is radicalized.
With national and worldwide mainstream media coverage the messages are amplified and distributed to entire populations. The media becomes willing or unwitting participants in the process of reporting. Whatever their motives are is irrelevant. Thousands upon thousands will hear the messages and respond. Sometimes in devastating ways.
Whereas the mainstream media has certain regulations, the internet and social media are still the wild west and a breeding ground for radicalizing those who are vulnerable. Take for instance the QAnon phenomenon. Q is the Stochastic Terrorist, and some of those following have become radicalized. The pizzagate conspiracy is another example. A conspiracy was circulated, and eventually Edgar M. Welch latched on to the idea and fired his AR-15 inside the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria. He was radicalized through media he consumed on Facebook and Twitter. The originator of the conspiracy could be considered a Stochastic Terrorist.
By it’s nature, this brand of terrorism can be difficult to ascribe to the leader, depending upon the leader’s wording. Even when the perpetrator of violence plainly states his motives and inspiration, the person who physically carries out the violence is often the only one that pays the price.
Osama Bin Laden is a perfect example of explicit, unadulterated Stochastic Terrorism. By releasing videos, Bin Laden was able to activate terrorist cells and lone wolves as well. G2geek, blogger on the DailyKos blog, has a perfect description of the relationship between the stochastic terrorist and the lone wolf.
“The person who actually plants the bomb or assassinates the public official is not the stochastic terrorist, they are the “missile” set in motion by the stochastic terrorist. The stochastic terrorist is the person who uses mass media as their means of setting those “missiles” in motion.“
In this era of stochastic terrorism perpetrated by the highest elected official in America, we live in constant danger. Whether we support or abhor Trump, our lives are at risk. These “missiles” activated by Trump’s rhetoric are unpredictable, deadly and there seems to be no lack of willing participants. His delusional followers have no lack of enthusiasm for becoming cannon fodder, and the numbers increase daily.
The initial incidents pale in comparison to the scope of the danger now. Armed militias are becoming common sights at protests. Kyle Rittenhouse was one of many armed Trump supporters in Kenosha. With the lack of condemnation, Trump and law enforcement have all but deputized these militias, who are often white supremacist or boogaloo supporters.
They are the Sturmabteilung of 2020. A paramilitary force that is easily activated as well as easily dismissed as self motivated criminals to shift culpability. There were many in Kenosha, and they were given a free pass by police, and one was literally allowed to get away with murder. Only after the viral videos spread was he taken into custody. Between police prone to brutality, unidentified DHS stormtroopers, civilian militias, and lone wolves, Trump’s divisive invective employs a stranglehold on our national discourse, our 1st Amendment rights, and our lives.
And, as always, the source of the “missiles” remains intact, in office and could very likely be here longer than expected. But, we cannot stop resisting the metamorphosis of our national identity. We cannot stop our dissent. We must march, we must shout, we must defend our allies and we must stand firm. Everything is at stake. Be sure to vote on November 3rd. Your lives literally depend on it.