Research Paper: Terrorists and Social Identity Theory News

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Terrorists and Social Identity Theory

News in Psychology

Viewing Terrorists through the Lens of Social Identity Theory

Viewing Terrorists through the Lens of Social Identity Theory

The clinical psychologist Dr. Dale Archer saw red when the news media began to characterize the two brothers accused of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing as "losers" (2013). What seems to bother Archer at a deep level is the belief that more and more young people disillusioned with their lives increasingly feel justified to use violence to vent their angst. Archer has posted blog entries on this topic in the past, so it appears to be a topic he is familiar with. What seemed to trigger his most recent post was not that mass murder may be on the rise, but the idea that being a 'loser' is now sufficient to qualify someone as a potential terrorist, along with loners, delinquents, and the severely mentally ill. Rather than question the idea that being a loser is sufficient to qualify someone as a potential terrorist, Archer seems to take these statements at face value.

This essay will not make the same mistake and will instead examine the research evidence for what may increase the risk of an individual turning to terrorism and attacking the community within which they have lived for years.

Defining Radicalization

Aly and Striegher (2012) review contemporary models for explaining the radicalization process that leads to the commission of a terrorism act and fail to agree with earlier models that suggest Islam is the only religious ideology or ideology that fosters acts of mass destruction. They are not alone in this criticism and the New York City Police Department seems to be listening, because they recently broadened their terrorism investigative focus beyond the Islamic community.

The terrorism model under scrutiny is that authored by Silber and Bhatt (cited and reviewed in Aly and Striegher, 2012), which proposes individuals go through a four-stage process of pre-radicalization, self-radicalization, indoctrination, and then jihadist or Holy warrior. This model depends heavily on the influence of religious rituals and Salafi Islam, but numerous experts have pointed out that more than a few terrorists have been Christian or non-religious.

Understanding why this model may be misleading is important, because it is obviously being relied upon by some law enforcement agencies to guide their terrorism investigative efforts, sometimes with great harm to civil liberties (Friedersdorf, 2013). In an effort to better understand whether Silber and Bhatt's radicalization model actually works and in what ways it does not, Aly and Striegher examined the case of the Australian homegrown Islamic terrorist Jack Roche (2012).

After a brief stint in the British military, Roche traveled around Europe, met and married his wife, then moved to Sidney, Australia. Roche's life then took a turn for the worst and he began to drink heavily and his marriage ended. Roche then turned to religion (Islam) to satisfy his feelings of emptiness, traveled to Indonesia to learn more about his adopted religion, joined the Jamaah Islameeah, and then traveled to Afghanistan to meet with senior Al Qaeda leaders. While in Afghanistan he received terrorist training. Upon returning to Australia he tried… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Terrorists and Social Identity Theory News.  (2013, May 7).  Retrieved August 25, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Terrorists and Social Identity Theory News."  7 May 2013.  Web.  25 August 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Terrorists and Social Identity Theory News."  May 7, 2013.  Accessed August 25, 2019.