North Texas Daily

There is no such thing as a ‘lone wolf’ in domestic terrorism

There is no such thing as a ‘lone wolf’ in domestic terrorism

There is no such thing as a ‘lone wolf’ in domestic terrorism
May 26
10:00 2022

America is once again in the wake of several attacks on innocent civilians, including the horrid shooting in Uvalde, Texas, at an elementary school and a racially motivated attack on a supermarket in Buffalo, NY. Scrambling to write breaking news and cover the aftermaths thereafter, media outlets are rummaging through their usual toolkit of buzzwords to label the evil men who have taken dozens of lives in such short spans of time. There is a wide vernacular often used to describe these domestic terrorists, however “lone wolf” is a term that needs to be left behind.

The phrase itself has been around for centuries, but it has only been in the past 50 years that it has come to refer specifically to an assailant who worked independently and shares no relation to a group. The definition does little to describe who these men are and clouds their motives in a way that misleads the public. The term almost reads as if it is meant to apply to individuals that the public simply doesn’t care to understand.

The concept of a “lone wolf” gives the impression that whoever committed the atrocity is an unexpected societal outlier. These horrible people don’t represent a statistically significant portion of the population, and yet there have been 212 mass shootings this year so far — more than one a day.

The collective but unsurprised sighs of Americans as they read headlines of another shooting are proof enough that this is a problem beyond a few mentally unwell individuals. There comes a point where we have to wonder how lonesome these domestic terrorists really are — especially when we so often see them in the news, hear about them in media and are injured by their actions.

Truthfully, they aren’t alone. They support each other through dozens of forums, chat rooms, and websites. The Buffalo shooter often joked with people online about setting a “high score” and took inspiration from memes made and shared by those who see the killings as entertainment.

More insidiously, many of these shootings are caused by the same select problems. The Buffalo shooter was an open white supremacist and huge proponent of the great replacement theory, a racist ideology that was also cited in another shooter’s manifesto before they went to kill 22 and injure 27 in El Paso, Texas.

Racism, easy access to firearms and lack of anti-extremism guidelines in the U.S. create the perfect scenarios for “lone wolves” to continuously appear.

While many of the known shooters are in fact white supremacists and racists, the radicalization goes far beyond that. The subway shootings that occurred in New York City earlier this year were caused by a man who held extremist views based in misogyny and homophobia — no doubt radicalized by tangential internet subcultures that so many of these “lone wolves” are indoctrinated into. He may not have been a white nationalist, but the hatred propagated and encouraged on the internet ironically knows no bounds.

At best, the term is a misrepresentation of the facts. But at its worst, the phrase displays a lack of concern by the media for its audience. By downplaying these killers and their roles in our society, we shove the individual incidences to the back of our minds, failing to connect the killings to systemic issues.

The use of language in media is undoubtedly important in how the public perceives social issues but ultimately, we come to a point where we must bluntly ask ourselves: why do we put up with this? What do we do?

At the time of writing, 21 people of the Uvalde community are gone. They will never smile, never laugh, never go home to hug their mothers and fathers, and siblings and anyone else who could have appreciated the warmth of their spirit again. Nothing that could ever be done will be enough for them, but what we can still do will save others from having to look down the barrel of a gun.

At the time of this publication, much is still unknown about the terrorist who carried out the attack in Uvalde, what his motives were or even the details of what weaponry was used. What is known is at one point he used a pistol — a weapon he would have been allowed to carry thanks to Governor Greg Abbott’s constitutional carry law, which would give the gunman the right to carry a handgun without a permit.

We don’t know if the Uvalde shooter was a “lone wolf”, but we all know he is not alone in his inhumanity. If we are to move forward as a people and begin to put an end to what feels endless, we must acknowledge that horrendous truth.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Ayden Runnels

Ayden Runnels

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