The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism

Mark S. Hamm and Ramon Spaaij

                                                 Columbia University Press, 2017, ISBN: 9780231181747, 336 pages

The lethality of lone-wolf terrorism has reached an all-time high in the United States. Isolated individuals using firearms with high-capacity magazines are committing brutally efficient killings with the aim of terrorizing others, yet there is little consensus on what connects these crimes and the motivations behind them. In The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism, the terrorism experts Mark S. Hamm and Ramón Spaaij combine criminological theory with empirical and ethnographic research to map the pathways of lone-wolf radicalization, helping with the identification of suspected behaviors and recognizing patterns of indoctrination. Reviewing comprehensive data on these actors, including more than 200 terrorist incidents, Hamm and Spaaij find that a combination of personal and political grievances lead lone wolves to befriend online sympathizers—whether jihadists, white supremacists, or other antigovernment extremists—and then announce their intent to commit terror when triggered. Hamm and Spaaij carefully distinguish between lone wolves and individuals radicalized within a group dynamic. This important difference is what makes this book such a significant manual for professionals seeking richer insight into the transformation of alienated individuals into armed warriors. Hamm and Spaaij conclude with an analysis of recent FBI sting operations designed to prevent lone-wolf terrorism in the United States, describing who gets targeted, strategies for luring suspects, and the ethics of arresting and prosecuting citizens.

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An enlightening exploration of radicalisation and its causes ... genuinely indispensable.

           The Times Higher Education, 14 June 2017

The work of Hamm and Spaaij can be characterized as exceptional from a
scholarly point of view, while also providing crucial insights that can help towards devising effective policy responses to lone wolf terrorism.

The British Journal of Criminology, 58(6), 2018

A book bursting with insight and precision that leaves little to be desired. […] I applaud their effort to not only influence larger political changes, but also to suggest life-saving procedures we can apply on the road to social emancipation.

Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal, 18 March 2019

Covering characters as diverse as James Earl Ray, Sirhan Sirhan, Mark Essex, Lynnette "Squeaky" Fromme, Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph, Jared Loughner, Wade Page, and Christopher Dorner, Hamm and Spaaij have written an excellent and well-researched survey of lone wolf terrorists in the United States—and a major addition to the field.

      Charles B. Strozier, founding director, Center on Terrorism at John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The enduring merit of The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism is that it provides an empirically robust and theoretically nuanced framework for addressing how ordinary individuals can become the agents of extraordinary violence and destruction.

From the Foreword by Simon Cottee

The study of lone wolf terrorism takes a significant leap forward in this important book. Hamm and Spaaij provide a thoughtful analysis and critical insights about the nature of lone wolf terrorism and terrorists. The book is a must-read for scholars, policymakers, and law enforcement officials.

Steven Chermak, Michigan State University

A careful, detailed, original contribution to a vitally important debate.

Richard English, Queen's University Belfast

If you read only one book on lone wolf terrorism, this should be it. It sets the benchmark on what we know about this threat and what can be done to safeguard the future. Superb.

Andrew Silke, University of East London

Defined variously as a 'radical loser,' a 'lunatic assassin,' or more grandiosely as a symptom of our fractured political age, the lone wolf terrorist is a much-commented-upon but frequently misunderstood phenomenon. Thankfully, with the publication of Hamm and Spaaij's compelling new work, The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism, we now have the definitive resource with which to explore both the mindset and the motivations of this most perplexing of political extremists. Crisply written and extraordinarily rich in empirical detail, this is essential reading for students of terrorism, criminologists concerned with political violence, and anyone else interested in the evolving nature of late modern radicalization.

Keith Hayward, University of Copenhagen

A searing, eye-opening, and comprehensive depiction of the evolving nature of terrorism in the United States, The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism is certain to become essential reading for anyone interested in understanding both the factors leading to terrorism and new ways of approaching counterterrorism. Hamm and Spaaij's detailed analysis of the connection between personal circumstances and contemporary social and political realities shed light on aspects of terrorism that are all too often overlooked. Their work is an indispensable primer for policy makers, counterterrorism experts, and students of terrorism.

Karen J. Greenberg, Director, Center on National Security, Fordham University

Conceptually innovative ... This book’s comprehensive and detailed coverage makes it a leading reference resource for those studying these issues.

Perspectives on Terrorism, 11(3), 2017

Hamm and Spaaij yield several unique findings that upend established terrorism expertise [...] The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism does manage to break the typical mould of terrorism studies.

Critical Studies on Terrorism, September 2017

The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism provides an important data-driven extension to our current understanding of who lone wolves are and the factors that led them to undertake the acts that they did. It is a well-researched and dynamic read that seamlessly flows between quantitative analyses and qualitative deep-dives.

Theoretical Criminology, 23(1), 2019

Hamm and Spaaij have done us all, as citizens in a world increasingly vulnerable to lone wolf terrorism, a service in their comprehensive analysis of this phenomenon.

PsycCritiques, 62(51), 2017

An impressive examination of the rise of lone wolf terrorism and its implications for Western counter-terrorism strategy. […] Highly recommended.

CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, January 2018,

This book presents a compelling look at how lone wolf terrorists are made over time, not born. […] For security professionals trying to understand the lone wolf threat, this book provides an excellent reference.

Security Management, 1 April 2019

An outstanding manual for professionals and criminology students, as well as an interesting (and easy to understand) book for everyone.

The Serial Reader, 5 June 2017