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The Psychology of Terrorism: An Agenda for the 21st Century, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1003

Essay

Terrorist groups are increasingly utilizing more radical means of establishing their conditions and presenting them to the world at large.  In order to do this, leaders of these groups must develop followers that have a specific view of the world in order to encourage them to taek necessary action.  In doing so, they implement specific tools and techniques in order to efficiently carry out their agendas.  The various tools and techniques utilized by effective terrorist group leaders to modify the psychological and behavioral factors of their followers.  These include taking advantage of underlying religious and economic backgrounds as well as recruiting those who are young and easily influenced.

These groups are the result of various factors that have emerged within the past few decades. These factors have worked to establish a sense of worldwide identity that has created tension among those of various groups. This includes “the globalization of commerce, travel, and information transfer” (Victoroff 3). These changes have resulted in an ideologically focused struggle in regards to economic, social, and religious identities and availability that presents a challenge to many with traditional beliefs.

These factors have essentially worked to establish a basic conception of the world that is informed by the challenges that people face.  In this sense, this change essentially “puts economic disparities and ideological competition in sharp relief and facilitates cooperative aggression” (Victoroff 3). The aggression that has resulted has left leaders with the capability to modify the psychology and behavior of their followers into traits that are more beneficial to their own needs or ideologies. In this way, one of the major factors that has established the ability for these leaders to utilize these strategies is the idea of “fundamentalism as an aggrieved competitor with the market-economic, democratic, and secular trends of modernity” (Victoroff 3).

One of the major techniques utilized by the leaders of terrorist organizations is to take advantage of various ideological, religious, or economic concerns that an individual might have.  Furthermore, they may take advantage of the identification that the individual has in regards to their social roles.  In this sense, “the role played by feelings of loyalty to groups and the conditions that arouse or reduce attachments” (Druckman 43) have a profound effect on the conditions that might lead to inclusion in terrorist activities and the implementation of these agendas.

A general notion of necessity for human contact is an important element in this regard.  The establishment of techniques that take advantage of the need for group or organizational participation.  This presents the idea that “the bases for group and national loyalty are widely assumed to be lodged in human needs” (Druckman 44).  In this way, by fulfilling the needs of individuals in society terrorist leaders can essentially establish their organizations in a positive light amongst those of a given community.

This can be done by not only expressing ideologies that are similar to these groups, but also by providing specific goods or services that they would be unable to obtain otherwise.  Terrorist organizations, in this way, present alternatives to the services provided by the legitimate government.  “In general these needs tend to arise out of the affective and instrumental functions that nations serve for their citizens” (Druckman 44).  This technique effectively presents the organization as more capable than the established government in regards to fulfilling the needs of the people.

Another way that the psychological or behavioral habits of individuals within these groups can be modified is through the establishment of an order that is perceived to be higher than that of the government that is in place.  “Motivated by religious imperatives, they are thought to lack an earthly constituency and thus to feel accountable only to a deity or some transcendental or mystical idea” (Crenshaw 411).  By making themselves the symbol for a system that is considered to be beyond human these organizations can affect behavior that does not need to account for the rules, traditions, or obligations of the mortal world.

By providing a sense of purpose or identity to those who have none, these organizations are able to create epic narratives that promote adherence to their particular viewpoints.  “An image of cosmic struggle gives meaning to experiences of deprivation and militant movements that are marginalized in terms of mainstream religion” (Crenshaw 413).  In this way, these organizations target particular groups that have been disenfranchised in order assert that their order would be more beneficial to them or to provide them with an entirely new view of the world.

Another method that is used in order to modify the behavior of their followers is the establishment of the leader as a charismatic and strong leader. In this way, through the use of interpersonal factors, leaders can establish authority through “social relationships and the leader’s charismatic authority” (Crenshaw 413). This is indicative of the underlying value that people in these organizations place on the social ties that have a profound effect on the way that people act in groups.

Another strategy that is used is a focus on recruiting younger and more isolated individuals who are more easily controlled or influenced.  “Increasingly, terrorist organizations in the developing world are recruiting younger members” (Hudson 25).  In this way, the major change in the political climate has resulted in these groups attaining followers who are “uneducated, unemployed youths without any prospects” (Hudson 25).  This helps them to assert control and influence their underlying beliefs and ideologies.

Bibliography

Crenshaw, Martha. The Psychology of Terrorism: An Agenda for the 21st Century. Political Psychology, Vol. 21, No. 2. 2000.

Druckman, Danielle. Nationalism, Patriotism, and Group Loyalty: A Social Psychological Perspective. Mershon International Studies Review, Vol. 38, No. 1. 1994.

Hudson, Rex A. The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why? Library of Congress. 1999.

Victoroff, Jeff. The Mind of the Terrorist: A Review and Critique of Psychological Approaches. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 49, No. 1. 2005.

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