Contagiosity of Terrorism: Social-Psychological Origins

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2017-61-11-85-92

I. Khokhlov (,
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation 



Abstract. This article is a follow-up to the article “Some Approaches to Interpretation of Terrorism Phenomenon” published in “World Economy and International Relations”, no. 5 (2015), which detailed specific aspects of what motivates the lower and mid-level members of terrorist networks to get involved in terrorist activities, and to the article “Ideological Justification of Terrorism as a Political Tool” published in the same journal, no. 1 (2017), which studied political reasoning for terrorist activities. The author sees terrorism as a system issue and a complex phenomenon implying a few factors. One of these factors is contagiosity of terrorist activities. Creation of a unified information environment in the late 20th century made it possible for formerly marginal organizations to acquire unprecedented efficiency; they started to exchange experience and technologies that have already proven effective in some regions. A psycho-sociological paradigm of terrorists' motivation is viewed in the context of social environment and psychological atmosphere that dominate in the society. The contagiosity makes itself evident in the way terrorists take a decision to launch an attack. So, the time of a terrorist attack is not selected randomly, but has its sequence. High level of terrorist threat in one month is followed by its decline in the next month, so terrorist groups exercise their attacks depending on assaults made by other organizations. At the same time, such groups can have various ideologies and no connection among themselves, thus their activities are not coordinated in reality. Terrorists just take their lead from one another and repeat successful tactics. Terrorism is no longer limited to one country or one region. Due to mass media coverage, — the spread of television in 1960-ies and of the Internet at the turn of the century, — terrorists started to learn from each other and exchange technologies, knowledge, tactics and even militants. The author analyses the most prominent terrorist organizations and shows how they have learned to use the global information highway to their advantage. 

Keywords: terrorism, contagiosity, strategy and tactics of extremism 


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For citation:
Khokhlov I. Contagiosity of Terrorism: Social-Psychological Origins. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2017, vol. 61, no. 11, pp. 85-92.

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