February 22, 2018

Lone Wolf Terrorism: Types, Stripes and Double Standards


The recent spike in mass shootings, topped by the October 1, 2017, Las Vegas massacre, dubbed the “deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history,” has brought newfound urgency and attention to lone wolf violence and terrorism. Although a topic of pressing concern, the phenomenon—which centers on mass violence inflicted by one individual—is underexamined and undertheorized within legal literature. This scholarly neglect facilitates flat understandings of the phenomenon, and enables the racial and religious double standards arising from law enforcement investigations and prosecutions of white and Muslim lone wolves.

This Essay contributes a timely reconceptualization of the phenomenon, coupled with a typology adopted from social science, for understanding the myriad forms of lone wolf terrorism. In addition to contributing the theoretical frameworks to further examine lone wolf terrorism within legal scholarship, this Essay examines how the assignment of the lone wolf designation by law enforcement functions as: (1) a presumptive exemption from terrorism for white culprits; and (2) a presumptive connection to terrorism for Muslim culprits. This asymmetry is rooted in the distinct racialization of white and Muslim identity, and it is driven by War on Terror baselines that profile Muslim identity as presumptive of a terror threat.


Khaled A. Beydoun, Associate Professor of Law, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law; Senior Affiliated Faculty, University of California at Berkeley, Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project (IRDP); and author of American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear (University of California Press, 2018).

Copyright 2018 by Khaled Beydoun

Cite as: Khaled Beydoun, Lone Wolf Terrorism: Types, Stripes and Double Standards, 112 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 187 (2018), https://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1257&context=nulr_online&preview_mode=1&z=1519320539.