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What makes someone a 'Lone Wolf' terrorist? It's all about R-A-G-E, expert says

Start with a 'loser'
Posted: 7:51 PM, Jun 14, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-14 19:51:49-04

CINCINNATI – Experts say the greatest threat to the U.S. today is not an organized attack on one of our cities, but one person or a few acting alone.

You saw it in Orlando and San Bernardino. Even in Cincinnati, a recent high school grad living with his parents  named Christopher Cornell planned to go to Washington, D.C., and shoot up the nation's Capitol, the FBI says.

"If you look at all of these people, they're all losers to one extent or another," says University of Cincinnati terrorism expert Ed Bridgeman. "This is, frankly, the wave of the future for terrorism. This 'inspired by' terrorism. We call it 'Lone Wolf terrorism.'"

Dr. Stuart Bassman, a forensic psychologist, says the simplest way to describe it is with the acronym "RAGE."

"'R', the person believes they're right. 'A', their anger takes the proportion of hate. The 'G' stands for grandiosity -- the person sees themself as above any rules and in a sense acts in a very arrogant manner. Finally, there is the 'E' -- the emptiness inside," Bassman said.

It's the emptiness that Bassman says leads people to act violently.

"The person has not been able to connect with others and even themselves in a meaningful way. So, to a great extent, they're a loner," Bassman said. "They're isolated.  They can't really understand compassion, empathy, and as a result they could commit such a heinous act.

"What happens is the emptiness builds to the point of despair and as a result of that they don't see any way out.  As a result of that, in their mind, they begin to rationalize and justify the actions because they see it as right -- because they believe in a sense what they're doing would be helpful."

Their isolation makes them susceptible for ISIS or anyone related to a terrorist group to make a connection with them, he said.

"They're floating through life.  They don't have a sense of connection.  Connection is so important.  There is such a vital aspect of life to be able to others in a loving, caring way,"  Bassman said. "The person who acts out in such a heinous manner in a sense doesn't have that connection …

"Just because someone can't make a connection -- does that mean they're a threat?  No, but there is a sense of somehow belng available for others. 

"The terrorist lives by evoking terror in others.  The terrorist in a sense wants to provoke others to be afraid of them.  Part of the rationale for that is they have so much terror inside of them -- so much fear inside of them that what they do is they act out what they're afraid to face inside of themselves."

That makes them tough to spot, which is why Cincinnati police Chief Eliot Isaac says good intelligence is vital.

 "We have a lot of partnerships. We work with Homeland Security as well, the FBI and our own intelligence," Isaac said.

What do they look for?

"Any individual that's behaving in a way that would draw attention to himself," Isaac said. "We pay attention to the information we receive from other members of the community. So, it's important that people if they see things that look out of the ordinary to them that they provide that information to us that we can follow up on it."

How do so many people get radicalized?

Bassman says it's due to the Internet. He calls it the "triple-A engine" – accessibility, availability and anonymity.