Beyond the 'Lone Wolf': lone actor terrorism and the far-right in Europe

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


KEY FINDINGS Who are far-right lone actors? • Rejecting the emotive term ‘lone wolf’ as unhelpful, far-right terrorists can be divided into three categories: ‘loners’, who have vicarious relationships with wider far-right cultures; ‘lone actors’, who have long-lasting, two-way relationships with far-right cultures; and ‘small groups’, clusters of activists who develop into self-directed, autonomous cells. Lone actor terrorists who are actively directed by larger terrorist groups do not appear to be part of far-right violent extremism at present. • The current research shows there is no single profile for far right lone actor terrorists in Europe, other than they are typically white and male. What issues are crucial to radicalisation? • Combinations of long-term factors, such as previous criminality and mental health issues, and short-term factors, such as losing a job or experiencing a relationship breakdown, typically (though not always) explain why people become vulnerable to violent forms of far-right radicalisation. • Exposure to ideology is also crucial to far-right radicalisation, while personal grievances are often blended into the worldviews of far-right terrorists, helping to legitimise action. The inclusion of an ideological component distinguishes lone actor terrorists from others who kill, such as serial killers. • The increased role of the internet in contemporary forms of far-right radicalisation is crucial, especially as a tool for self-directed radicalisation, providing attackers with inspirational ideological material, information on how to develop methods of attack, and opportunities to tell others about their actions. What issues are crucial to detection? • More effort is needed to address the problem of far-right radicalisation, viewing it as a distinct issue from other forms of radicalisation. • Intelligence gathering on far-right organisations will facilitate detection, and data suggests that monitoring of far-right security threats is poorer than monitoring of similar threats from religion-based extremist groups. • Online monitoring of extreme-right groups is particularly important, as is doing more to tackle the easy availability of extremist material online. Far-right activists regularly use online spaces, and can even disclose intentions to carry out attacks online. • As detecting far-right lone actor terrorists will remain difficult, consideration needs to be given to other methods for reducing the risks of violent attacks, such as limiting the availability of potential bomb making materials, and other weapons that could be used in attacks. • Addressing security threats from far-right terrorism must be related to wider, long-term strategies designed to tackle the whole range of issues posed by far-right cultures, as this will help deter people from entering into a culture of radicalisation. Such strategies include education programmes to tackle racism in schools, initiatives to encourage the reporting of hate crimes, and state support for credible NGOs that challenge the far-right.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationViolent Radicalisation & Far-Right in Europe
EditorsAristotle Kallis, Sara Zeiger, Bilgehan Öztürk
Place of PublicationAnkara, Turkey
Number of pages40
ISBN (Print)978-975-2459-47-2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2018


  • terrorism
  • far-right


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