Discourse of the ‘Lone Wolf’: precarity and extremism in the transnational mythology of extreme right terror

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaper


The language underpinning terrorism and political violence from the extreme right relates to, but is also distinct from, a wider set of populist radical right discourses that play with a politics of precarity in complex ways. Butler’s theme of precarity draws out questions regarding the political formation of threats to social stability and ontological security, often in marginalised communities. Yet the perception of responding to threats to life, and a way of existence being eroded, are also concerns that lie at the core of extreme right ideologies that justify terror. This includes the ‘Lone Wolf’ mythology, fostered by American activists including Tom Metzger and Alex Curtis, that idealises individuals to carry out acts of terrorism in the name of a wider cause of defending the white race. This paper will interrogate elements of this discourse, as it has been generated, shared and reproduced by extreme right figures across national borders, from the USA and within Europe. Figures radicalised, in part, by variants of this discourse include: Timothy McVeigh, Michael Wade Page, David Copeland, Thomas Mair and Pavlo Lapshyn – all terrorists from the extreme right who succeeded in carrying out deadly attacks. Many more have been drawn to the worldview, yet have either not engaged in violence or have been stopped before they carried out attacks. While much of the current literature focuses on the more pragmatic elements of detecting and stymying such figures, less attention has been given to scrutinising the extremist media they both consume and produce. Through the lens of such cases, this paper will explore such media – both disseminated online and through magazines and other print material. It will interrogate the nature of ‘Lone Wolf’ mythology, and especially explore its function in providing a language of empowerment through the endorsement of violent activism, efforts also designed to overcome a state of perceived precarity. It will also conclude by reflecting on the potential appeal of this ‘extreme’ right through its evocations of a state of precarity to justify action, as well as how it differs from a much more widespread ‘populist’ right while retaining some ‘family relationships’ with this more successful form of radical politics.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2018
EventPrecarity, Populism and Post-Truth Politics - University of Cordoba, Spain
Duration: 2 Feb 2018 → …


ConferencePrecarity, Populism and Post-Truth Politics
Period2/02/18 → …


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