The frequent targeting of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by online extremists and political opponents likely contributed to the violent attack on her husband Paul, terrorism and extremism experts said.
The intruder at the Pelosis’ home yelled “Where’s Nancy?” before assaulting Paul Pelosi with a hammer, according to a person briefed on the incident. An internet user with the same name as the man arrested at the scene, David Depape, expressed support for former President Donald Trump and embraced the cult-like conspiracy theory QAnon in online posts that referenced “satanic paedophilia.”
Police have yet to comment on a motive in the attack.
But terrorism and extremism experts believe it could be an example of the growing threat of so-called stochastic terrorism, in which sometimes unstable individuals are inspired to violence by hate speech and scenarios they see online and hear echoed by public figures. [Continue reading…]
Stochastic terrorism means terrorism that’s statistically predictable but individually unpredictable. In simpler language, it means that when Trump or his allies encourage violence — when the say the kind of stuff they say all the time now — it is not just possible that someone at some point will do something about it, it’s damn near inevitable.
Calling certain forms of violent rhetoric stochastic terrorism is essential to holding the perpetrators accountable for the tragic consequences.
When Donald Trump told white supremacists to “stand by” at the September 2020 presidential debate, then summoned them to Washington on January 6 and told them to “fight like hell,” he was engaging in stochastic terrorism.
When Fox personality Jesse Watters says “They’ve declared war on us and now it’s game on,” it’s not just talk. It’s stochastic terrorism.
But news executives who have normalized this kind of rhetoric over the last six years aren’t ready to go that far.
So corporate-media newspapers, cable channels and broadcast networks have been avoiding the term “stochastic terrorism” like the plague. [Continue reading…]