Sociology Index

Mass Destruction Terrorism And WMD - Sociology of Terrorism

"Terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead," Brian Jenkins opined. Jenkins's premise was based on the assumption that terrorist behavior is normative, and that if they exceeded certain constraints and employed Mass Destruction Terrorism, they would completely alienate themselves from the public and possibly provoke swift and harsh retaliation. This assumption does seem to apply to certain secular terrorist groups. A weapon of mass destruction terrorism, is a nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, or any other weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to numerous humans or cause great damage to human-made structures, natural structures, or the biosphere.

Psychologist B. J. Berkowitz describes six psychological types who would be most likely to threaten or try to use Mass Destruction Terrorism: paranoids, paranoid schizophrenics, borderline mental defectives, schizophrenic types, passive-aggressive personality types, and sociopath personalities. He considers sociopaths the most likely actually to use Mass Destruction Terrorism.

Nuclear terrorism expert Jessica Stern though disagrees. She believes that "Schizophrenics and sociopaths, for example, may want to commit acts of mass destruction, but they are less likely than others to succeed." She points out that large-scale dissemination of chemical, biological, or radiological agents requires a group effort, but that "Schizophrenics, in particular, often have difficulty functioning in groups...."

Stern's understanding of the Mass Destruction Terrorism terrorist appears to be much more relevant than Berkowitz's earlier stereotype of the insane terrorist. It is clear from the appended case study of Shoko Asahara that he is a paranoid. Whether he is schizophrenic or sociopathic is best left to psychologists to determine.

The case study of Ahmed Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the World Trade Center (WTC) bombing on February 26, 1993, does not suggest that he is schizophrenic or sociopathic. On the contrary, he appears to be a well-educated, highly intelligent Islamic terrorist.