Terrorists’ Motives: The Psychology of the Individual
Society today is threatened with organized terrorism that is perpetrated by various groups. Terrorists’ motives are influenced by individual psychology as well as the sociological impact of the group. The psychological make up of a person is the natural tendency to act in certain ways. For instance, terrorists are thought to be sadists, people who derive pleasure from making others suffer. The psychological aspects of the individual are impacted upon by the social groups. A group’s sociological impact is the relative influence that shared beliefs can exert on an individual member. People feel compelled to act according the beliefs and interests that unite them. People may take the responsibility of protecting the groups’ interests. The sociological impact of a group overrides the individuals’ psychology in motivating terrorism.
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The psychology of individuals is not enough for the commission of terrorist acts. Terrorists get lots of indoctrination within groups in order to get convinced of the value of terrorism. Terrorists’ cells have beliefs that are capable of changing the psychology of the individual. In some situations, personal psychology is irrelevant, especially when it stands in the way of terrorist activities. Terrorists operate under the influence of their groups or societies.
Circumstances facing a community are often the causes of terrorism. Religious Islam Jihad terrorism, for instance, is allowed if it happens as a reaction to oppression by a sovereign administration. Oppression occurs in situations where the oppressed party is not as powerful as the oppressor. With the unequal capabilities, the weaker party cannot successfully wage war against the oppressor so they resort to the use of sabotage tactics to fight for their rights.
Many terrorist groups use the ideology of protection of their interests to justify their attacks. Economic hardships facing a group in society can lead to formation of terrorist groups. Many terrorist groups across the world today are formed to protect the interest of the local community pertaining wealth in their area. The cost of terrorist attacks shows how deep the terrorists are absorbed in their group’s ideology. Terrorists go to great expense to commit their acts. Some of the tactics used by the terrorists are suicide bombings, planting bombs in highly frequented areas, daring shoot outs among other tactics. These acts are often carried out by terror group fanatics.
Fanaticism grows in the course of a person’s interaction with others in the environment. Fanatics are people who support their social groups and beliefs unquestioningly. They are almost always ready to commit any act to defend their groups and beliefs. The motivation these individuals get from their groups make them dare even lose their lives for the cause of the group. Examples of fanatics involved in terrorism are suicide bombers and assassins.
The interaction of individual terrorists and the group they act within is seen in the terror weapons they use. Many optional weapons of mass destruction are available for terrorists in the modern world. However, the terrorists choose weapons that do not cause extensive damage to their community and the environment. For instance, a terrorist will prefer using chemical weapons rather than biological weapons for the reason that the former causes intended damage but the latter destroys indiscriminately.
The choice of weapons that cause minimal damage to the immediate society would not be possible if individual psychology was the primary motive behind terrorist activity. People acting out of individual psychology tend to have narrow minded approach and selfish interests. A terrorist acting out of individual psychology may expose his/her society to danger by using the deadly biological weapons.
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Cyber terrorism also indicates that terrorists act due to the sociological impact of their groups. The internet is used to exchange information from one person to another in a fast and confidential way. Internet communication via email, face book, and other personalized sites present a forum for exchange of intelligence between terrorists. Terrorists can learn new ideas from their partners in any part of the world. Internet can also be used for the recruitment of terrorists in a global scale. Hate messages shared on the internet are responsible for swaying people into joining terror groups. Most of the hate information appeals to the emotions of the readers and make them sympathetic to the grievances of the terrorists.
Personality can be central to the action of a terrorist once shaped by the group. The group may be religious, political or racial among other categories. Islamic fundamentalism terror is a leading example of religious terrorism today. Members of Islamic terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda act out of the conviction that they are fulfilling a sacred goal. Islamic fundamentalist terror is rooted on the concept of holy war, Jihad, which Muslims can use to convert non Muslims. However, the appeal to Jihad in justifying terrorist activities has been refuted by Islam religion scholars. Some terrorist cells purporting to act according to Islam are self seekers and have sectarian interests.
In the political scene, there are right wing terrorists and left wing terrorists. Right wing terrorists defend existing authority in a nationalistic manner while left wing terrorists fight down existing authority. Right wing terrorists act out of the interest of the ruling class. Members of the ruling class often fund terror acts against their political opponents. The motive in this case is to terrify the population into supporting an incumbent government. Left wing terrorism is perpetrated by non loyalists and may assume the form of uprising against the government if it happens in large scale. Terrorists in this category commit acts aimed at sabotaging the government. They feel justified to attack supporters of the government.
They may, for instance, plant bombs at spots frequented by government supporters. Terrorism by government opponents is also used as a tool for gaining influence over others. This tactic is used by many guerrilla groups while they seek the support of their communities e.g. limb amputations reported in Sierra Leone under Charles Taylor’s rebel group. Terrorists may also use terrorism to extort money from society members.
Terrorists are also used for fighting enemy countries. This occurs within state sponsored terrorism whereby the motive of the government as a group is central. A state sponsors terrorists by availing funding to them and the terrorists act by sabotaging the enemy government, where they are situated. The sponsored terrorists may be in the form little cells or large anti government movements. The sponsoring government usually has vested interest on the enemy government.
Involvement in terrorism requires the resolve of the individual but the group under which one acts is the chief motivating factor. The psychology of the individual may be useful to the activities of terrorists but this is realized well if the individual undergoes indoctrination amidst the group. Types of terrorism such as religious terrorism and political terrorism thrive on the collective resolve that impact on the individual members. The threat to society posed by terrorism can be understood in the context of organized groups.