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NCJ Number: 193845 Find in a Library
Title: Audience and Message: Assessing Terrorist WMD Potential
Journal: Terrorism and Political Violence  Volume:13  Issue:3  Dated:Summer 2001  Pages:83-106
Author(s): Daniel S. Gressang IV
Date Published: 2001
Page Count: 24
Type: Research Paper
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: This article assesses the terrorist mass destruction threat by arguing that the likelihood of terrorist weapons of mass destruction use may be better indicated by examining the terrorists’ own perceptions and expectations of the audience, the tone and content of both symbolic and rhetorical massages, and the status of terrorists’ interactions with the larger society.
Abstract: A controversial aspect of the study of terrorism has been the likelihood of terrorists using weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Terrorist actions are purposive acts, designed to produce, directly or indirectly, expected outcomes. Emphasizing the purposive aspect of each terrorist act allows for the development of a more sophisticated understanding of the terrorist’s decision-making process. Three aspects of the communicative dynamic between terrorist and audience are posited. The first aspect is a determination of the terrorist’s core audience. Verbal and written communications are offered to explain and justify terrorist actions and existence. Terrorists usually cast themselves as saviors, leaders, or martyrs for a noble cause. A second aspect lies in the content of the message the terrorist group seeks to bring forward through words and deeds. The message directed towards the group’s primary audience holds the greatest importance. The content of the message needs to be taken as a combination of rhetorical communications and attack “content” in order to give a clearer, more nuanced understanding. The third aspect for considering the likelihood of mass casualty weapons use involves the group’s perceptions and understanding of its interactions with the larger society within which it operates. Combining audience, message, and social relationship offers an opportunity to distinguish between terrorist groups that are most likely to consider the large-scale use of mass casualty weapons from those that are not. For a terrorist group to seriously consider WMD use for the purpose of killing thousands in a single act, the greatest likelihood conditions associated with each aspect would need to be met simultaneously. Terrorists most likely to use large-scale WMD are those who champion a message of destruction for, or to, an ethereal audience and who seek to withdraw as completely as possible from society. 39 notes
Main Term(s): Terrorism causes; Terrorism/Mass Violence
Index Term(s): Domestic Preparedness; Revolutionary or terrorist groups; Subversive activities; Terrorist ideologies; Terrorist profiles; Terrorist tactics; Terrorist weapons; Threat assessment
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