“Morning Show” Looks at Stochastic Terror with Kurt Braddock, Assistant Professor of Public Communications at American University on Jan. 26thJanuary 23, 2023
“Morning Show” Looks at Stochastic Terror
Mary Jacobsen talks with Kurt Braddock, Assistant Professor of Public Communications at American University. Braddock is the author of “Weaponized Words: the Strategic Role of Persuasion in Violent Radicalization and Counter-radicalization,” published by Cambridge University Press in 2020.
Braddock explains “stochastic terror,” a term that is showing up with growing frequency in news and commentary in reference to political, antisemitic, or racially motivated acts of violence such as the assault on Paul Pelosi.
Stochastic is a term related to statistics, referring to events that are likely to occur, but do so at random. As Braddock says, “think of sitting on your front porch watching dark storm clouds roll into your neighborhood. You can be pretty sure lightning is going to strike soon, but you can’t know exactly when or where.”
Stochastic terror refers to violent acts that are not directly ordered, but are almost certain to happen in response to a volume of dehumanizing and inflammatory, mass mediated rhetoric about a person or group that implicitly advocates for or justifies violence.
“When you’re reaching millions of people” with such messages, Braddock says, “you approach near certainty” that someone will respond to incendiary rhetoric with violence.
Although such indirect incitement is protected free speech, Braddock believes that public education about the strategy and hazards of stochastic terror can give us a means of “attitudinal inoculation” against calls to political violence. By discerning when inflammatory rhetoric from leaders is being used as a “political communication tool,” we can “demand greater responsibility from our elected leaders.”
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