Terrorists, Victims and Society: Psychological Perspectives on Terrorism and its Consequences (Wiley Series in Psychology of Crime, Policing and Law) Paperback – 24 Apr 2003
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highly recommended for its thoughtfulness and depth of scholarship (Australian and NZ Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 37, No 6)
all the contributions are perceptive would appeal to anyone interested in the processes underlying terrorism (Forensic Update, Jan 2004)
From the Author
At a time when there is an increasing sense of paranoia regarding terrorism, there is a powerful need for balanced, expert and accessible accounts of the psychology of terrorists and terrorism. This book is intended to help address this need. However, this volume should not be seen as a knee-jerk reaction to the tragic events of September 11. Yonah Alexander recently commented that more than 150 books on terrorism had been published in the first 12 months after the attacks on New York and Washington, roughly three new books each week. He questioned rightly whether the quality of this flood of print would stand any test of time. This volume is hopefully somewhat better prepared for such probation.
Though published well after the September 11 attacks, work on this collection of papers first began back in 1998, when I met the Series Editor for coffee at the campus of the University of Leicester. I had already heard that Wiley had (for some time) wanted to publish a book on psychology and terrorism. They were struggling however to find someone to take the project on. I agreed to edit the book, but little appreciated then just how long it would take to bring the finished volume to fruition. From the outset, the intention was to gather together contributions from psychologists and psychiatrists with the right backgrounds. People who had direct experience of researching terrorism; who had met actual terrorists; who had worked with the victims of terrorist violence; and who had laboured to assist those tasked with the serious responsibility of combating and responding to terrorism. Needless to say, the list of potential contributors was a short one and it took much time to gather the various authors together.
The end product though has hopefully been worth the long wait. Divided into three parts, the book aims to provide a holistic account of terrorism and its impact. The first general section focuses on terrorists as individuals and as groups. The aim of the contributions here is to provide balanced and objective insight into the psychology of terrorists; what their motivations are, what keeps them involved in terrorist groups, and what eventually forces most to end their active involvement in terrorism. This section also tackles the special issues of terrorist hostage-taking, suicidal terrorism and the growing concern over cyber-terrorism.
The second section of the book explores the question of the impact of terrorism. Some of the very best work psychology has carried out on the subject of terrorism has been focused on the issues surrounding victims and these chapters examine how terrorism affects both its direct and indirect casualties. It also examines the differences between isolated incidents and long-running terrorist campaigns and the special cases of groups such as children and the increasingly sensitive role played by the media.
The third and final section of the book focuses on the thorny questions of how best to respond to, and manage, terrorism. It is hoped that these chapters can provide some insight for those concerned with short-term tactical problems (e.g. whether to retaliate or not), as well as for those who are looking at the more long-term strategic questions of bringing an entire terrorist campaign to an end.
The focus of this book is ultimately to present a clear and succinct view of what psychological research has revealed about terrorists and terrorism. The results are often disturbing, sometimes surprising and frequently disheartening. Perhaps most worrying of all, is the extent to which this current level and range of knowledge has repeatedly been ignored and overlooked by those tasked with the responsibility of controlling terrorism. This book aims to provide a clear, intelligent and well-informed account of what psychology has learned in the past thirty years about issues relating to terrorism. It also aims to demonstrate just how one branch of social science can provide a powerful tool for insight and guidance on one of the most challenging problems facing the modern world.See all Product description
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The author did introduce some very big names to compare with other lone/small cell groups. The first part of the book is the introduction and attempts to understand the mindsets of terrorists. The following section is the reaction from the civilians and other governments as they attempt to stop or persuade their attacks. The last section, which is not discussed enough presently, is the reaction effort to terrorists. Ideological methods inquire the terrorists to take arms and in some sectarian attempts make martyrs as an ending product. Examples are drawn from past attempts of limiting the destructive force and other issues that regard the breeding of hate, within those communities.
The book is easy to read and current on most examples, depending on the level of exposure you may have with this subject matter. It is insightful and very interesting, a few methods will keep showing up throughout the book as stated in the first paragraph, some of the theories are just that, theories because not even the scientific community understands the person in some examples as they attempt to place a tag on them.
Among the plethora of materials published since 9/11, many of which are individual commentaries or personal reactions to the attacks on the U.S. that occurred that day, Andrew Silke's edited book, "Terrorists, Victims and Society: Psychological Perspectives on Terrorism and its Consequences" (Wiley Series in the Psychology of Crime, Policing and the Law), stands out as exemplary for its science-based inquiry into terrorists, victims of terrorists, and worldwide and historical responses to terrorism.
As pointed out by the editor, Andrew Silke - whose expertise reflects both his background as a forensic psychologist and law enforcement experience with terrorism in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and Latin America - terrorism as a strategy, and terrorists and individuals and networks of individuals, have been part of our world for decades (some would say, centuries). However, terrorism and terrorists are remarkably difficult to study from a psychological point of view: terrorism is a political strategy that requires political (and economic, historical and geographical) analyses. Despite this, it remains common for many people - most of whom have never been a direct victim of a terrorist attack - to look to psychologists for helping in understanding "why someone becomes a terrorist." We want to know about the forces that shape an individual life towards a lifestyle that appears so foreign to most of us.
"Terrorists, Victims and Society" explains that to know why an individual adopts a terrorist strategy and/or joins a terrorist group we must ask the same questions that we might ask if we want to know why an individual decides to be a farmer or studies to be a librarian: we must know the geographical, political, economic and cultural forces that shape an individual life. The authors explain that we must seek to understand how disruptions in a life might provide someone with too few options to effect change or fail to find a legitimate voice in a legitimate political process. And, because most people are not terrorists, we should ask what special and unique forces acted on a particular person - in the same way that we should ask what was special about the family and background of Mother Teresa that made her act so selflessly. As both Silke and contributing author John Horgan point out in Part 1 ("The Terrorists"), there is no psychology of the terrorist; there is the psychology of the human that plays out in a multitude of ways.
For some aspects of terrorism, especially those related to responses of children and other target groups, social science has good data to offer: the authors in Part II ("Victims of Terrorism"), Ginny Sprang, Orla Muldoon, and Betty Pfefferbaum show how the impact of terrorist incidents on its victims - including the young and elderly - depend in large part on how the world around them (siblings, parents, school, television) interprets the events for them; how the impact of terrorist incidents are enhanced (and perhaps, dependent on) coverage of the attack by the media; how some groups tolerate continued exposure to terrorist attacks or threats by becoming desensitized and by creating a political/cultural ideology or story that helps them make sense of their world. These authors suggest that we can look to the hardships and lessons learned in communities in the United Kingdom and in Israel and Palestine for how to cope with terrorist attacks and for what kinds of population changes are likely to result.
The authors provide insights into questions too rarely asked: John Horgan ("Leaving Terrorism Behind: An Individual Perspective") offers insight into what makes a terrorist quit. Margaret Wilson ("The Psychology of Hostage-Taking") asks whether there are positive outcomes of being a victim of terrorism - and if so, what are they? Silke asks ("Retaliating Against Terrorism") considers the supporting role the targeted state plays, simply by the nature of its reaction to the attack. He then ponders the best long-term, as opposed to short-term, military and political responses to a terrorist attack, and claims that to begin to address this, we must ask when the "current cycle" of terrorism involving the Islamic and Western worlds began.
We in the west, perhaps most especially we Americans, have a short memory and a short attention span: Americans think that since "nothing has happened" for two years, that the world is getting safer. But much has happened since 9/11, although not on American domestic soil. Much is likely to happen for many years, because the conflicts generating the terrorist threats that the western world faces are continuing and show no abatement. What can an individual do? We might arm ourselves with knowledge and understanding; I recommend this book be purchased [along with the bottled water we buy for the event of an attack]. The decisions we make in our own political world will help to shape the threats that we face, and those decisions will be wiser for the information offered in "Terrorists, Victims and Society."
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