With the success of the crackdown on traditional terrorist cells, terrorism has evolved to generate “self-activating” terrorists. That shift has been openly acknowledged by the Obama administration. Lone wolf terrorists are perceived as particularly dangerous for a number of reasons: their ability to think outside the box; their looser affiliation with organized terrorist movements, making their movements harder to track, anticipate, or arrest, and their decisions regarding the level of violence they wish to achieve unconstrained by the desire not to alienate supporters; and their easy access to self-radicalizing material and technologies of mass violence (Spaaij, 2012; Simon, 2013).
This article draws from Picart's prior work on the use of “monster talk” as a form of public preachment (Picart and Greek, 2007; Picart and Browning, 2013), but as applied specifically to the formation and radicalization of three American lone wolf terrorists, Colleen LaRose (Jihad Jane) and the Tsarnaev Brothers (the Boston Marathon Bombers). This article treats the Tsarnaev brothers as essentially lone wolf terrorists because they become self-radicalized, arguably, principally independently of each other, and only collaborate on the planning and execution of the Boston Marathon Bombing when they have self-radicalized. Crucial to this chapter's analysis is the distinction between radicalization of thought and radicalization of action because a theoretical rhetoric of radicalization does not automatically convert into a rhetoric of radical action (McCauley & Moskalenko, 2013). The internet plays a crucial role in this galvanization of monster talk into monstrous action. The article focuses specifically on case studies of Colleen LaRose and the Tsarnaev Brothers to analyze how different factors weigh in the psychological and sociological formation of lone wolf terrorists, and what ultimately motivates and galvanizes them, to move from a rhetoric of radical talk to a rhetoric of radical action.