Questioning the “Loneliness” of Lone-Wolves: A Social Network Analysis of Lone-Wolf Terrorists

Dr. David Hofmann Presented at the 2018 Atlantic Security Conference

In this presentation, Dr. Hofmann will discuss his recently completed funded research (TSAS / Public Safety Canada) into the three different types of social networks formed by lone-wolves during the 24 months prior to the commission of their first act of terrorist violence. Dr. Hofmann and his research team gathered relational data to reconstruct the ideological, signaling, and support networks of two prominent lone-wolf terrorists (Timothy McVeigh and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau) in order to explore the extent to which lone-wolves may be influenced and supported by their larger social environments, and how lone-wolves communicate their intent to plan and commit acts of terrorist violence. This study is the first in the known literature to use social network analysis to better understand the relational dynamics of lone-wolf terrorists, and adds to the growing consensus among terrorism scholars that lone-wolves do not radicalize towards violence and plan their attacks in socio-political vacuums. After discussing the methodology and findings of the study, this presentation will conclude with some preliminary policy suggestions, and how future research of a similar nature can contribute to understanding important behavioural and social aspects of lone-wolf terrorism.

Dr. David Hofmann is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of New Brunswick, a Research Fellow with the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society, and a Senior Research Affiliate with the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security, and Society (TSAS). His funded research focuses upon terrorism and political violence, illicit and criminal networks, threat assessment, far-right extremism, and leadership within terrorist and criminal networks. His published research appears in scholarly journals such as Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Global Crime, Journal of Strategic Security, and the Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice.


Runtime: < 35 Minutes.