Discussion Questions: Based upon your analysis of the readings, what are the key differences between homegrown extremists and terrorists? What are some common reasons that would cause someone who is otherwise of sound mind* to become a homegrown extremist? In other words, what did the readings tell you about the psychology of terrorism? Describe the difference between a purely domestic extremist and someone inspired by international causes and provide examples for each.

* Note: As mentioned in the lesson, this course specifically excludes those with serious mental dysfunctions since their “cause” is most likely not the real root issue of their extremism or violence — the mental dysfunction is.


1. There are a few differences that would separate a homegrown extremist from a terrorist, depending on what type of terrorist you are talking about (domestic versus international). For this discussion, I will be comparing homegrown extremists to domestic terrorism Extremists are motivated by similar motives as terrorists like political, and religious, which they believe to be a call to action. When extremists “act” it is carefully performed within their rights as American citizens such as the right to bear arms and to protest believing their purpose is to protect. Terrorists will act without regard to the lives they may impact, the key factor being that they will follow through with inflicting pain or damage. Terrorists inspired by international causes are a prime example of this. They can be desensitized to the people in their own country, even if it is their neighbors. They can be recruited via contact online from international terrorist organizations, being promised something like status. Or they can feel sympathetic for people from the group’s host nation and that identification with them can drive them to “fight for them”.  Psychologically healthy people can often be radicalized into joining violent organizations for the same reasons they go to work, go to church, or even when selecting their friends. For power, money, a sense of elitism, or even just the sense of belonging — which can be categorized by emotional, physical, or social rewards (“A Military Guide to Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century”, 2007). These rewards are often the motivator that makes it feel worth it to them, whether they are finding a purpose or a weapon for hire.

2.  According to the “Lone Offenders Terrorism Report”  The FBI definition of terrorism is goes beyond personal motivations and attempts to influence change to ideologies independent of a terrorist group or organization’s direction or control (FBI, 2019).  When I think of how this looks in America, there are two Major political sides of Democratic and Republican.  Each side has extremists and lone offenders that act on “behalf” of their respective party but are typically not a part of the actual organization. People can be radicalized for a multitude of reasons and our reading describes four major factors that contribute to the persuasions.  Causes such as demographic imbalances, mass media, personal grievances, and political catastrophes can all be resonating ideologies that can propagate an individual’s outrage and lead to a violent attack.    Often people being radicalized are searching for a level of validation and acceptance that legitimizes how they feel towards a specific agenda and believe that a course of violent action is the only way for their voice to be heard.  Extremism offers this to them with false promises that their violent actions will make them some sort of martyr or drive a grand scale ideological change. There are two types of extremism to address, domestic and International.  Domestic Extremists are issues is confined to the United States.  Examples are far right and left groups such as Antifa and Proud Boys who will revert to violence and intimidation to voice their ideals and agenda.  Individual extremist examples like such as Wil Casey Floyd who took it upon himself to make Molotov cocktails and throw them at police in 2016 during a protest (George Washington University, 2021).  Homegrown violent extremist influenced by organizations outside the U.S. are similar in that they are not part of or associated with the group or country outside of their agreement with their goals.  An example of this would be the radicalization of people in the U.S. by Al-Qaida and act on behalf of the group with violence

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