Wednesday, January 23, 2013

John Horgan's "Divided We Stand"

John Horgan is Associate Professor of Psychology at Penn State University where he is also Director of the International Center for the Study of Terrorism. His books include The Psychology of Terrorism, and Walking Away from Terrorism.

Horgan applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Divided We Stand: The Strategy and Psychology of Ireland’s Dissident Terrorists, and reported the following:
Anyone who studies terrorism quickly learns that the vast majority of what is said or written about terrorism isn’t really based on any kind of evidence. As a psychologist engaged in the study of terrorist behavior, I consider terrorism to be just another kind of behavior. As such, it can be identified, observed, recorded, measured and finally, interpreted. My new book considers the not unexpected rise of violent “dissident” Republican splinter groups in Northern Ireland that have emerged in recent years. Opening my book on p. 99 reveals the analysis of data collected by my colleagues and I at the International Center for the Study of Terrorism. It shows how, despite a peace process that has promised significant social and political change to Northern Ireland, the threat of terrorism remains. Today’s militants span multiple generations and look to the past as fundamental inspiration and legitimacy for a new campaign of terrorism. Unhindered by the need for significant community support, violent dissident Republican groups (or VDRs) are unpredictable, dangerous, and resistant to easy categorization.

From page 99:
There is evidence for two prominent age ranges present in VDR groups: the younger 14–30 year age group, most of whom are having their first experiences of active Republicanism, and the 31–50 age category continuing on or revisiting Republican activism…. Although many of the younger generation are experiencing Republican activism for the first time the majority of the older generation have previously been involved in other Republican movements, predominantly the PIRA. They have left to join, or form, these new organizations, due to their disillusionment with the peace process and what they see as the negative consequences of the politicization of the Provisional Republican Movement. The cornerstone of any organization’s survival must be its ability to recruit new members, a point further emphasized by the increase in VDR personnel serving lengthy sentences. The nature of involvement and engagement in terrorism leads to a high turnover of membership for multiple reasons that are well documented…. But for the VDR groups to survive and progress they need to do more than simply recruit new numbers. They must also attract new conscripts with particular skills that will help them in the training and active service of the organization. This is suggested by the emerging data on the occupations of VDR personnel, which may suggest specific targeting of personnel with formal military training as well as others from a construction and “trades” background. These two sectors provide the groups with the requisite skills to continue their development and maintenance of weaponry and explosives as well as the training of new recruits, a first step in the development of a longer-term strategy that the dissidents are not currently viewed as having the ability to formulate, let alone exploit.
Learn more about Divided We Stand at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue