The recent attack on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, like the beheading at the Vaughan Foods plant in Moore, Oklahoma before it (2014), is certainly a form of terrorism, but they are not the same incarnation of terrorism as Islamic State's attack on Paris or even the attack on Planned Parenthood in Colorado. In the Paris and Planned Parenthood cases, the attacks were perpetrated by persons who did not have preexisting relationships with the targets or their victims. They were launched blindly in their aim (in respect to who specifically they would kill/maim) with only their extremist ideologies connecting them to their attack's modus operandi. i.e. The Islamic State attack in Paris - the plan and its instruction - were foreign in origin and the attackers did not work at the locations they attacked, nor did they target specific persons with which they had a preexisting relationship. The same goes for the Right-Wing Christian Extremist who attacked Planned Parenthood; he did not know his victims beforehand nor did he have a preexisting relationship with that Planned Parenthood.
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The true nature of extremist terrorism is terrifying for this reason. The selection of the location is not just chosen to settle a score or get revenge on one's coworkers, but rather to inflict as much death, destruction, and terror for the sole purpose of terrorism in the cause their are taking on. The pure terrorist attacks - whose modus operandi lacks a selfish ulterior motive - can happen to devastating effect without any warnings at all. In these instances, everybody then becomes a potential target, chosen at random, whilst lacking any ability to avoid the impending devastation.
The purpose of these articles is not to reduce or belittle the tragedy or loss of life from these attacks. Rather, the analytical approach is carefully crafted to better understand these kinds of attacks in order to contribute to the conversation on how to prevent such horror from taking place again. This applied article is Part 1 of 2 in an analytical series on recent terrorist activity in the Western world. Part 2 of this series will look at the ideological justifications used by the attackers and how that correlates to society and politics from a wider perspective. Stay tuned for more...