Far left activists have recently deployed a “sophisticated, academic-sounding” crowbar to batter tech companies and ideological dissenters alike, but the strategy is getting mixed reviews from free speech and extremism experts interviewed by the Daily Caller.
Instances of the phrase “stochastic terrorism” have seen a massive spike online since 2016 and more recently in the last few months, as activists seek to de-platform and censor personalities and brands that refuse to hew to their particular worldview.
“I believe concept creep helps explain the sudden and relatively recent uptick in the phrase ‘stochastic terrorism,'” Komi Frey, a research fellow at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) told the Caller. “The term ‘terrorism’ understandably evokes fear, so it captures people’s attention. Furthermore, the government can take very extreme measures to combat and punish terrorism.”
The phrase is a familiar one to those who have followed the recent reporting of Libs of TikTok (LOTT), a semi-anonymously run Twitter account that re-posts videos from left-wing LGBT activists and organizations. LOTT released a recording of an employee in the surgery center at Children’s National Hospital in August reportedly admitting the hospital performed hysterectomies on children as young as 16 years old. The hospital has denied the report, saying, “None of the people who were secretly recorded by this activist group deliver care to our patients.” LOTT was then suspended for seven days from Twitter for “hateful conduct,” although the social media company did not specify to the Daily Caller which of the platform’s terms of service the account violated. The account was restored seven days later, and LOTT threatened to sue the platform for “breach of contract” if they suspended her permanently. (RELATED: REPORT: Children’s Hospital CEO Doubles Down On Trans Surgeries For Minors In Letter To Employees)
Transgender activist Erin Reed praised Twitter for removing the account, saying LOTT “leads stochastic terrorism campaigns and has been for some time.” Reed and her followers then submitted 2,500 reports to Shopify about Libs of TikTok’s merch store, again citing “stochastic terrorism.”
“Y’all! You have submitted 2,500 reports to Shopify about LOTT’s hateful store (I can see in link clicks), which supports stochastic terrorism against childrens hospitals over transgender care,” Reed tweeted. “Keep it going! They are hearing you!”
Boston Children’s Hospital is closed off because of a bomb threat. All because Libs of TikTok was offended at gender affirming care for trans teens.
Her mob explicitly stated violent intent.
This isn’t even the 1st time she’s led stochastic terrorism leading to bomb threats.
— Erin Reed (@ErinInTheMorn) August 31, 2022
A teacher who posted about how he had “come out” to his students in February accused LOTT of “stochastic terrorism” after LOTT shared the teacher’s post on her account.
“And that is how stochastic terrorism works. Libs of TikTok didn’t say anything more than a rude comment. But she didn’t have to because she knew her followers would show up with the violence and hate without her having to call for it out loud,” Billie claimed.
But Chaya Raichik, who founded Libs of TikTok, denies the assertion that her reporting encourages harm, saying that “criticizing someone’s viewpoint isn’t violence.”
“There is absolutely no evidence that my tweets have led to real-world violence,” Raichik told the Daily Caller. “The Left are quick to call every random Twitter troll ‘violent’ but when BLM was burning our country down for 6 months, these same Leftists who make a huge deal out of an account with 2 followers saying pedos should go in a woodchipper, were silent.”
Alejandra Caraballo, a transgender activist who specializes recently in promoting online censorship and works as a clinical instructor at the Harvard Law Clinic, also accused Raichik of “stochastic terrorism.”
“They can’t acknowledge the reality of what they are inciting so they ignore, lie, and minimize the results of their actions,” Caraballo said in a tweet. (RELATED: REPORT: Police Did Not Receive Call About Bomb At Boston Children’s Hospital)
Caraballo accused Raichik of “stochastic terrorism” earlier in August for her reporting on Boston Children’s Hospital offering trans surgeries to minors, and directly called for Twitter to “do something about this account.” On Aug. 17, Caraballo wrote a thread of tweets outlining the “4 steps” of stochastic terrorism. Caraballo did not respond to the Caller’s request for comment for this report.
Other individuals whom Caraballo and Reed have accused of stochastic terrorism include Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Republican Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, journalist Christopher Rufo, and Fox News host and Daily Caller co-founder Tucker Carlson.
Some writers used the term in 2016 to argue that Donald Trump’s speech amounted to de facto violence. Rolling Stone reporter David S. Cohen accused Trump of “stochastic terrorism” for saying there was nothing anyone except “the Second Amendment people” could do if Hillary Clinton could pick judges. A 2016 opinion article for CNN argued that Cohen’s claim that Trump engaged in “stochastic terrorism” was “scary, and probably true.”
The earliest known use of the term was by anonymous blogger G2Geek on the liberal blogging site Daily Kos in 2011. G2Geek compared the rhetoric of several prominent right-wing figures, such as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, to “when Bin Laden releases a video that stirs random extremists halfway around the globe to commit a bombing or shooting.” In 2005, this same blogger wrote an article in which he encouraged a “violent insurrection” to overthrow then-President George W. Bush with help from the military.
“Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass communications to stir up random lone wolves to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable,” G2Geek wrote in the article.
The blogger detailed in his article that “stochastic terrorism” was not about direct incitement to violent acts, but could include something so small as using “mass media to broadcast memes.” (RELATED: NBC Journalist Who Attacked Libs Of TikTok Once Took Credit For Deplatforming Pedophile Sting Groups)
“Although there is evidence that many lone wolf attackers subscribe to extremist ideologies (e.g., White supremacy, Islamism, nationalism/separatism, anti-abortion activism) … There are many more people who subscribe to those same ideologies but never engage in violence,” Frey told the Caller.
Dictionary.com added the phrase, along with 300 new words such as “sext” and “hangry,” in 2019. The website defines stochastic terrorism as: “the public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted.”
Brian Levin, Director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, called the term “an evolving term of art” but argued that even the most well-meaning of individuals should be careful about what they say online in a partisan environment.
“Whenever somebody puts something online today or reads something online, realize that it can be manipulated or used for purposes that may have been intended by the particular reporter but perhaps not,” Levin said.
Jay Richards, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, was blunt, telling the Caller that charges of stochastic terrorism are “absurd.”
“The charge of ‘stochastic terrorism’ might as well be called the butterfly theory of terrorism: a butterfly flaps its wings in Shanghai, and through a long, complex chain of events, a terrorist detonates a bomb in Beirut. The butterfly, then, is a cause of the bomb exploding. This is silly.”
“This charge is nothing more than an attempt by gender ideologues and their fellow travelers to immunize themselves against any criticism,” Richards continued, “on the assumption that such criticism could play some butterfly-like role in leading to them being threatened by an unhinged person on social media (an act which gets redefined as ‘terrorism’).”
Some experts interviewed by the Caller were worried about a heated political environment in which rhetoric could, however unintentionally, lead to violence.
“I think a lot of people are careless with their words, and I think people on all sides of the political spectrum need to tone it down basically,” David Keating, president of the Institute for Free Speech told the Caller.
“The concept that manifestations of aggression can have some kind of correlation over time to the repetition of negative stereotypes online is pretty darn strong,” Levin said.
“We are in a tinderbox environment, and what happens is people must understand that when we talk about various groups today by the time it is filtered through a very angry and sticky social media echo chamber,” Levin continued, “it often becomes lowest common dominator violent stuff.”
But many experts still warned against sacrificing free speech in pursuit of softening political discourse.
“We also have free speech and it is important that people can take political positions, even ones that aren’t popular,” Levin said.
“Social media companies are naive if they believe they can protect free speech while restricting speech that could not be restricted in public settings,” Frey said.
Keating said censorship would prove to be “a mistake in the long run,” and the term “stochastic terrorism” was little more than a rhetorical flourish.
“I think it’s a classic overreaction dressed up in a sophisticated academic sounding word,” Keating said.