What will the next wave of terrorism entail? It is very likely to look like something we’ve never seen before, but also something we have. It will have no leaders, and will have no structure. How far away is it? In some ways, it’s already here.

“History does not repeat but it rhymes”

In 2019, Claire Berlinski published (Berlinski) an article highlighting the correlation between the Nihilist movements of Czarist Russia, and the increasing prevalence of lone wolf mass shootings. During the nihilist revolutions, there was a deep-seated, collective animosity boiling under the surface. It was directed at the power structure that formed the oppressive Czarist government, which ruled of Russia. This bitterness manifested itself in the form of various loosely connected revolutionary groups, which were misanthropic in nature and lashed out violently at power structures in order to create chaos and inspire political change.

One particular writer that Berlinski cites is Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky, a middle-class man, lived through the period of the Russian nihilist revolutions of the mid-1800s. While having minor connections to some radical figures, he came to despise these (and similar) movements, progressively becoming more and more critical of their moral failings. As he aged, Dostoevsky published a number of cynical critiques directed toward these so-called “revolutionaries” within Russia, penning novels such as “Notes from the Underground” and “Demons.” In them he would describe these sorts of individuals as the opposite of the saintly and divine “God-man;” but rather as, what the Nihilist Krillov referred to, the “man-god”, or “self-willed-man” (Midgley 68). According to Krillov, “suicide (and murder) was the highest value for the self-willed man… for those men who had suddenly lost their roots, as though the ground were giving way under everyone’s feet.”

These sorts of individuals lashed out towards society in seemingly random violent acts that were rooted in hopeless despair and hatred toward humanity. Sounds familiar?

What will it look like, and how will it be different?

While there are over 100 scholarly and academic definitions, with slight variations, of the word terrorism , an approximate universal characterization outlined by David Hoffman is that it is:

  • Ineluctably political in aims and motives;
  • Violent or, of equal importance, threatens violence;
  • Designed to have far-reaching psychological repercussions beyond the immediate victim or target;
  • Conducted by an organization with an identifiable chain of command or conspiratorial cell structure (whose members wear no uniform or identifying insignia); and
  • Perpetrated by a subnational group or non-state entity” (Hoffman)

The primary issue with this, and many other definitions of terrorism , is that it relies on viewing terrorist organizations as containing some sort of leadership mantle, or at the very least involving some type of cell structure. This is the primary difference that Manifesto terrorism will have from previous forms of terrorism : Instead of requiring cells, a hierarchy, or even an organization to function, terrorist attacks would only require a manifesto circulated through radicalized internet fora to incentivize lone wolf attacks.