The National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), a component of the U.S. Secret Service recently released a new analysis calling attention to the role of misogyny in targeted violence.
Hot Yoga Tallahassee: A Case Study of Misogynistic Extremism is a case study examining the 2018 shooting at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, during which two women were killed, four more were injured, and the attacker committed suicide.
The case study offers a detailed look into the attacker’s background and personal history, featuring decades of prior concerning behaviors, many of which were directed at women.
While the attacker had previously pursued higher education, served in the military, and held highly regarded professional positions of trust, his behaviors caused alarm among his parents, siblings, friends, roommates, coworkers, workplace managers, school officials, students, law enforcement, the online community, neighbors, and other community members.
“The latest case study by the National Threat Assessment Center examines the background of an attacker who displayed decades of disturbing misogynistic behavior, ranging from inappropriate comments and touching, to stalking and assaults,” explains Dr. Lina Alathari, Chief, National Threat Assessment Center at U.S. Secret Service.
“Communities must remain aware of misogynistic extremism, while pursuing prevention efforts that are designed to identify and intervene with those who pose a risk of violence.”
(The 40-year-old man who fatally shot two people on Friday and injured five others before taking his own life posted dozens of misogynist and racist videos online before the attack. The man, Scott Paul Beierle, also had a history of harassing women in Florida with multiple arrests, according to records. The father of victim Maura Binkley is calling for “a better way” to address people who exhibit “certain behaviors.” Courtesy of CBS Evening News and YouTube. Posted on Nov 5, 2018.)
The new case study closely examines the specific threat posed by misogynistic extremism, while stressing that an individual’s behavior should remain the primary focus of violence prevention efforts, regardless of whether or not the individual subscribes to a specific extremist ideology or self-affixes a label to their extremist beliefs.
There continues to be no single profile of an attacker, as concluded in prior research.
Rather, attackers tend to demonstrate observable concerning behavior across a variety of community systems, which often elicits concern in bystanders before violence occurs.
This Hot Yoga Tallahassee: A Case Study of Misogynistic Extremism case study describes how the attacker’s misogynistic views and associated behaviors resulted in him being fired from multiple employments, banned from a number of public locations, and being arrested.
The case study also indicates that a multidisciplinary threat assessment program established at the community level may reduce the risk of future tragedies if the appropriate systems are in place to identify identity warning signs, assessment of an individual’s risk of violence, and apply the appropriate community resources.
Such proactive safety programs have been established by workplaces, universities, local police departments, and other organizations with a role in public safety.
The Secret Service says it will continue to build on its threat assessment methodology and provide research findings and guidance to public and private sectors, to enhance the prevention efforts of those charged with safeguarding our nation.
To view the report in its entirety, go to https://www.secretservice.gov/newsroom/releases/2022/03/secret-services-latest-research-highlights-mass-violence-motived-misogyny.
(The 40-year-old man who fatally shot two people on Friday and injured five others before taking his own life posted dozens of misogynist and racist videos online before the attack. The man, Scott Paul Beierle, also had a history of harassing women in Florida with multiple arrests, according to records. The father of victim Maura Binkley is calling for “a better way” to address people who exhibit “certain behaviors.” Courtesy of TODAY and YouTube. Posted on Nov 5, 2018.)
Dean C. Alexander, 2019 ‘ASTORS’ Award Winner and Director of Homeland Security Research Program, and Professor of the Homeland Security at the School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration at Western Illinois University.
“Among its many strengths, the “Hot Yoga Tallahassee: A Case Study on Misogynistic Extremism,” study underscores the importance of behavioral threat assessments explains Dean Alexander, a 2019 ‘ASTORS’ Award Winner, and Director of Homeland Security Research Program, and Professor of Homeland Security at the School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration at Western Illinois University.
“The Beierle rampage, as other prior and subsequent incel extremist incidents, prompted my co-author and I to address this topic in an October 2019 article, “Violent Actors in the Periphery of the Incel Movement,” in American Security Today.
“As I noted in the piece, “Beierle, a veteran and former teacher with two graduate degrees and a criminal record of harassing women, uploaded misogynist videos, articulated anti-black sentiments, and compared himself to [Eliott] Rodger [an incel cause célèbre who killed six and injured 14 others in Isla Vista, California in 2014].”
“The U.S. Secret Service report’s commentary on the need to focus on individual actions irrespective of ideology has merit. And so, comprehending an individual’s dedication and support of a particular ideology allows law enforcement to infer that an individual—at least in theory—is open to supporting a precept (incel), and its often disturbing and violent behavior perpetrated against women and others.”
“The point from supporting a violent ideology to committing an act in support of it (e.g., being mobilized, but prior to deciding to carry out a specific kinetic attack) can occur rapidly or take years, depending on many factors.”
“The report’s finding that Beierle had multiple episodes of disturbing behavior (over decades!), also suggests that, sometimes, prior to an individual seeing to commit mass murder, a perpetrator undertakes troubling (and on occasion) prior violent actions, often of escalating degrees, before culminating in a final attack. Interestingly too, at times, the incel perpetrator takes his own life.”
“Unfortunately, there are an untold number of individuals who exhibit troubling behavior, even some with criminal records of different levels of severity, that law enforcement is unaware of or cannot interdict them through an arrest or impede their progress until their ultimate violent act. Having said that, the role of bystanders—as noted in the report—can significantly aid in bringing troubling actions—criminal or nearly so—to authorities, who can then assess their response.”
“It is also a truism that among those who embrace an extremist ideology only some will be of the mindset to conduct violence in the advancement of that belief. Fewer still will actually do so, often triggered by a job loss, death in the family, professional setback, divorce or romantic rejection, and/or a final (real or perceived) humiliation suffered.”
“Ironically, multiple warnings about an individual with peculiar and sometimes criminal outbursts may lead him to be further alienated and ostracized, causing him to strike against those who he considers made his life intolerable.”
“This is not to argue deviant acts should not be reported and punished harshly, only that any appending penalties be supplemented with mental health services and otherwise watchful eyes (e.g., probation or parole) since one with manifold bad acts will likely continue on such path, barring some significant intervening development.”
(Learn More in this BBC documentary highlighting the subculture consisting mostly of men that began as a community for providing comfort and evolved into one that led some individuals to real-life violence. Courtesy of ABC News and YouTube. Posted on Aug 14, 2019.)
“In conclusion, our April 2019 perspectives on the violent fringe facets of incel movement remain true today as this threat remains and responses to them merit pursuit: Violent portions of the incel world appear to merit their place in the domestic threat matrix.
“Incel attacks perpetrated by Rodger, Minassian [an incel adherent who killed 11 people and injured 15 others by running them over with a rented van in Toronto, Canada in April 2018], Beierle, and others show that alienation, loneliness, depression, and sexual frustration among some males are still being used to justify violence against women.”
(The investigation into the Toronto van attack suspect’s past is underway, with 25-year-old Alek Minassian making his first court appearance. Courtesy of CBC News: The National and YouTube. Posted on Apr 24, 2018.)
“An otherwise empathetic public views all extremist violence as unjustifiable and illegal. Society’s perception of incel-linked violence masquerading as legitimate conduct is no exception. Fortunately, civil society is not doomed to be frequent victims of such aberrant, abhorrent, and militant behaviors.”
“Raising awareness about the incel movement, its “grievances,” and violent tendencies within its fringe could aid society to craft mollifying counter-narratives and off-ramps in this subculture.”
“Countervailing routes to belligerency could be offered by family, friends, mental health professionals, educational institutions, youth counselors, as well as civic and religious organizations. Such alternative paths might encompass features of resiliency skills, socialization, acceptance, and empathy even when frustration and alienation—aggravated by self-isolation and technology—are significant.”
In addition, Dr. Alexander explained that law enforcement can combat incel-infused violence by:
Recognizing features of potential incel illegal behavior (e.g., violent speech calling for the immediacy of action and a likelihood of it occurring; stalking; hate crimes; and plans for kinetic incidents)
Following up on tips from the public about threatening language online or offline; and
Using informants and undercover agents in sting operations
Heightened security measures at sites that have experienced incel attacks—educational institutions and health clubs, among others—could prove helpful.
“Lastly, increased monitoring of online platforms by social media firms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), other technology firms (e.g., Internet domain registrar, web hosting, and other web infrastructure companies), online payment providers, researchers, government officials, and the public might undermine peripheral incel adherents who are mobilized to undertake attacks.”
American Security Today’s Annual ‘ASTORS’ Awards is the preeminent U.S. Homeland Security Awards Program, and now entering it’s Seventh Year, continues to recognize industry leaders of Physical and Border Security, Cybersecurity, Emergency Preparedness – Management and Response, Law Enforcement, First Responders, as well as federal, state and municipal government agencies in the acknowledgment of their outstanding efforts to Keep our Nation Secure.
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.Dean C. Alexander is the Director of Homeland Security Research Program, and Professor of the Homeland Security at the School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration at Western Illinois University.
Prof. Alexander’s teaching, research, and speaking activities encompass terrorism, security, and legal issues, and he is a regular contributor to American Security Today
He has lectured in ten countries, including to law enforcement and military officials, including at the National Intelligence University, NATO’s Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism, Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center, Oregon Fusion Center, Michigan State Police, Milwaukee Police Department, McAllen Police Department, and Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, among others.
Prof. Alexander’s professional experience includes executive, business development, and legal positions in the United States and abroad, including Chile, Israel, and the United Kingdom. He worked as a consultant to the World Bank, Organization of American States, homeland security firms, and investment companies.
Since publishing on terrorism in 1991, Prof. Alexander has written several books on the subject, which includes: Family Terror Networks (2019), The Islamic State: Combating the Caliphate Without Borders (2015), Business Confronts Terrorism: Risks and Responses (Wisconsin, 2004) and Terrorism and Business: The Impact of September 11, 2001 (Transnational, 2002).
Prof. Alexander has been interviewed by domestic and international media, and was a founding Advisory Council member of the Marsh Center for Risk Insights, research fellow at the Chesapeake Innovation Center, and served on the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council executive board for the Central District of Illinois.
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