There are various techniques, methods, and platforms that terrorist groups use to recruit new members. There may be face-face invitation to participate, political pronouncements, and exhortations posted on a website. Gerwehr and Daly (n.d.) also state they may use seminars or ritual places, religious congregations, schools, websites, newspapers, videos, radio broadcasts. Recruiters may comingle with groups that are easy targets for recruitment, such as those who are prisoners or victims of large-scale wartime experience (Gerwehr & Daly, n.d.).
Before the development of social media and the internet, it was much harder for terrorist groups to find new recruits. Many times, recruiters would have to do much work through face to face contact. Previously, recruiters would recruit through friends, fellow townsmen, relatives, social and cultural activities (Alkan & Ozdemir, 2008). Recruits would also look for people with similar religious values and ethnic roots (Alkan & Ozdemir, 2008). Furthermore, those who want to join a terrorist group could not do so because of the secrecy of these groups (Alkan & Ozdemir, 2008). However, globalization has allowed terrorism and recruitment efforts to expand well beyond close borders (Alkan & Ozdemir, 2008).
Social media has played a considerable role in how successful terrorists are in recruiting people. First, propaganda was frequently limited to a small number of people, but now it is available through phones, tablets, and computers of basically anyone who has internet access (Engle, 2015). The online propaganda provides easy access to the proof of terrorist acts and can also be utilized to show potential recruits the benefits of the lifestyle (Engle, 2015). Many recruiters, such as ISIS recruiters, use Twitter, Tumblr, Kik, and other media platforms to update followers on their lives and portray the lifestyle in a positive light (Engle, 2015). Social media has also made it easier for people to find recruiters who can help them travel or assimilate into the terrorist group (Engle, 2015). Ultimately, the development of technology and the full range of social media outlets has made it easy for people in different parts of the world to connect quickly and easily.
It should be noted that the types of people or characteristics of people prone to terrorist attacks depend on whether the person is a lone wolf or is acting part of a group. For example, those who commit lone-wolf attacks are more likely to struggle with mental illness than those who act within a terrorist group (Jones, 2017). With that said, a variety of factors can make people more vulnerable to being persuaded to be part of a terrorist group. For example, certain social, economic, and political factors create a sense of injustice or discrimination. These groups also create a sense of belonging to a case or a network, boasts, adventure, or an opportunity to do something worthwhile or heroic (Jones, 2017). Furthermore, in a study conducted by the National Institute of Justice, it was found that a variety of risk factors are associated with engaging in both group-based and lone-actor terrorist attacks including (Smith, 2018)
1. having a history of criminal violence or criminal history
2. having been involved with a gang or delinquent peers
3. having a terrorist friend
4. being a member of an extremist group
5. having a deep commitment to certain ideologies
6. having psychological issues
7. being unemployed or having a sporadic work history
8. having less education
9. having a lower economic status
10. failure to achieve one’s aspirations
11. having trouble in romantic and platonic relationships
12. having been abused as an adult
13. being distant from one’s family
With that said, recruiters will also look at people with higher education, such as programmers, engineers, and military specialists, to become leaders of their groups (Jones, 2015). Other characteristics can include a high level of current distress or dissatisfaction, cultural disillusionment, lack of central religious belief system or value system, and some dependent personality tendencies, such as suggestibility (Gerwehr & Daly, n.d.).
Contributions of a Forensic Psychology Professional
A forensic psychology professional can play a variety of roles when assessing and minimizing threats of terrorism recruitment. For example, the forensic psychology professional can help agencies understand what characteristics make a person vulnerable to recruitment and the differences between those who become lone-wolf terrorists versus those who are working part of a group. Forensic psychologists can help agencies pinpoint those who are most vulnerable so that preventative actions can be taken to prevent terrorism recruitment.
Alkan, N., and Ozdemir, Y. (2008). Recruitment methods of terrorist organizations. Organizational & Psychological Aspects of Terrorism, 43(1), 37-50. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/waldenu/reader.action?docID=407939&query=
Engel, P. (2015). ISIS has mastered a crucial recruiting tactic no terrorist group has ever conquered. Business Insider, Military and Defense. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/isis-is-revolutionizing-international-terrorism-2015-5
Gerwehr, S. & Daly, S. (n.d.) Al-Qaida: Terrorist Selection and Recruitment. Retrieved on July 21, 2020 from https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/reprints/2006/RAND_RP1214.pdf
Jones, E. (2017). The reception of broadcast terrorism: recruitment and radicalisation. International Review of Psychiatry, 29(4), 320–326. https://doi-org.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/10.1080/09540261.2017.1343529
Smith, A. (2018, June) Risk factors and indicators associated with radicalization to terrorism in the united states: What research sponsored by the national institute of justice tells us. Retrieved on July 20, 2020 from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/251789.pdf