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Lethal Triad: Understanding the Nature of Isolated Extremist Groups

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 65 Issue: 9 Dated: (September 1996) Pages: 1-5
K M Gilmartin
Date Published
5 pages
This article discusses the components of the "Lethal Triad" -- isolation, projection, and pathological anger -- which combine to make extremist groups a danger to American citizens.
From religious cults that stockpile weapons to militia groups that advocate government overthrow, isolated extremist groups are taking root across the Nation. Although their motives and methods vary, they share the forces that drive their actions: isolation, projection, and pathological anger. Radical groups isolate their members, not only physically but psychologically as well. As isolation increases, critical thinking decreases, and group members encode new belief systems. The extent of the deprivation and isolation yields an individual who responds to the group mandate with no individual thinking or decision making. Projection is a two-pronged process. First, the group projects responsibility for its decisions and direction onto the leader. Second, the group projects the cause for its perceived grievances onto some outside entity. The final component of the Lethal Triad, pathological anger, stems from the combination of isolation and projection. Collectively, group members view themselves as victims of an outside force. As they project blame onto this entity, they grow emotionally volatile. Their explosive anger can fuel actions that range from scapegoating ethnic minorities to bombing and gassing outsiders indiscriminately. Law enforcement agencies may be called upon to resolve confrontations with groups typified by the Lethal Triad. Gathering intelligence on individual groups remains invaluable, but understanding the group dynamics may be the key to resolving conflicts peacefully. 3 notes