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“A lone wolf” puts city security under test

Last week’s tragic gun shooting massacre should serve as a lesson learned for the country in stepping up security for “fragile” city areas, the security expert has suggested

He acted alone, prompting security experts to recall the term “a lone wolf”, which has increasingly been posing threat against security especially in “fragile” city areas.

Following the tragic incident last weekend in Nakhon Ratchasima’s downtown, one of the Issan region’s hubs, some security experts have started to look into security issues of city areas specially challenged by an act of such a lone wolf.

Professor Dr. Surachart Bamrungsuk, a well-known security expert from Chulalongkorn University, shared his thoughts with Isra News Agency after the incident that it reminded him of similar attacks in several city areas by extremists, who have now shifted the attacks that can be upto the scale of terrorism from remote territories to city areas, due to complicated and fragile characteristics of modern cities.

A lone wolf, Prof. Surachart said, meant straightforwardly a wolf which feeds alone. Generally, a person who posesses a character of a lone wolf is a person who prefers to act or live alone, relatively being anti-social or an outcast. 

This, he pointed, prompts him or her to easily fall into false beliefs in an extreme act of violence or terrorism. So, he or she preferably takes an extreme act alone and often without any criminal records, the point that increasingly challenges security authorities to deal with, as there are hardly any clues leading to their action, except for some repeated expressions.

“What different between an ordinary person and an extremist is only the fact that he or she might have an explosion in his or her hands while an ordinary one would not. That demonstrates to us that differentiating a lone wolf from an ordinary person is not that easy,” said Prof. Surachart.

Prof. Surachart was particularly concerned about the new battleground that has been shifted from remote territories to city areas. 

He cited some incidents taken as the lessons learned from various spots, raning from Europe to the US, and even Thailand itself, which  had also encountered with such extreme incidents before, like the Erawan explorsions in 2015_and this latest incident.

He said following the rise of this new threat, it’s necessary for modern cities to come up with a new security system to protect the areas against it and prevent unfortunate incidents to happen, and what happened to Thailand too should serve as a lesson for concerned parties to seriously think about such a security system for city areas nationwide.

“Modern cities, for the matter of fact, are highly vulnerable and fragile, said Prof. Surachart.

After the 9/11 tragic incident in the US, several countries have come up with new security mechanisms and systems to deal with the rising challenge of extreme incidents or terrorism, Prof. Surachart noted.

New technology to help security officers to monitor or quickly detect signs of violence or extremists have been introduced including the application of a board range of CCTV installations.

Civilian trainings and curriculums on violent incidents should also be developed and introduced to public members so that they can learn how to protect themselves and escape from any unfortunate situations that may arise suddenly, the professor suggested.

“Today concerned authorities and Thai people shoul help one another prevent any unfortunate incidents to occur and protect thier cities,” the professor pointed.

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The origin of the word, “a lone wolf”

The Columbia Journalism Review ever explored the origin of the term “a lone wolf” in the publication in 2017.

While citing history of the term used in fiction, in dictionaries, and in newspapers, it said; “More recently, attacks carried out by a single person have often been labeled as “lone-wolf” attacks, whether they were inspired by a terrorist group or, like the Las Vegas attack, seemingly independent.”

The journal said while the term “lone wolf” has been used for centuries, it is increasingly being co-opted for political and polemical reasons.

The implication is that, there’s something wrong with a “lone wolf”, the journal noted.

Wolves, it pointed, are very social animals that usually run in packs. The “lone wolf” is sometimes an outcast who has to hide from the main pack, but they’re actually rare.

The journal continued to cite Merriam-Webster which defines “lone wolf” as “a person who prefers to work, act, or live alone.”

The journal said the figurative use of “lone wolf” can be traced to popular fiction. Wall Street Journal columnist Ben Zimmer noted that a human “lone wolf” appeared in H.G. Wells’s The Invisible Man, published in 1897, as the invisible man is being urged: “Don’t be a lone wolf. Publish your results.” 

The novelist Steven Crane called war correspondents “lone wolves” in his 1899 novel, Active Service.

Detectives were soon on the case: Zimmer cited a series of 1914 novels where a jewel thief turned detective is called a “lone wolf.” 

The Oxford English Dictionary says the figurative usage showed up in the United States in 1909 in the F.H. Tillotson book, How to Be a Detective: “Occasionally the police run across Panhandlers known as ‘lone wolves’—that is they do not mix with others of their class.”

Soon the thieves themselves were “lone wolves” if they weren’t part of a gang.

The journal said one of President Trump’s aides, Sebastian Gorka, claimed the Obama administration invented the term “lone-wolf terrorist,” saying that every attack deemed terrorism was connected to ISIS or Al Qaeda. 

That claim was labeled “Pants on Fire” by PolitiFact, which listed lots of places where the term had been used years earlier.

The politicization of the term “lone wolf” continued after the Las Vegas attack, when Shaun King of The Intercept wrote in The White Privilege of the ‘Lone Wolf’ Shooter that “Whiteness, somehow, protects men from being labeled terrorists.” 

The Associated Press continued the discussion with a story examining whether the term “lone wolf” was used in a racial context, mostly for whites accused in attacks. 

The crimes of people of color, these articles say, are usually tied to their race or their connection to radical Islam, which sometimes becomes quite a stretch, while white “lone wolf” crimes are reported as anomalies.

“Lone wolf” is another label that brings connotations, intentionally or not, the journal pointed.

Labeling people rather than acts, without more specific descriptions of those people, leads to an oversimplification, it further pointed.

Rather than calling any killer “a lone wolf,” a straightforward description is less prone to spin: “he acted alone.”, the journal concluded.

Sources: Isra News Agency, CJR