Jokes are the Truth in Jest
Louis CK does a funny bit (mature language) about the “different set of values” people seem to have for expressing their grievances while driving a car. While all jokes are the truth in jest, his point is that If someone ever-so-slightly drifts into your lane while driving, “death threats” are an acceptable recourse – a behavior that would never be acceptable inside an elevator if someone ever-so-gently brushed up against you.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
All jokes aside, a threat is a threat regardless of how it was delivered.
Some threats are planned. Some threats are scripted. Some threats are directed at their targets with intent to cause emotional harm and fear. Other threats are more aligned with the “warning signs” of targeted violence.
I categorize threats into two different categories:
“Disruptive Threats” are intended to bring about emotional and psychological turmoil.
“Predatory Threats” stem from identifiable actions that pose a threat to a specific target. These are the observable, attack-related activities such as conducting surveillance, stalking, or trespassing on private property.
Threat Assessment is about understanding the context, intent, and likelihood of a threat to be carried out. The first step in this process is to determine if the threat is one which has been expressed or one that has been posed. For example, if you accidentally cut someone off on the road and they yell out, “I’m going to kill you,” they have expressed a threat. If they say nothing, but you seem them scowling in the rear-view mirror as they start to follow you home, their behavior poses a threat. Actions speak louder than words. ~Spencer Coursen
Response Rage is the angry, aggressive, harassing, inappropriate and sometimes threat-fueled language used in social media communications when expressed interest in another is unrequited. In today’s culture of social media mingling, there has been a noticeable increase in the inappropriate communications utilized by those who believed they have been shunned, ignored, or otherwise embarrassed when their expressed – typically romantic – interest in another person is not reciprocated.
I have assessed countless Tinder, Twitter, Facebook, email, and text message conversations which escalate from pleasant to downright offensive in almost no time at all.
There are Social Media Safety Tips which may help prevent you from being targeted by online predators who get online “Response Rage” the way some drivers experience “Road Rage”
(Image hyperlinked to sample assessment available for free download)
Social Media Is A New Threat Medium
Social Media provides an accepting, sympathetic, and sometimes supportive forum for the expression of real, perceived, and imagined grievances. While most violent offenders will not directly communicate threats to their intended target, many will make ominous posts about their attack ideation.
Recent news reports of social media threats escalating into real world hazards only makes the fear more real. Even the Supreme Court is involved in determining where free speech ends on social media and where prosecutable threats begin.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of online threats and harassment is that the different social media services are only aware of the concerns reported on their own site(s). They have no way to monitor the behavior of predators who “jump” between communication platforms. At present, Twitter, Facebook, Tinder, Instagram, and personal communications like email and text messages have no way to share the reported concerns of their users. This void allows for those intending to harass, stalk, or threaten their targets to “jump” between platforms with near certainty of anonymity. (Solving This Challenge Soon)
These Are The Top Five Things You Need To Know About Real World Threat Assessment:
1. Those who wish to do harm do not just “snap.”
Targeted violence is the result of an identifiable and observable process of thinking and behavior that when identified, assessed, and managed has been proven to prevent violent outcome.
2. Violent offenders do not make direct threats toward their intended target,
…but they do express their intent to others they believe will be agreeable, supportive or even sympathetic to the ideas that they can “do something” to resolve their grievance. The expression of these grievances increasingly takes place via social media.
3. On the pathway to violence, those who wish to do harm must first engage in some form of research and planning to determine the likelihood of success for their intended action.
A key component to to bringing a threat assessment case toward peaceful resolve is identifying the subject’s attack-related behavior. These are the self-identifying patterns on the pathway to violence that include research, planning, weapon acquisition, training, and logistical considerations. The research and planning phase provides the best protective intelligence to determine if the subject poses a realistic threat that is likely to escalate into violence. This phase also offers the most observable monitoring of the time, money, and effort, being invested in the subjects willingness to do harm. This phase is crucial in determining if the offender will continue on the path toward violence or if they will transfer their ideation toward a more easily accessible target.
It is important to keep in mind that to the violent offender, likelihood of success is the most significant factor in the decision to move forward with their intended action.
This is one of the predominant factors as to why schools are so frequently targeted by their own students and why workplace violence offenders attack their own offices. The offenders know these locations well. They know the terrain. They know the active-shooter response plan. They know the layout of the structures. They know what the security response is likely to involve. They know how effectively access control is regulated, and they are able carry out a “dry run” rehearsal without raising much suspicion.
4.There is a difference between a threat which has been made and those who pose a threat.
Of the two, posed threats are of greater concern. Whereas those who make threats have made a conscious decision to choose alarming words over harmful actions, those who pose a threat are of a much greater concern as their self-identifying behavior is consistent with actions that are commonly associated with hazardous outcome.
This is especially common with “bomb threats.” The purpose of a bomb threat is to instill fear, panic, and disruption – not to physically harm their target. If the intent was to physically harm their target, they would not call in the threat. A predator with a grievance against a target, who then moves along the pathway of violence and partakes in the requisite research and planning (acquires the materials, builds the bomb, secretly gets the bomb inside their target area, and successfully escapes without incident) would not go through all of that hard work only to undo it all with a phone call.
In this example, the unsubstantiated bomb threat is of lesser concern than the motivation behind the posed threat. It’s important to not confuse a seemingly disruptive threat with a predatory act. The intended target may not be the building itself, but someone who works there. Calling in a bomb threat may be part of their research and planning to see if the evacuation point provides a higher likelihood of success for targeted violence.
5. Effective Threat Assessment is about a “Totality of Circumstance.”
This is the pattern of behaviors over space and time – more than it is about the assessment of a specific incident in the context of a singular occurrence.
These practices of identifying, monitoring, and assessing patters of behavior are not new methodologies. They have been utilized by financial institutions to track market trends trends for central banks and private investors for years. Similar methodologies are used by governments to identify destabilizing geopolitical realities which often precede terror concerns.
Until now, these methodologies have not been available to reduce risk and prevent violence in our homes, schools, and places of work. Today is different.
Today we can begin “Preparing Today For A Safer Tomorrow”
Spencer Coursen is a nationally recognized threat management expert who has an exceptional record of success in the assessment, management, and resolution of threats, domestic and global security operations, investigations, policy authorship, and protective strategy.