The Christchurch mosque shootings (along the front of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens) Wikipedia Permission Kebabette

Radicalized for Revenge: The Rise of Revenge Terrorism

By Jason Destein

One of the manifestations of the current escalation in terrorist attacks around the world, particularly by loosely affiliated cells and lone actors, is their revenge-driven motivation. This feature is part of what I believe should and can be considered the fifth historical wave of modern terrorism. It is based on terrorists’ guiding principles of inflicting violent retribution on their adversaries for what they perceive to be injustices against them. What makes this a significant trend is that this revenge-driven motivation applies to terrorists of all extremist ideologies, whether Islamist or white supremacist, foreign or domestic.

This trend is an extension of David C Rapoport’s “Historical Wave Theory” of modern terrorism, which consists of four historical waves, in which each wave is approximately 30-40 years in length, and is characterized by a new type of extremist ideology or warfare tactic. It begins with the “Anarchist Wave” from the 1880s through the 1920s, continues with the “Anti-Colonial Wave” from the 1920s through the 1950s, the “New Left-Wing Wave” from the 1950s through the 1970s, and the “Religiously Fundamentalist Wave” from the 1970s to the early 2000s. It is the contention of this article that the revenge wave is characterizing the current period in terrorist warfare, with loosely networked cells and lone actors playing an important role in conducting attacks in which this motive is a driving force behind them.

Unlike the earli...