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Jessica Stern on Terror, Trauma and Memory

Jessica Stern is a top interpreter of terrorism. Now, she’s sharing the painful connection between her career choice and her personal life.

Jessica with Lt. Paul Macone, the detective who solved a cold, hard case in "Denial".

Jessica with Lt. Paul Macone, the detective who solved a cold, hard case in "Denial".

Jessica Stern is one of the country’s leading experts on terrorism and the way terrorists think. To learn their motivations, she’s gone face-to-face in deep danger zones with terrorists of many stripes: Muslim, Christian, Jewish, anti-abortion zealots, followers of Timothy McVeigh. 

She’s advised the White House, sat on high councils of national security. 

Now, Jessica Stern is telling the story of her first encounter with terror. Rape. Her own. At gunpoint. At age 15. 

This Hour, On Point: In the personal roots of terror, with a top American interpreter of terrorism.


Jessica Stern, lecturer at Harvard University and a member of the Hoover Institute Task Force on National Security and Law. She served as a staff member at the National Security Council in the Clinton Administration, where she was responsible for policies to reduce the threat of nuclear smuggling and terrorism. She is the author of the New York Times Notable Book “Terror in the Name of God” and “The Ultimate Terrorists.” Her new book, “Denial: A Memoir of Terror,” recounts her own unsolved sexual assault by a serial rapist when she was 15 years old.

Read an excerpt of Jessica Stern’s new book, “Denial.”

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  • Gabrielle

    sounds fascinating! can’t wait to hear.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I’ll always be glad to hear smart people are thinking about reducing the threat from terrorism, anywhere in the world. I am hoping that she, based on her personal confrontation with trauma, can help us understand the response to terrorism. I think the politicians follow the people into a kind of hysterical overreaction, for which “they” get all sorts of hero worship. I’m thinking that the Afghan efforts in 2001 were rational, but somehow failed, suspiciously so by some reports. The thirst for revenge being still unquenched, we went on to Iraq (not without all sorts of side explanations, perhaps economic at root, perhaps imperialistic at root, perhaps). But our own trauma morphed into our identifying with traumas inflicted on Afghan women by the Taliban, then traumas inflicted on Iraqis. And that became the “reason” for a lot of us.
    To watch a similar population dealing with terrorism (much, much more sustained), we can consider the Israeli population. Again, there seems to be some vicious dynamic, useless to all.
    What about the Crimea, Georgia; what about the responses there, among the populace, to terror? Is there a healthy way to respond? (Given that perpetrators of terror and trauma seem to be a fact of life…)

  • Gerald Fnord

    I am very sorry that Ms Stern had to endure this.

    One thing that can be gleaned from this, though: a counter-argument to her opponents. Militarists often characterise though of us, including Ms Stern, as “not being tough enough” because we “don’t know evil exists”.

    I think this is nonsense, equivalent to an alcoholic’s claiming that I haven’t drunk up the bottle of brandy in my kitchen solely because I didn’t know it were there. I know it’s there, but my reactions to it are very different from the alcoholic’s, who has found the only explanation that makes sense to her.

    (Similarly, we liberals often seem to think that the only reason that someone isn’t a liberal is that he were ignorant, stupid, or insane, ignoring that people are easily just plain wrong, usually with the help of misguidance.)

    I believe I know that evil exists, as I grew up knowing that it had taken half my family before I was born—not the same as knowing them and then knowing they’d been murdered, but it made an impression. Ms Stern has lived through a worse personal experience. Though I would shrink from saying that our experiences are quantitatively similar, they are qualitatively related. Both of us know that evil exists as definite acts—though we might be shy of reifying it as EVIL—but both of us know that the best reaction to it is not always the most viscerally satisfying, the most unreasoned, the most butch (as opposed to tough).

  • Gerald Fnord

    “though of us” should read “those of us”

  • Mari

    I understand Jessica Stern’s trauma all too well.
    In beautiful, “leafy” Scituate- at about the same time- I was violently raped by a sexual predator, too. I was the same age as Ms. Stern. What followed, when I reported the rape to my parents, was even worse than the initial attack. They bound me to a chair, in handcuffs, and threatened me with a handgun. That’s right- my parents did that to me. I “went away” for awhile, mentally, hovering above the scene as if I was flying.
    PTSD is REAL. It lasts forever. There is no cure.
    Thanks to Jessica for having the guts to tell this story. It helps me a lot.

  • Theresa

    What an amazing analysis of how life circumstance can shape the themes in one’s life. Yes, even a rape can give you strengths, as they say, in “healed places.” Not surprising but truths rarely are when uttered aloud.

    And, Tom!, you are the best, and you deserve the enormous respect that you command. But, but, please can you not hear what the author is saying: her rapist was not a terrorist. She does not equate the two. She keeps saying this, and you keep on asking the question, was he a terrorist?

  • Nick

    I am not sure being a victim of childhood rape/trauma can be linked to terrorism.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Psychologists talk about children abused and traumatized (younger than 15, preschool) are programmed to deal with lives that provide that kind of “excitement,” finding life hollow and dull without the horrible to deal with.
    And we have new brain science showing that children traumatized are far more likely to become psychopaths.
    PTSD must have a lot of variations.
    I know I have been raped a few times, once by a neighbor who entered about 2:00 AM waking me up, wielding a butcher knife. I “dealt with him” somehow, and was not ultimately raped, was not physically attacked, was not even traumatized. Go figure. Lots of close calls in my life maybe served as a sort of immunization.

  • “Alice”

    It happened to me in leafy Dover.
    I have PTSD, will have it always.
    This is absolutely terrorism.

  • Nick

    Depending on the degree + repetition of inflicted terror, trauma can often result in an irreversible chemical reaction in the brain. Comprehensive trauma treatment (talk therapy; EMDR; sleep therapy; psychopharmacology) can + does help ease trauma.

  • Thomas

    Thank you for your work and shedding light in a dark corner. As a survivor of trauma I hope people open up and talk about trauma when it is at the hands of someone you thought loved you.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think the terrorism that is meant by militant al-kaida is more like childhood sexual abuse in the home in that it is ongoing, and there is no escape, and no understandable reason for it. It’s different from sudden one-time traumas — or is it? But a culture under a terrorist threat is and isn’t like soldiers traveling down a road with IED improvised explosive devices here and there. In some sense it is perpetual.

  • Mike

    I suffered from untreated PTSD for 10 years after being raped and molested by older cousins at 9 years old. It then took me another 10 years to recover to a point where I wasn’t unconsciously affected by it.

    I don’t think my own terrorists suffered from PTSD but their actions were brougt about by other problems – a tough divorce, neglect, jealousy at my intact family, etc. I don’t know if terrorists like Bin Laden don’t strike me as being PTSD victims – will have to think about it.

    I will have to read this book.

  • Ellen Dibble

    The chemistry of trauma — I’m thinking of the “taught” helplessness of Victorian-era/Edwardian-era women, who learned hysteria, learned fainting. Learned not to cope but to succumb.
    They say the least likely to become traumatized are the women in the police forces in the USA. Trained to cope.

  • http://wbur Alyson Lee

    Hello – Ms. Stern – thank you for this fascinating look at such difficult issues. 2 thoughts:

    1.) Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, considers similar issues in his own professional work after terror in his early life — and looks at identifying violent ‘behavior’. Also fascinating

    2.) I experienced, and still am, extreme trauma from ‘domestic violence’ – resulting in ex husband literally stealing our children, severe parent alienation, massive legal abuse, financial abuse, extreme psychological abuse – as well as numerous other in-home abuses….it was no surprise that my only response, and yes, initially in a very numb state, was to throw myself into a Master’s degree in social work, where I have worked with traumatized adolescents (my own ‘lost’ children’s ages) in psychiatric hospitals, high schools and even former child soldiers in Uganda – it’s all so much the same, psychologically. This is one way to cope.

    Thank you, Jessica Stern and WBUR, for bringing these issues forward. I do believe there must be ‘academic empathy’ in order to ever figure this stuff out and ever make any progress. Domestic violence is grown in families – and passed on to too many generations.

    Thanks, Alyson Lee

  • http://ncpr stillin

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, for shedding light on my attraction to danger, going to the most dangerous places on the planet alone, looking for fun, for people who are doing things, and never knowing, numbing myself. Soooooo helpful. Thank you so much, God/Jah bless you.

  • Peggy Gale

    I think the show todfay on denial, PTSD, etc., would be well followed up by a show on treatment of PTSD which would include the treatment approach I practice and know best, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). For information on this, contacty Franxine Sshirpikro at emdrinstitute.com and EMDR International Association at EMDRIA.org.

    The other good follow up show is on professional, clergy, teacher, coach and all other forms of power abuse. Even more than children who are abused are not bellieved, adults in a vulnerable poistion who are abused are even less believed and understood. There is a website, http://www.advocateweb.org for victims of power abuse that can give you a lot of information. Through that website, you can get in touch with many national experts on power abuse or I can put you in touch with them through email. I hope you will seriously consider looking into doing shows on these two topics as it is important for the public to have the correct information.

  • Shelly

    Tom & Jessica,

    Thanks so much for this show.

    I experienced abuse and rape in a relationship with a man who was a refugee from a pre-1989 Eastern European county. His stories indicate to me that as a boy, he and his family suffered similarly at the hands of Nazi occupiers during WWII.

    I also know that one of my parents was sexually abused as a child, and have often wondered about the other.

    So many things come to mind, but particularly this on the subject of humiliation:

    Humiliation and ‘shaming’ were common feelings and disciplining tactics in my childhood household, though it was not actively named or discussed. I wonder about our ability to/impact of adopting emotional patterns from parents even when we have not suffered their type of abuse.

    I believe my familiarity with this emotional pattern inhibited me from seeing the danger I was in as I entered my destructive relationship.

    Further, I wonder if this can happen on a societal level as well as individual one – do we hand these patterns down culturally? What does that mean for cultures like the Congo and certain Eastern European countries today that are experiencing institutionalized rape as a political weapon. The rate of rape amongst females of all ages in the Congo right now is 1 in 2.

  • AC

    From personal experiences, I had many of the same, very difficult to “mine” insights that Ms. Stern so eloquently spoke about today! Most specifically, I have written to the President suggesting that informed people who have experienced personal trauma, including rape, including intentionally inflicted shaming and humiliation, should serve on federal committees that work to determine our strategies against political Terrorism. I believe that many, many of America’s statements about our fight against Al Kaeda and the Taliban only serve to FURTHER the inner Shame that too many of their most powerful leaders exhibit, IF you are experienced enough to understand what is being exhibited, and too many U.S. military leaders are clueless about the signs, symptoms, and actions of Shamed Perpetrators who, as was said so brilliantly today, act to pass their Shame from themselves TO their victims.

    Ms. Stern is a brilliant analyst of these usually kept-separate topics, and I thank her so very much for choosing to share what an unfortunately large number of us have struggled to understand!! Ms. Stern’s additional expertise and extraordinary articulateness are national assets! She DOES know more than many military men! Actually, as an aside, I will say that reading the Rolling Stone article about General McCrystal made me shutter. His world is so rigorously blocked off, walled in, disciplined to the exclusion of many other human values, that I felt he could not POSSIBLY make military decisions that would understand the human worlds he was trying to wrench apart from their lethal struggle!! I did not yet KNOW about Ms. Stern when I read R.Stone, yet I thought when reading about McCrystal that a woman who had been sexually and/or emotionally abused could set better strategy than the General! Not a week later, but you have this WONDERFUL interview!

    Tom, I love your show! This show was not only brilliant and informative, but the topic (really the wisdom of the intimate scale that needs to be brought to the global scale) is one of the MOST IMPORTANT subjects to humankind! THANK YOU SO MUCH and THANK YOU SO MUCH TO JESSICA STERN! By SHARING her personal story, she has truly given us a UNIVERSAL SET OF TOOLS!!!

    I say this as a woman who has been studying, for almost twenty years, her own emotional/sexual abuse by a perpetrator who made abuse look like love. I had (have) PTSD from it, and recently realized that Denial was causing me to NOT see that I also had Stockholm Syndrome from it, and still do.

    Thank you!!

  • http://ncpr stillin

    Dig a little around the family roots, wherever you are, I can almost guarantee you will find the descriptors that fit traumatized people…who does this not touch? All of us. All of us.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I wonder if shaming/humiliation is part of the pattern of alienation, either as a threat or fact, part of the power dynamic used in a family INSTEAD OF non-manipulative relationships. {Learning to love, was the way it was referred to in the show — after even one trauma, versus a childhood defined by it.)
    I see this as of particular interest in a society that seems to be splitting into haves and have-nots, gated this way and that, each side fearing (scorning?) the other — and probably seriously misunderstanding each other, due to the emotional coloration involved.
    But I think the cohesion of nuclear social units may depend on secrecy in cases of addiction and abuse, but the cohesion may falter besides those situations, through habits of distancing, dishonesty, through circling the wagons, old patterns and ways we might not want to honor in this century.

  • Skip Shea

    Thank you Jessica, for your courage.


    I never heard of this Jessica Stern. Who is she?

    Did she Warn President Bush about the 9/11 attack?

    I guess not.

  • Rich

    I found the topic interesting, but wondering why she had to link the Catholic church to this without evidance that her attacker was a victum of clergy sexual abuse. It seems to me the church takes the blame for everything that is wrong with the world on this radio program.


    I think Jessica Stern is just promoting her new Book on NPR.

    I see nothing special about her.
    What about the thousands of rape victim out there?

    Should they just put the Rape Kit in a storage and forget about it.

    If Jessica Stern will just support the Victims of Rape I think it is more likely she will be popular and heard.

    No One can be an expert in terrorism because terrorism cannot be Stop.

  • Martial Bonifacio

    I wish Jessica Stern will just concentrate her life on Rape Victims instead comparing rapist to terrorism.

    Remember Terrorist is not about raping women. Terrorism is about killing Men,Women and Children.

    I wish Jessica will just support the rape victims of this country WRITE A BOOK IN HOW TO HANDLE PTSD.

    Being a terrorist expert because she was rape does not make any sense. So all Rape Victims out there will be expert on Terror because they were rape.

    • Gudrun Wolfrath

      Being raped is one way of being terrorized.

  • Greta Travis

    Reaction to Martial Bonifacio:
    If you do a simple research on Google, you will find out more about Jessica Stern. No body expects to know EVERY BODY, so just because you haven’t heard of her doesn’t mean she is not the expert that she is. It may be that your knowledge is limited. Being an expert on terrorism doesn’t mean you can eradicate terrorism, the same way being an expert in stocks doesn’t mean you’ll always win in the market. Or being a cancer specialist doesn’t mean you can cure all cancer.

    You obviously don’t know how it is to be raped and traumatized under such circumstances, so don’t go judging people based on your limited ability to grasp and understand issues. Try reading her book before you drip venom unto others’ noble intentions.

    There are numerous accounts of clergy abuse so a single unconfirmed instance doesn’t negate the facts of these other confirmed abuses. There is such a thing as “concurring” for intellectual discussion.

    There’s nothing wrong with promoting the book, which happens to be very helpful in having a different perspective on difficult matters like rape, abuse, PTSD, and terrorism.

    Thank you.

  • AC

    “Ninoy Aquino (a.k.a. Martial Bonifacio) is truly alive and kicking in our world (altho killed in 1983 when returning to the Philippines). He is alive (figuratively), and has now joined the ranks of those who have struggled to restore our rights and freedom through nonviolence. He has passed the torch to all of us, and it’s up to us to keep the flame alive.” Tthe quotes are from a Facebook page. The parentheses are mine.

    A question to Martial Bonifacio, a poster on this OnPoint page: Your comments are so sarcastic and demeaning of Ms. Stern, yet you’ve taken the name of a Philippine man many consider a freedom fighter, thru non-violence. Can you not see that Ms. Stern’s contributions to understanding the psychology of Terrorists could lead us to a more free world, and perhaps thru psychological acumen rather than thru MORE violence and counter-terrorism? You’ve written two posts. Can you explain your sarcasm more? Thanks.

  • Greta Travis

    Dear Martial,

    You said:
    “I wish Jessica will just support the rape victims of this country WRITE A BOOK IN HOW TO HANDLE PTSD. Being a terrorist expert because she was rape does not make any sense. So all Rape Victims out there will be expert on Terror because they were rape.”

    Uhm, you clearly clearly clearly missed the point of it all. Let me help you understand – Jessica didn’t become a terrorism expert because she was raped. She became an expert because she is a brilliant woman gifted with deep intellectual insights about a lot of things, who studied about terrorism, and gained enough experience learning more about it. Her rape incident caused her to develop some form of trauma that inadvertently made her able to face danger and understand violence more. Every trauma, including rape, has different effects on victims. It so happened that to Jessica, it affected her this way.

    FYI, Jessica was not under the Bush administration.

    Why do you judge her so, and assume she isn’t supporting the rape victims? You yourself said you don’t know her. What made you such an expert on her and what she ought to do and the books she must right?

    Words without wisdom are dangerous.

  • AC

    Thanks very much to those who mentioned books and/or websites on topics related to today’s show. Here are a few more EXCELLENT books:

    1) Betrayal Bonds (possibly “The Bet.Bonds”). I forget the author’s name, but, in the preface he also states that his professional career was started by his being the victim of a betrayal in his youth. His book describes abuses of power by those who have power over us. In other words, some of the perpetrators in his book are known to the victim, and many of the abuses take place over a long period of time. Nevertheless, his understanding is broad enough that the one-time abuse of rape and/or the abuse of political terrorism (I consider the Jim Crow years in the USA to be in that category) can be understood thru his writing. He talks about the roles of Shame & Pride.

    2) Shame & Pride by Donald Nathanson. Another excellent book, altho it starts out in a very technically detailed manner about the “place” of Shame studies within the field of primary emotions studies (my words aren’t quite his terms). He GETS Shame & Pride in a BIG WAY, and believes that they should be seen as basic emotions, even tho they can be MANIPULATED into existence. Worth reading, even if you skip around to the parts that apply more to the general public than to those wondering about the boundaries of academic areas of study.

  • AC

    Thank you, Greta T. for your comments above. So beautifully said! Thank you!

  • Greta Travis

    Dear Martial,

    Jessica is not part of the police force nor the judicial system. Those are the institutions you should be banging doors on to help your girlfriend get justice. I feel for her, and I pray she will get her justice.

    Jessica is a victim as your girlfriend is. What she did was to share her experience so that rape victims, among others, learn a thing or two from her insights on PTSD caused by such trauma. That, in itself, I believe is compassion for fellow rape victims.

    Again, you don’t know her enough to know her activities involving rape victims. The book itself is already a significant help. You obviously have not read it, based on your responses. Also, she is not a terrorism expert to stop terrorism. That is not what she does. What she does is to interpret the motivations behind their actions by interviewing them, so that the government and the people who should stop them will be better informed. Uninformed actions, and uninformed comments are not helpful at all.

    Yes, it is very good to buy her books. This book, Denial, in particular.


    Dear Greta Travis,

    Jessica Stern is not also Anti-terrorism squad she just uses her mouth to be an Expert in terrorism.

    My Arguement is How Come she does not Help the Rape Victims? Via Book does not constitute Help to fellow Rape victims. It is helping herself to the almighty dollar.

    • http://www.profi-uebersetzung.de Gudrun Wolfrath

      By writing her book she already helped rape victims. And it raises awareness of the subject.

  • LV

    This topic could continue in several directions, all of them interesting.

    I really was interested in her ideas of what may go on in the madrasahs in relationship to creating fighters who want to fight the West and I wish she had had a chance to expand on this. What exactly did she mean? I’m not sure what goes on in those schools. Several thoughts came to mind when she briefly brought this up.

    One is that I was surprised when I read “The Kite Runner” at the amount of violence perpetrated on boys, and I wondered if that was just a cultural reality or just a result of the societal breakdown caused by the wars in Afghanistan. If this violence is a cultural norm and if it shows up in the madrasahs, then its role in creating terrorists is worth examining. (I also realize that most schools are not places to radicalize students; I can read Wiki too).

    I was reminded of stories told of children – boys – raised in orphanages under Romania’s Nicolae Ceauşescu to be fighting machines. I believe that stories included incidents of abusing the boys in order to make them loyal to the system. I’m not sure about this but I do think something awful happened to some of these kids.

    I was also reminded of something written in the book “Sex, Priests and Secret Codes” in which the authors suggest that sexual seduction of vulnerable initiates by older priests was allowed to go on because it created a system in which people could be controlled by threat of exposure of their slip-ups. But this system also provided a haven in which certain people could exploit their position to take advantage of not only initiates but also children in their parishes.

    I can see a pattern in all this in which behaviors that humiliate and shame and hurt are allowed…encouraged?.. to continue because it gives the group a kind of control over the people involved. Unchecked, it can also lead to violence.

    I have also come across a story of an experiment with ducks that I haven’t been able to track down the original of. But the story is intriguing. It is relayed in the book “Get Me Out of Here” about borderline personality disorder. A psychiatrist relates a story of an experiment involving ducklings that are imprinted by a mechanical mother duck. But the mechanical mom does something real duck mothers don’t do. It randomly and abusively pecks a duckling. The result is that the ducklings becomes over attached to the mechanical mother and do not mature as non-abused ducklings do, failing to “leave home” as easily as the ducklings raised by a real duck did. This implied that abuse somehow binds children rather than pushes them away. It made me think of Stockholm syndrome.

    So I wonder what Stern would say about how all this might relate to how terrorists are created.

    I hope “On Point” will visit this topic again.

  • Debbie R.

    Today’s conversation with Jessica was very timely for me. Thirty years ago tomorrow (July 7), I was abducted by two men while I was walking down a quiet street at night in Washington, D.C. These guys held me captive for seven hours and raped and sodomized me and threatened to torture and kill me. They were not terrorists, but they certainly wanted to terrorize me. Miraculously, I survived; I was 21 at the time. Although I have gone on to have a very fulfilling life, the experience changed me in profound ways — for example, teaching me that no place is really safe. (Lock your doors!) Unlike Jessica, I was able to talk and write about it openly at the time, which definitely helped with the healing process. I’m glad that Jessica has been able to re-examine her trauma, as painful as that may be. Thanks for speaking out and spurring these thought-provoking conversations.

  • Michele Riberdy

    To hide behind a pseudonym (Martial Bonifacio) is cowardly. You have attacked an individual (terrorist expert or not) for relating a story that can help many victims just in its telling. Then accuse her of having spurious motivations for writing her account and trying to understand the motivations of why people perpetrate crimes on others. Rape and other crimes cannot be stopped unless the motivations behind these acts are understood. There is usually a reason for every action -logical or illogical. I often say everyone walks around in their own world of pain and it colors the lens each of us see through.

    Why don’t you come out of the shadows and use your real name? What is your motivation in hiding who you really are?

  • http://ncpr stillin

    Went out the bought the book, reading it covered in poison ivy and avoiding the 100 degree heat…I am right there with you through the book, having coffee intervewing people, I have all the traights, that’s how I feel how can that be, nobody ever did anything to me growing up I had an idyllic childhood how can that be! Yet my counselor at one time said, did you know you have all the characteristics of someone who has been sexually abused, and did you know you are attracted to danger. Life is for enlightenment and sad or not, this topic fascinates me, thank you, loving the book…

  • Mary Murphy

    I enjoyed the insights of this brave woman. I did not suffer the profound trauma the author did, but I recognized in listening to her that the years I spent as a child being the “strong one” in a family wracked by alcoholism made me able, made me need, to ignore my own fears and hesitations. Today, I am able to go anywhere with little thought of danger, traveling or confronting with a kind of bravado. What I lack, however, is a sense of my needs, whether for physical care or emotional security. When she used the word “dissociation” a strong sense that I was hearing truth sounded in me.

  • CG Chicago

    I’ve heard that in Gaza sexual abuse is rampant too. Not sure about Saudi Arabia where most of the 9/11 guys came from.

    Interesting correlation.

  • Grady Lee Howard

    Sadistic hierarchy is the key concept linking everything cruel and terroristic. The abuse of a helpless animal up to structural state terrorism are connected by a will to psychological power through the imposition of pain and fear onto the less powerful (in the current situation). Witness how rape is so routine in the chain abuse of our military that female comrades are frequent targets. What do we tell suspects and delinquents? : That they will be anally raped in jail or prison; and the same is especially true when we interrogate our competitors in political terror.

    Shortly after World War II research was done by Erich Fromm and others about the callousness that could allow poor Italians to support the abuse and murder under wartime fascism. Fromm defined the “commercial personality” as being one of the primary causations. The “commercial personality” is focused upon individual material gain and the virtual worship of success and the relatively powerful person. (This research was repeated in rural Mexico later, which highlighted a victim blaming tendency in the analysis, and has since been repressed.) Seeking of the strong leader or party, often an ideal without truth or integrity, but fulfilling of the power seeking and worshiping fantasy, is the defining characteristic of this malady. Cruelty/sadism is learned and refined over time. Right now video games and pornography (above normal curious eroticism) are producing hordes of sadists (potential violent terrorists), as is the military and para-militaries and racist-classist political and religious movements, and our hierarchical war-seeking imperial government by corporate interests. (So-called “conservative”/original intent Justices on our Supreme Court may be the most celebrated sadistic terrorists in history.)

    Can you find your community and its healthy interests on your social map? Can you wish justice for all without excepting the potential success sought within your advancement network. You’re either on the bus or off the bus; part of the resistance or part of the problem. I expect that if Jessica Stern persists in this line of thought with the inevitable conclusions she will be invited to leave the Hoover Institution. Funding in the research (Michael Foucault was a notable exception.) toward a unified theory of terrorism and sadism is scarce, and for good reason: Corporate capitalism retains control using cruel terroristic techniques. (Now I see why Levi-Strauss’ theories about trading women as a commodity in primitive societies was so appealing to The Establishment: A MAN can do as he wishes with HIS Private Property. See Frederick Engels “The Holy Family”)

  • Grady Lee Howard

    CG Chicago: I expect that sexual exploitation and depravity naturally accelerate with the polarization of wealth and power in whatever modern society or state border. (Is not the culture of corporate capitalism now imposed universally without consideration of any alternative?)We might go back to what William Jefferson Clinton said about his asymmetrical liaison with an intern: “I was compelled to do it; because I could.” It, however you define it, was a prerogative and routine expectation of power; misbehavior or law violations with impunity. And the Supreme Court clerks labor incessantly to find the loophole to free Jeffrey Skilling, and the exception in the law to save BP. When a sheik or a CEO has life and death power over millions is it any surprise that he might like to plunge his Cialis member into you, your loved one, your children. He can, and therefore he does. Bush (or bin Laden?) may even rape a skyscraper with an airliner to scare the rabble.

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