"Stochastic terrorism" is a concept in the theory of war. It refers to putting out open calls for terrorism, and trying to incite specific acts of terror, without knowing who (if anyone) will take you up on it. It's one of the principal tactics of ISIS outside its home regions: this is why we hear of "ISIS-inspired" terrorists, who had no particular funding, backing, or material support from the organization, but who were simply acting on a call to arms put out by the terror group to go out and kill infidels. (Or other Muslims, or whoever else ISIS feels like killing that day)
It's not a legal concept, and in fact our laws have no good mechanism to handle it. "Vague threats" are deliberately not
threats, under the law; you can't be imprisoned for saying "I'm gonna kill that son-of-a-bitch," or for "Someone oughta do something," unless one can show that in the context it was said, that's something that would cause someone to fear for their life. (It's actually even more complicated than that, but that would be a whole long article in its own right. +Ken Popehat
wrote a short summary relevant to today's news here: https://popehat.com/2016/08/09/lawsplainer-no-donald-trumps-second-amendment-comment-isnt-criminal/
In general, this sort of narrow law is wise; we don't want
people being rounded up and imprisoned for anything that sounds vaguely angry. However, it creates an opening for groups like ISIS to actively try to radicalize people around the world.
In the specific case of ISIS, of course, there's a workable solution, one which involves the liberal application of high explosives. However, not all terror threats so conveniently live in places where we feel free to engage in open warfare.
All of this brings us to today's news. Remember that just a few days ago, Trump "suggested" that the election was rigged, and that if he loses it, people should reject its legitimacy. Today, he took that a step further, "suggesting" that, if elected, Clinton should be murdered. That is to say, Trump has rather pointedly rejected the most fundamental principle of democracy: that elections should be the mechanism which decides who is in office.
(People often say that elections are the basis of democracy, but that's not quite true. Syria has had elections for decades, in which you could vote for anyone you wanted, so long as it was Hafez (or later Bashar) al-Assad. The crucial thing which defines a democracy is that after an election, the losers step down.
The preconditions for people to feel safe doing this are complex, and have a lot to do with why democracy is working better in some places than others)
Beyond the obvious problems of an American Presidential candidate openly preaching against democracy is the issue we just discussed: this was not merely a thinly veiled call to overthrow a potential US President, but a textbook example of stochastic terrorism.
As this article put it:Stochastic terrorism, as described by a blogger who summarized the concept several years back, means using language and other forms of communication "to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable."Let's break that down in the context of what Trump said. Predicting any one particular individual following his call to use violence against Clinton or her judges is statistically impossible. But we can predict that there could be a presently unknown lone wolf who hears his call and takes action in the future.Stated differently: Trump puts out the dog-whistle knowing that some dog will hear it, even though he doesn't know which dog.
h/t +Lev Osherovich