Center on Terrorism

Center on Terrorism

All Spring 2020 events at the Center on Terrorism have been cancelled due to the Covid-19 emergency.

Stay safe and well.

We look forward to reconvening in the Fall semester.


Shuki Cohen speaking at John Jay College this Friday March 6th

The Friday Seminar Series at the Center on Terrorism continues this Friday March 6th at 3pm when our John Jay colleague, Prof. Shuki Cohen, will be speak on:

Guilt by (Free-) Association: The Online Construction of Versatile Hate Ideologies by Right-Wing Extremists and Incels

The seminar will take place in room 630 of Haaren Hall on the John Jay campus (899 Tenth Ave.). 

Prof. Cohen joined the College in 2007 and is an Associate Professor of Psychology at John Jay and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He co-directs the Center on Terrorism and has published widely in the leading terrorism studies and psychology journals. His full bio note is below. He has kindly provided an overview of his presentation, also below.

The seminar is free and open to the public. PLease feel free to share this announcement with colleagues and to post to social media.


About Shuki Cohen, MSc, PhD

Dr. Shuki Cohen is an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department at John Jay College and a member of the Graduate Center faculty, City University of New York (in both the Criminal Justice and Clinical Psychology departments). He is also the co-director of the Center on Terrorism at John Jay College and an Associate Editor of 'Journal of Psycholinguistics Research.'

Dr. Cohen obtained his BSc in Biophysical Chemistry (Cum Laude) and MSc in Brain Research from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. After working as a neuroscientist at University of California, Berkeley, he received his PhD in clinical psychology from New York University. Dr. Cohen is trained in both psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral therapy, and have externed for 2 years with Albert Ellis at his 'Institute for Rational-Emotive Behavioral Therapy'. He completed his internship at Bellevue and Gouverneur hospitals in New York City, followed by a 2-year postdoctoral fellowship at Yale Medical School Department of Psychiatry.

Integrating his clinical and neuroscience backgrounds, Dr. Cohen's research concern the mindset associated with violent radicalization through the linguistic analysis of politically-violent perpetrators and terrorists and their ideologues. This quantitative/computational approach to linguistics is consistent with current models of social cognition and affords a minimally-biased insight into the interplay between individual vulnerabilities and environmental/ideological factors that fostering readiness for socio-political violence. 


Guilt by (Free-) Association: The Online Construction of Versatile Hate Ideologies by Right-Wing Extremists and Incels

Shuki Cohen, MSc, PhD

Despite much attention to the link between the proliferation of online hate communications and the growing threat of domestic terrorism, the exact ways in which these communications account for versatile, idiosyncratic, and at times incongruent grievances are still poorly understood. Mass shooters, for example, often attempt to affect a far-reaching societal change by targeting rather specific groups, such as Jews, Muslims, Blacks, LGBT club-goers, etc. Upon investigation, however, many of those shooters seem to espouse a unique mélange of ideological tenets, political grievances and/or conspiracies carved out of a comprehensive and intricate ideological ‘universe’ of non-mutually exclusive wrongs and enemy groups.

Using models from cognitive neuroscience realized through computational linguistics measures, the presentation will examine the construction of ideological hate online on both the individual (intra-personal) and the communal (inter-personal) levels. On the interpersonal level, analysis of a large corpus (1.9 Million words) of posts from an online forum of a prominent right-wing hate group suggests a collaborative discursive structure in which users incrementally build on the grievances expressed in previous posts by associating it to another ‘enemy’ group in a non-mutually-exclusive manner.

This highly interconnected associative nature of online hate may also be detected on the individual level, and the presentation will demonstrate it using an extensive corpus of short-lived inflammatory Incels posts that were taken down shortly after publication. In them, Incel (‘Involuntary Celibate’) individuals oftentimes concurrently implicate a variety of ‘culprit groups’ as mutually reinforcing or conspiring in giving rise to their personal grievance or plight.

The presentation will use the case study of Antisemitism to exemplify 1) the inherently associative nature of online hate; 2) the versatility that this associative property confers in wielding hate against a variety of ‘culprit groups’ online; and 3) the inclusivity that it fosters in the online ‘hatosphere’ among disenfranchised individuals, who can now harbor idiosyncratic hate towards specific ‘culprits’ while still being considered by their online community as contributors to the larger cause. Antisemitism, which is curiously on the rise recently, was chosen to demonstrate the associative nature of online hate since Jews are not the primary ‘trigger’ of either Right-Wing Extremists (where the primary enemy is ‘foreigners’) or Incels (where the primary enemy is ‘women’). Only by incorporating Jews into the interconnected web of ideological hate can they become the formidable enemy that they represent in the eyes of both Right-Wing Extremists and Incels.

Taken together, the presentation will then discuss the utility of these findings in devising empirically-supported counter-messaging campaigns against online hate, and policies concerning appropriate responses to hate crimes, to avoid the inadvertent reinforcement of the hateful ideologies that may have inspired them.


Welcome to the Center on Terrorism at John Jay College of Criminal Justice

John Jay College lost 67 students and alumni as a result of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001. The Center on Terrorism at John Jay College was founded in the wake of those attacks and remains the only university-based entity devoted to terrorism research and education in the New York City area. Center researchers have published a range of books, article, chapters and reports covering different aspects of terrorism and counter-terrorism, from an interdisciplinary and policy-relevant perspective. The Center hosts the Friday Seminar Series which brings to the John Jay campus leading researchers and practitioners active in the field. The series is linked to John Jay’s Advanced Certificate in Terrorism Studies which offers a distinctive graduate-level program of study for those seeking to enhance their credentials and better understand terrorism and counter-terrorism.

We are pleased to announce the speakers for our Friday Seminar Series this Spring:

  • On Friday, February 7th, we will welcome Dr. Emy Matesan who will speak on, "The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Temptation of Violence under Repression."

    Dr. Matesan is an Assistant Professor of Government and a Tutor in the College of Social Studies at Wesleyan University. Her forthcoming book, The Violence Pendulum (Oxford University Press), examines what drives Islamist groups to shift between nonviolent and violent tactics. Her fieldwork in Egypt, as well as in Indonesia, was supported by the National Science Foundation. Her previous articles have appeared in the Journal of Global Security Studies, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Terrorism and Political Violence, the Journal of Strategic Security, and Nations and Nationalism. Further information is available here. The seminar will take place from 3-5pm in rm.630 of Haaren Hall on the John Jay campus (899 10th ave).

  • On Friday, March 6th, Associate Professor of Psychology at John Jay, and Co-Director of the Center on Terrorism, Dr. Shuki Cohen will present his recent research. This seminar will take place from 3-5pm in the lecture hall of the New Building (L2.85) on the John Jay campus.
  • On Friday, April 3rd, Christina Nemr will share her recent work on disinformation in the context of violent extremism. Ms. Nemr is Director of Park Advisors, overseeing counter-disinformation and countering violent extremism programming. She previously worked with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism This seminar will take place from 3-5pm in rm.630 of Haaren Hall on the John Jay campus.
  • On Friday April 24th, we will be joined by Dr. Kurt Braddock from Penn State University. This seminar will take place from 3-5pm in rm.630 of Haaren Hall on the John Jay campus.
  • Lastly, the Center will host an end-of-semester reception on Friday May 15th.

Our seminars are free and open to the public so please feel free to share this announcement with friends and colleagues, and to post to social media.

We look forward to seeing you soon.

Profs. Peter Romaniuk and Shuki Cohen (