Trend Watch

Were Trump's Comments 'Stochastic Terrorism'?

Lookups for 'stochastic' spiked after journalists used the term

Lookups for stochastic spiked after an article in Rolling Stone used the word to describe Trump's suggestion that "Second Amendment people" could "do" something about Hillary Clinton:

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."
—David S. Cohen, Rolling Stone, 9 Aug. 2016

Although the modern sense of stochastic (“random” or “involving chance or probability”) did not begin to be used until the early 20th century, the word had an earlier incarnation and meaning, one that is now in thorough disuse. In the 17th and early 18th centuries stochastic was used in the sense of “subject to, or pertaining to, conjecture.”

Ergo, the Popish Religion is but stochasticke, and conjecturall.
—Andrew Logie, Raine from the Clouds, 1624

The word comes from the Greek word stochastikos, which means “skillful in aiming” or “proceeding by guesswork.”

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