As a counter-terrorism consultant, it is both frustrating and infuriating to listen to media figures and talking-heads discuss domestic Islamic terrorism. Anytime a Muslim is caught trying to kill Americans on American soil, these figures rush to tell us that these would-be terrorists are not known to have any connection to international terrorist groups, and therefore we shouldn't be worried. But as we found out from the cases of Army Major Nidal Hasan and Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, both were actually in communication with foreign terrorist organizations. (Hasan was emailing al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula chief Anwar al-Awlaki, and Shahzad had been commissioned by the Pakistani Taliban).
The message from the media: if a terrorist act isn't connected to international terrorists, it really isn't terrorism, but rather "violent extremism" or a "man-caused disaster."
Another narrative floated by the establishment media in such circumstances: the so-called "lone wolf" jihadist is impossible to diagnose beforehand, and therefore the causes of such are random and ultimately unknowable.
The fact is that these "lone wolf" jihadists have rarely acted alone. We now know about the radicalization process — there are typically a whole host of actors and support networks pushing individuals through the radicalization pipeline. While these individuals and organizations may not have been directly involved in planning a terrorist attack, their participation in terms of indoctrinating would-be jihadists and providing religious justification for acts of violence is essential to the process.