Working paper

Jihad against Palestinians?

The Herostratos syndrome and the paradox of targeting European Jews

Jean-Paul Azam, and Mario Ferrero


This paper addresses the waves of mass killings recently perpetrated by individuals with a weak or nonexistent ideological motivation, whose acts either appear to contradict their purported political cause or are admittedly driven by a quest for notoriety. Examples range from killers who have been waging jihad against European Jews to unattached mass killers such as the Germanwings pilot to the perpetrators of mass school shootings in America and worldwide. We argue that these phenomena can be understood as instances of the Herostratos syndrome, which has been known for thousands of years as characterizing the behavior of people who seek to survive in the collective memory by excelling in their infamous acts. We provide a model of hybrid killers which accommodates the Herostratic motive alongside a political motive and characterize a well-behaved Nash equilibrium where Herostratic killers are competing with one another with a view to make a name for themselves in infamy. The policy implications point toward reducing the publicity the killers enjoy, thus frustrating their quest for notoriety.


terrorism; Herostratos; cult; competition for infamy; jihad; school shootings;

JEL codes

  • C72: Noncooperative Games
  • D74: Conflict • Conflict Resolution • Alliances


Jean-Paul Azam, and Mario Ferrero, Jihad against Palestinians?: The Herostratos syndrome and the paradox of targeting European Jews, TSE Working Paper, n. 17-874, December 2017.

See also

Published in

TSE Working Paper, n. 17-874, December 2017