Force of Words: The Logic of Terrorist Threats

Regular price $ 35.00

by Joseph M. Brown

Columbia University Press

8/25/2020, paperback

SKU: 9780231193696


Terrorist groups attain notoriety through acts of violence, but threats of future violence are just as important in attaining their political goals. Force of Words is a groundbreaking examination of the role of threats in terrorist strategies. Joseph M. Brown shows how terrorists use threats, true and false, to achieve key outcomes such as social control, economic attrition, and policy concessions. Brown demonstrates that threats are integral to terrorism on a tactical level as well, distracting security forces, drawing police into traps, and warning civilians out of harm's way when terrorists seek to limit casualties.

Force of Words reorients the field of terrorism studies, prioritizing the symbolic, psychological dimension that makes this form of conflict distinctive. It expands the study of terrorist propaganda by detailing how militants tailor their threats to send the desired political message. Drawing on rich interview data, quantitative evidence, and case studies of the IRA, ETA, the Tamil Tigers, Shining Path, the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, Boko Haram, the Afghan Taliban, and ISIL, the book offers practical guidance for interpreting terrorists' threats and assessing their credibility. Force of Words is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the logic of terrorism.


"Brown offers the first comprehensive scholarly study of how terrorists use words to coerce, warn, inspire fear, legitimate, negotiate, and ultimately change the perceptions and behavior of governments and the general public. His rich case studies combine impressive fieldwork and sophisticated quantitative analysis to skillfully explain the threats of some of the world's most prominent terrorist organizations." --Peter Krause, author of Rebel Power: Why National Movements Compete, Fight, and Win

"Joseph M. Brown is an excellent terrorism scholar. He has found an area of terrorism that is both fundamental to the subject and yet largely unaddressed in the academic literature. Force of Words offers the first unified theoretical account of terrorist threats in the world." --Max Abrahms, author of Rules for Rebels: The Science of Victory in Militant History

About the Author:

Joseph M. Brown is assistant professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston.