Force of Words

The Logic of Terrorist Threats

Joseph M. Brown

Columbia University Press

Force of Words

Pub Date: August 2020

ISBN: 9780231193696

312 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $35.00£30.00

Pub Date: August 2020

ISBN: 9780231193689

312 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $140.00£115.00

Pub Date: August 2020

ISBN: 9780231550451

312 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $34.99£30.00

Force of Words

The Logic of Terrorist Threats

Joseph M. Brown

Columbia University Press

Terrorist groups achieve notoriety through acts of violence, but often threats of potential or upcoming violence are just as effective. Threats disrupt economies and ensnare security forces; they frighten civilians and encourage supporters; and they build credibility and force opponents to make concessions. Force of Words is a groundbreaking examination of the role of threats in terrorist strategies that explains the broader purpose and meaning of terrorist propaganda.

Joseph M. Brown explains how terrorist groups tailor their threats so that the desired political message is sent. He scrutinizes why terrorists issue warnings of imminent attacks and pledges of violence as well as their use of hoaxes and bluffing. Drawing on rich interview data, quantitative evidence, and case studies of the Irish Republican Army, ETA, the Tamil Tigers, Shining Path, the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, Boko Haram, the Afghan Taliban, and ISIL, Brown explores the ways that terrorists use language. He demonstrates that when terrorists rely on civilian support, fight democracies, seek social control, or demand negotiations, their threats should be taken seriously. By identifying the conditions that incentivize particular types of threats, Brown offers practical guidance for interpreting and assessing terrorists’ statements. A bold and rigorous consideration of terrorism’s tactical and strategic logic, Force of Words sheds new light on the symbolic, psychological dimension that makes this form of political violence distinctive.
This book represents a major contribution to terrorism literature generally, and more specifically the specialized literatures on terrorist propaganda, signaling, threat assessment, and counterterrorism. It has a truly comprehensive and historical perspective, from the development of a typology and classifying different types of threats to a full-on theoretical framework. This is a major piece of work – the result of painstaking research. John Horgan, Georgia State University

About the Author

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