The Social Movement Study Network's

Terrorism & Social Movements
Study Guide

What Policymakers, Journalists, Students, and All of Us Need to Know

  • Most people who join social movements, political movements, or religious movements are not mentally ill or stupid. They have adopted an ideology and constructed an identity that in their view justifies their actions--whether these actions are deemed constructive or destructive by society.

  • The vast majority of movement activists never engage in violence.

  • There is no correlation linking religious piety with violence. [Read more here]

  • The radicalization process itself does not cause violence.

  • Dissent, movement activism, and non-violent civil disobedience are part of the democratic process in civil society.

Are you still relying on outdated social science?

Roger Griffin, 2012,
Terrorist's creed:
fanatical violence and the
human need for meaning
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Listen to an Audio Interview with Griffin
Recorded 5/7/2013

This is an interview with Roger Griffin, Professor in Modern History at Oxford Brookes University in the UK, who has turned his expertise in modelling the dynamics of fascist support to understanding the psychological mechanisms which drive terrors fanaticism. In this interview he explains the phenomenon of what he calls 'heroic doubling' which can turn a 'normal' individual into someone who carries out acts of fanatical violence which may make no sense to the victims or the media-spectators to whom it is supposed to act as as a message. His analysis has a direct bearing on the 'inexplicable' acts of the Boston Marathon Bombers:

Read an excerpt from the book here
Browse chapter headings here


Book Reviews | Articles | Links

7 Experts Who Want to Reframe
the Boston Bombing Media Coverage

Academics, researchers, and analysts
answer the question:

"As a person with expertise, what would you tell a reporter who wanted to know what she or he needs to know to craft a better, more informed story about the Boston bombings as details emerge?”

What are the Basics of
Social Movement Theory?

People who join social movements are engaging in a basic process of democratic civil society.
Starting in the 1970s, sociologists rejected the idea that movement activists were engaged in irrational collective behavior,
but began studying social movements as collections of people with complaints
who develop a plan to make the larger society respond to their needs.

When discussing social movements it is important to see ideology and methodology as separate facets of social movements.

Read More Here

Piety and Radicalization: Is There a Link?

From the Mobilizing Ideas Blog

Esposito and Mogahed suggest looking at political radicalization instead of piety: “The real difference between those who condone terrorist acts and all others is about politics, not piety” (p. 74). The authors give examples from radicals’ views/perspectives on colonization and American Empire.

How then could we explain ever-increasing combination of religious rhetoric and political radicalism? [Read More]

What's Islamic Apocalyptic Prophesies
Got To Do With It?

...and conspiracy theories, demagoguery,
and millennial excitement?

Why Bomb the Boston Marathon?

Islamic Totalitarians, Apocalypse, and Terrorism
Walk a mile in the shoes of those who claim to honor God and yet cheer the bombing of the Boston Marathon. They represent only a tiny fraction of the Muslims on our planet, yet they see themselves as carrying out the will of God.

Fanatics such as these can be found in many of the World’s religions. They shoot abortion providers in the United States; blast apart buses in Israel; and murder Muslims and Hindus in India.

These religious fanatics often combine a totalitarian political mindset with a belief in sacred prophecy that they are mandated by God to rule the world, and they must act now against their enemies because time is running out. In fact they believe that we are approaching the end of time itself, the literal end of the world as we know it. This worldview is call apocalypticism. [Read More]

Is Terrorism a Form of Activism?

From the Mobilizing Ideas Blog

Contributors to this essay dialogue were asked to evaluate the relationship between terrorism and social movements. Is terrorism an expression/tactic/tool of social movements? Are suicide bombing, mass suicides, and other tactics commonly associated with terrorism forms of activism/contentious action? If so, do our theoretical tools for analyzing social movements work well for understanding terrorism and its contentious forms of action? If not, why not, and what might some alternative perspectives be? [Read More]

The Tools of Fear Used by Demagogues

  • Prejudice
  • Stereotyping
  • Dualism
  • Denigration
  • Villification
  • Dehumanization
  • Demonization
  • Conspiracism

Using a Demagogic Form of "Consitutive Rhetoric"

...by which the ideolgical demagogue, through various media, uses frames and narratives to develop an identity structure. This creates a constitutency who learn who the enemy is and
what needs to be done to stop them before it is to late
--a timetable that generates apocalyptic aggression--

Can Mobilize a Consituency to
Generate These Outcomes

  • Discrimination
  • Segregation
  • Assault
  • Expulsion
  • Murder
  • Terrorism
  • Mass Murder
  • Genocide

This Process is Called Apocalyptic Demagoguery

The negative effects can be woven into systems, structures, and insitutions in a society and can create durable:

Systems of Oppression and
Systems of Repression

Anti-Nazi lithograph
depicting Adolf Hitler's propaganda chief Joseph Goebbel.
Created by concentration camp survivor Stanislav Toegal



Don't let terrorism stampede us into further eroding civil liberties in the United States. Expanding freedom is the best payback. Resistance is not futile.

Social Movement Theory
for Activists

The Movement Action Plan (MAP)

The Practical Strategist

---- More ---

Challenging Right-Wing Social Movements that Undermine Human Rights

Visit the New Website of Political Research Associates

Now Online: COSMOS - Centre on Social Movement Studies in Italy

For Students Young & Old


Featured Research Center
Berkeley Center for
Right-Wing Studies

Featured Social Movement Organization

Spirit House Project uses the arts, research, education, action, and spirituality to bring diverse peoples together to work for racial, economic, and social justice, as well as for spiritual maturity.

Featured Physical Archives

Marquette University has acquired a large collection of FBI files on US right-wing organizations and individuals. The files were released under the federal Freedom of Information Act to researcher Ernie Lazar. The Lazar Collection is also ONLINE!

Emory University: Neighbor's Network (Atlanta, Ga.) 1987-1998)

Featured Multimedia

Anti-Nazi lithograph cartoons by a survivor of the the genocide.

Why this Webpage?

The goal of the website is to provide online linkages to a variety of existing and new transatlantic resources for the study of social movements that seek to expand or restrict access to full democratic human rights for all people. The mission is to illuminate the relationship of hierarchies of race, gender, and class to societal conflicts, especially those involving social movement organizations and their specific ideologies, frames, and narratives.

This website is sponsored by a group of scholars in the United States and Europe for the purpose of providing reliable resources for scholars, researchers, students, journalists, and organizers for human rights as defined by various international documents and United Nations declarations.

The Social Movement Study Website is an independent collaborative non-profit endeavor that receives no funding from governments or partisan political organizations.

Advisory Board
(in formation)

Cynthia Burack (US)
James Danky (US)
Alex DiBranco (US)
Martin Durham (UK)
Matthew Feldman (UK)
Paul Jackson (UK)
Angelia R. Wilson (UK)

The global human rights movement challenges the
systems, structures, and institutions that create, defend, and extend
oppression and repression in a society.

“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”
                      --Frederick Douglass

“There Is No Hierarchy of Oppressions.”
                      --Audre Lorde

"The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion."
                       -- Molly Ivins

Democracy is not a specific set of institutions but a process that requires dissent.

Democracy is a process that assumes the majority of people,
over time, given enough accurate information, the ability to participate in a free and open public debate,
and can vote without intimidation, reach constructive decisions that benefit the whole of society, and
preserve liberty, protect our freedoms, extend equality, and defend democracy.

Without dissent there is no progress in a society: Dissent is Essential

Unless otherwise noted, all material on this website is copyright ©2022 by Research for Progress

Site curated by Chip Berlet