J.M. Berger: Co-Author of "ISIS: The State of Terror" and "Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam"; Fellow, the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, The Hague

Author, analyst and consultant on extremism

J.M. Berger is an author, analyst and consultant studying extremism, terrorism, propaganda and social media analytical techniques. With Jessica Stern, Berger is co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror, and he is author of Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam. His next book, Extremism, will be published by MIT Press in 2018.

Title and fast facts:

  • Fellow with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, The Hague
  • Fellow with the Alliance for Securing Democracy
  • Co-author with Jessica Stern of ISIS: The State of Terror
  • Author of Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam
  • Previously a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution
  • Google Scholar profile | Full Biography

  • Berger has authored and co-authored several groundbreaking studies on social media analysis, including the development of metrics for measuring influence, community detection and detecting the use of manipulative tactics online. For selected publications, click here.

    In addition to publishing extensively on jihadist terrorism and extremism, Berger has also authored key works on far-right extremism in the United States, including the Patriot Movement, the sovereign citizen movement, and topics related to white nationalism, including the history of The Turner Diaries, the evolution of Christian Identity, and the impact of white nationalism on the 2016 presidential election. He is a fellow with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, The Hague, and a fellow with the Alliance for Securing Democracy.

    Berger writes for the Politico, The Atlantic and Foreign Policy. He has served as an on-air consultant with PBS and as a producer for NPR. Berger's most recent peer-reviewed academic paper, The Turner Legacy, examines the history and utility of dystopian novels as white nationalist propaganda.

    Berger has lectured at Harvard University, Leiden University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, American University, Utrecht University and others. He has presented keynote speeches for the Society for Terrorism Research, the VOX-Pol Network of Excellence, and other organizations. Berger also consults for and trains private companies and government agencies on issues related to homegrown terrorism, online extremism, foreign fighters and advanced social media analysis.


    Violent extremists march over the bodies of the innocent in an effort to rip societies apart and rebuild them in a darker image. While extremists do sometimes fight each other directly, they rely on the tool of terrorism to aim their fire at the center of society. The immediate effect is to cut down people who are simply trying to live their lives in peace. The ultimate goal is to destroy the center entirely. The London Bridge and Finsbury Park attacks in London this month show that the center is under a symbiotic assault from more than one direction. 


    As surely as night follows day, demands to defeat “the ideology” emerge after a terrorist attack, in increasingly urgent tones. After the terrorist attack Saturday night in London, Prime Minister Theresa May offered the latest iteration of that ritual, a refrain heard since the days of George W. Bush. Yet it should be obvious that the West’s obsessive focus on combatting ideology has produced no quantifiably positive results.

    Read the full analysis at ICCT -- The Hague

    "...smart, granular analysis..."

    ISIS: The State of Terror
    "Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, 'ISIS,' should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group." -- Washington Post

  • Now in paperback!
  • Wall Street Journal Book of the Month, February 2016
  • Foreign Affairs: Best books of 2015
  • Wall Street Journal: Must-reads on terrorism
  • Washington Post: Notable nonfiction of 2015
  • New York Times: The top books of 2015

  • More on ISIS: The State of Terror

    "...a timely warning..."

    Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
    "At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective." -- New York Times

    More on Jihad Joe

  • Hamilton 68: Tracking Russian Propaganda on Twitter
  • GWU: ISIS's Diminishing Returns on Twitter
  • Brookings Institution: The ISIS Twitter Census
  • ISIS Recruiting: Tailored Online Interventions
  • ISIS Social Media: The Metronome of Apocalyptic Time
  • Who Matters Online: Measuring Extremist Influence
  • ISIS: The State of Terror
  • J.M. Berger, Senate testimony on ISIS recruitment
  • J.M. Berger, House testimony on ISIS social media
  • Panel Video: New Technology, Bad Actors
  • Panel Video: ISIS Propaganda and Ideology



    Donald Trump has become a darling of white nationalists in the United States. He has been endorsed by the nation’s most prominent neo-Nazis and both current and former Klansmen, and he is supported online by a legion of racist and anti-Semitic trollsThe candidatehis son and his surrogates have tweeted white nationalist content, and the RNC even displayed a white nationalist’s tweet during the Republican convention.
    But it wasn’t always like this. Even after years of championing racially tinged questions about President Barack Obama’s birthplace, as recently as 2015 Trump was treated with disdain and suspicion by most white nationalists. Many claimed he was secretly Jewish, or in thrall to Jewish interests. Others saw him as a blowhard and egomaniac, a mercenary who was out only for himself. This is the story of how Trump won not only their votes but, eventually, their enthusiasm. 

    Full story at Politico


    Government efforts to counter violent extremist among white nationalists were always symbolic, but the decision to end them is also a powerful symbol of the new administration's wider embrace and empowerment of white nationalism.

    Full analysis at the Washington Post



    Extremism has existed for thousands of years, and it comes in many flavors. It is part of the human experience and not exclusive to any one group. And thanks to a brave new world of instant global connectivity, the problem is perhaps more diverse than ever before. Extremism is a socially transmitted disease, and there are more vectors for infection than at any time in history. While it is tempting to review recent history, and conclude that extremists are somehow “winning the war of ideas,” that isn’t exactly true. 


    Major publications and appearances in 2017 and 2018:
    Major publications in 2016:
    Selected earlier works: 


    This International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, Counter-Terrorism Strategic Communications Project Research Paper examines how the white supremacist movement Christian Identity emerged from a non-extremist forerunner known as British Israelism. By examining ideological shifts over the course of nearly a century, the paper seeks to identify key pivot points in the movement’s shift toward extremism and explain the process through which extremist ideologues construct and define in-group and out-group identities. Based on these findings, the paper proposes a new framework for analyzing and understanding the behavior and emergence of extremist groups. The proposed framework can be leveraged to design strategic counter-terrorism communications programs using a linkage-based approach that deconstructs the process of extremist in-group and out-group definition. Future publications will continue this study, seeking to refine the framework and operationalize messaging recommendations.

    Read the full research paper

    Related: The Dangerous New Americanism


    The Turner Diaries, the infamous racist dystopian novel by neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce, has inspired more than 200 murders since its publication in 1978, including the single deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, the Oklahoma City bombing.

    The book is arguably the most important single work of white nationalist propaganda in the English language, but it is not a singular artifact. The Turner Diaries is part of a genre of racist dystopian propaganda dating back to the U.S. Civil War. A new paper from J.M. Berger documents the books that directly and indirectly inspired Turner and examine the extensive violence that the novel has inspired.

    Related posts on World Gone Wrong: 

    ISIS and the Dystopian Spectacle

    One of the most popular tropes in dystopian fiction is the “violent spectacle.” Immortalized in recent years by The Hunger Games series, the concept is simple: A corrupt society uses some public display or broadcast of violence to manipulate the masses. But it’s never been purely fiction.

    Read the article

    What Sovereign Citizens Believe

    Members of the sovereign citizen movement are increasingly in the news for their violent confrontations with law enforcement, but their confusing ideology can be difficult to understand. This paper explains in simple language what sovereigns believe, and where those beliefs originated. | Read the full paper (PDF) 


    J.M. Berger is a fellow with the Counter-Terrorism Strategic Communications (CTSC) Project, led by the International Centre for Counter Terrorism – The Hague, a collaborative project bringing together experts from Europe, the United States and Australia as well as researchers from the Middle East and South Asia. It was set up to tackle one of the most significant national and global security challenges facing the world today: how to understand and confront the propaganda messaging of violent extremists. Through empirical research, based largely on primary source materials and in-country fieldwork, the project aims to test assumptions and evaluate past campaigns in order to develop key principles and guidelines for counter-terrorism strategic communications efforts. Other CTSC fellows and experts include Dr. Alastair ReedDr. Haroro J. IngramCharlie Winter and Dr. Craig Whiteside. For publications and more information, click here.


    The Hamilton 68 dashboard, part of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, provides a near real-time look at Russian propaganda and disinformation efforts online. The dashboard illustrates the themes that Vladimir Putin is promoting to Americans in pursuit of his foreign policy objectives--including the break up of the European Union, the dissolution of NATO and the failure of democratic governance in the United States specifically and in the West broadly.


  • Misunderestimating ISIS
  • The Middle East's Franz Ferdinand Moment
  • J.M. Berger, Senate testimony on ISIS recruitment
  • J.M. Berger, House testimony on ISIS social media
  • The Irregulars: Should we let ISIS claim just any attack?
  • ISIS vs. al Qaeda: The next jihadi superpower
  • Threat vs. Impact in Terrorism
  • ISIS Twitter: Resistible Force Meets Movable Object
  • IS/ISIS/ISIL: What's in a Name?
  • Zawahiri's Silence Raises Concerns With Nusra Supporters
  • Islamic State Massacre Provokes Backlash
  • The Daily Beast: ISIS Takes a Big Gamble
  • The Atlantic: How ISIS Games Twitter
  • Analysis: How Online Fundraising Networks Are Reacting to ISIS
  • A New Day for ISIS: Considerations
  • War on Error: Understanding the evolution of al Qaeda


  • #Unfollow: Why Kicking Terrorists Off Twitter Works
  • How Metadata Works: What the NSA Does with Phone Records
  • Who Matters Online: Metrics for Monitoring Extremism Online
  • Foreign Policy: Fringe Following
  • Understanding the NSA's Location Data
  • Visualizing CVE Audiences
  • Recalculating the SPLC's Hate List


  • A Way Forward for CVE: The Five Ds
  • Monsters and Children: Politics And How We Talk About Muslims
  • The Value of Exposing Collaborators
  • The 'You Name It!' Problem
  • White House CVE Strategy Full of Sound and Fury
  • Terrorist Acts, Terrorist Thoughts


  • Sex as a Weapon: Blurry Line Between Informants and Agents
  • FBI Undercover Operations And Timothy McVeigh
  • White Paper: PATCON infiltration and Oklahoma City
  • Video: Panel on infiltration, New America Foundation
  • A Nation of Spies and Snitches


  • The Enduring Appeal of Awlaqi's "Constants of Jihad"
  • The Myth of Anwar Awlaki
  • Gone But Not Forgotten
  • Anwar Al-Awlaki's Links to the September 11 Hijackers
  • Anwar Awlaki's Emails with Fort Hood Shooter


  • Omar and Me: My Strange Relationship with an American Jihadi
  • Bum Rap: Omar Hammami Disavows Jihadist Raps
  • Best-Liked on the Most-Wanted
  • Former Jihadist Friend Rips Hammami in Online Post
  • Foreign Policy: Me against the World
  • Omar Hammami and the Trolls of Jihad


  • Newtown and the Doomsday Preppers
  • White Nationalists See Opportunity After Election
  • How the Recession Helps Extremists
  • Recalculating the SPLC's Hate List
  • New York Times: Has threat from hate groups been overlooked?
  • Temple shooting suspect linked to Florida terror probe
  • Did You Hear The One About U.S. Internment Camps?
  • Unplaying the Race Card in the Patriot Movement
  • The Evolution of Race in the Patriot Movement
  • Mongol Hordes Take Manhattan


  • Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam
  • Exclusive: Omar Hammami on why Al Shabab wants to kill him
  • Bun Rap: Omar Hammami Disavows Propaganda Beats
  • The Boy Who Cried Lone Wolf
  • Why U.S. Terrorists Reject the Al Qaeda Playbook
  • Baltimore's Jamaat al-Muslimeen: Radical But Disciplined
  • Al Qaeda's Gun Fixation
  • The History of Chechen Jihadists in Boston


  • FBI's Investigative Files on 9/11
  • CIA records on Al Qaeda and bin Laden
  • Beatings and Bureaucracy: Al Qaeda's Founding Memos
  • State Department Secretly Met With Followers of Blind Sheikh
  • Oklahoma City Bombing Documents
  • The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto