Author, analyst and consultant on extremismJ.M. Berger is the author of Extremism (MIT Press, August 2018). He is a research fellow with VOX-Pol and a postgraduate research student at Swansea University's School of Law, where he studies extremist ideologies.
Berger's work encompasses extremism and terrorism, propaganda, and social media analytical techniques. As a consultant for social media and security companies and government agencies, he has conducted research and training on issues related to homegrown terrorism, online extremism, advanced social media analysis, and countering violent extremism (CVE).
Berger is co-author with Jessica Stern of ISIS: The State of Terror, and author of Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam. In addition to writing for The Atlantic and Politico, he 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.
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, such as the history of The Turner Diaries, the evolution of Christian Identity, and the impact of white nationalism on the 2016 presidential election. He is an associate fellow with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, The Hague, and a non-resident fellow with the Alliance for Securing Democracy. He previously served as an on-air consultant with PBS and as a producer for NPR.
Berger has lectured at Harvard University, Carnegie-Mellon University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, American University, Leiden 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.
LONDON AND THE CLASH OF EXTREMISTS
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.
UNDERSTANDING ISIS IDEOLOGYAs 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
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
MORE RECENT WORK
HOW DONALD TRUMP WON THE VOTE FROM SKEPTICAL WHITE NATIONALISTS
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
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION CVE SHIFT IS PART OF A PRO-WHITE NATIONALIST PATTERNGovernment 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
BOOKS BY J.M. BERGER
NEW: THE ALT-RIGHT TWITTER CENSUSVOX-Pol has released its latest report in the VOX-Pol publication series, titled The Alt-Right Twitter Census: Defining and Describing the Audience for Alt-Right Content on Twitter, authored by J.M. Berger, on 15 October 2018.
This report defines and describes the alt-right audience on twitter, and identifies the top ten most influential twitter accounts for the alt-right online. Since 2016, the alt-right have held a significant spot in global politics due to their continually expanding online presence. The report examines this online presence ‘with robust metrics and an analysis of content shared by adherents’, primarily on Twitter.
All VOX-Pol reports are open-access. This report is available for download HERE. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the report, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your request.
Related: The Alt-Right in Europe
Related: Trump Is the Glue That Binds the Far Right
OUT OF MANY, ONE: DEFINING THE OPPOSITE OF EXTREMISM
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:
EXTREMIST CONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITY
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 LEGACY
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
OUT NOW: 'EXTREMISM' by J.M. BERGER
Review: "This book is one of the first serious attempts to provide answers to the lack of scholarly consensus about what extremism means. The author does so by way of a meticulous study of historical phenomena..."
Review: "...broadening of the frame allows Berger a set of analytic insights that were obscured by detail in earlier, more limited studies, and his book is the elegant formulation of those insights, simply, and with a forest of scholarship in support."
Review: "J.M. Berger’s book Extremism is truly exceptional. This book provides the most intelligent, insightful and accessible treatment of extremist belief systems and their implications. It will be required reading for graduate students in my seminar next semester."
Review: "Like any good work on a complicated subject, the author challenges his readers, setting forth propositions and offering questions that encourage the reader to think about the formation of their own worldview and sense of identity. Berger has also written a highly accessible book, which allows readers who may only possess a cursory understanding of the historical context and trends that shaped the emergence of modern-day extremism, to delve more deeply into this relevant issue."
VIDEO: U.S. book launch at the New America Foundation
Readers react: Read the first reviews on Twitter
Buy now! 'Extremism,' Kindle edition, by J.M. Berger
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COUNTER-TERRORISM STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS PROJECT
J.M. Berger is a fellow with the Counter-Terrorism Strategic Communications (CTSC) Project, led by Dr. Alastair Reed, a collaborative program bringing together experts from around the world 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. Haroro J. Ingram, Charlie Winter and Dr. Craig Whiteside. For past publications, click here.
SELECTED WORKS ON ISIS
BIG DATA AND EXTREMISM
COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM (CVE)
FBI USE OF INFORMANTS
EXCLUSIVE PRIMARY SOURCE DOCUMENTS