Backfire materials

The backfire model is a framework for understanding tactics used by perpetrators of injustice and how to oppose them.

This page lists articles in reverse chronological order. Also available: backfire materials organised by topic


Backfire basics. A three-page outline of the backfire model, 2005, updated 2012. Translations available in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Portuguese-Brazil, Portuguese-Continental, Spanish, Tagalog and Turkish and a summary of points in Tamil.


Brian Martin. Backfire manual: tactics against injustice (Sparsnäs, Sweden: Irene Publishing, 2012), 106 pages. A practical handbook for activists. Published in Chinese, 2017

Brian Martin. Justice Ignited: The Dynamics of Backfire (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), 244 pages

PhD theses

Aloysia Brooks. The annihilation of memory and silent suffering: inhibiting outrage at the injustice of torture in the War on Terror in Australia. PhD thesis, University of Wollongong, 2017.

Mary Scott. Water privatization tactics: Cochabamba, Manila, New Delhi. PhD thesis, University of Wollongong, 2015. Tactics used to encourage acceptance of putting public water supplies in private hands.

Brendan Riddick. Political violence and the management of outrage: the convergence of media and political power to conceal human suffering in the "war on terror". PhD thesis, University of Wollongong, 2013. The backfire and propaganda models applied to aspects of the war on terror, including Afghanistan, Fallujah, the Nisour Square Massacre, and drones.

Patrick Hodder. Climate conflict: players and tactics in the greenhouse game. PhD thesis, University of Wollongong, 2011. Tactics used by industry, government and scientists in the climate change struggle.

Articles and chapters

These articles apply the backfire model to different case studies, as indicated by the titles or annotations.

Brian Martin. How to counter Trump's efforts to reduce outrage. Waging Nonviolence, 15 February 2017.

Susan Engel and Brian Martin. Challenging economic inequality: tactics and strategies. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 50, No. 49, 5 December 2015, pp. 42-48.

Brian Martin. How activists can challenge double standards. Interface: a journal for and about social movements, Vol. 7, No. 2, November 2015, pp. 201-213. Tactics for exposing and countering double standards by governments and other powerful groups.

Brian Martin. Australian medics refuse to be silenced over refugee abuse at detention centers. Waging Nonviolence, 1 October 2015 and openDemocracy, 1 October 2015

Brian Martin. From political jiu-jitsu to the backfire dynamic: how repression can promote mobilization. In Kurt Schock (ed.), Civil Resistance: Comparative Perspectives on Nonviolent Struggle (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2015), pp. 145-167

Sue Curry Jansen and Brian Martin. The Streisand effect and censorship backfire. International Journal of Communication, Vol. 9, 2015, pp. 656-671. Censorship can backfire, but often it doesn't.

Brian Martin. Tactics of political lying: the Iguanas affair. Journal of Language and Politics, vol. 13, no. 4, 2014, pp. 837-856. Two models for analysing tactics of political lying are applied to claims concerning the behaviour of two Australian politicians.

Brendan Riddick. Outrage in Fallujah: strategies in the communication of political violence. In Anabèl Ternes (ed.), Communication: Breakdowns and Breakthroughs (Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2013), pp. 173-183.

Brian Martin. Euthanasia tactics: patterns of injustice and outrage. SpringerPlus, Vol. 2, No. 256, 6 June 2013. Struggles over euthanasia, from the Nazi T4 programme to denial of voluntary euthanasia.

Brendan Riddick. The bombing of Afghanistan: the convergence of media and political power to reduce outrage. Revista de Paz y Conflictos, No. 5, 2012, pp. 6-19.

Brian Martin. Breaking the siege: guidelines for struggle in science. In Science under Siege: Zoology under Threat, eds. Peter Banks, Daniel Lunney and Chris Dickman (Sydney: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, 2012), pp. 164-170. A zoology case study is used to illustrate tactics.

Brian Martin. Corruption tactics: outrage management in a local government scandal. Resistance Studies Magazine, 2012. An analysis of tactics in the Wollongong corruption scandal.

Brian Martin. Debating vaccination: understanding the attack on the Australian Vaccination Network. Living Wisdom, Issue 8, 2011, pp. 14-40. Also available in pdf. Part 3 includes an analysis of tactics used by the AVN's opponents and how to counter them.

Brian Martin. Defending dissent. In Sue Curry Jansen, Jefferson Pooley and Lora Taub-Pervizpour (editors), Media and Social Justice (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pages 145-158. Defamation, whistleblowing and censorship backfire: a personal account.

Brian Martin, Chris Moore and Colin Salter. Sharing music files: tactics of a challenge to the industry. First Monday, Vol. 15, No. 12, 6 December 2010.

Paula McDonald, Tina Graham and Brian Martin. Outrage management in cases of sexual harassment as revealed in judicial decisions. Psychology of Women Quarterly, Vol. 34, 2010, pp. 165-180.

Brian Martin. Theory for activists. Social Anarchism, No. 44, 2010, pp. 22-41. Comments on developing theory using the example of the backfire model.

Brian Martin. Flotilla tactics: how an Israeli attack backfired. Truthout, 27 July 2010. Tactics used in the Israeli attack on the Free Gaza flotilla, May 2010.

Brian Martin. From means to ends and back again. In Jørgen Johansen and John Y. Jones (eds.), Experiments with Peace: Celebrating Peace on Johan Galtung's 80th Birthday (Cape Town, South Africa: Pambazuka Press, 2010), pp. 214-219. In social action, it can be useful to turn goals into methods and methods into goals.

Brian Martin. How to attack a scientific theory and get away with it (usually): the attempt to destroy an origin-of-AIDS hypothesis. Science as Culture, Vol. 19, No. 2, June 2010, pp. 215-239. Tactics used in a scientific dispute to minimise outrage over perceptions of transgressing proper scientific behaviour.

Brian Martin. Managing outrage over genocide: case study Rwanda. Global Change, Peace & Security, Vol. 21, No. 3, October 2009, pp. 275-290.

Brian Martin. Corruption, outrage and whistleblowing. In Ronald J. Burke and Cary L. Cooper (eds.), Research Companion to Corruption in Organizations (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2009), pp. 206-216. Tactics used by corrupt operators to minimise outrage, and implications for whistleblowers.

Brian Martin. Making accompaniment effective. In Howard Clark (ed.), People Power: Unarmed Resistance and Global Solidarity (London: Pluto Press, 2009), pp. 93-97. The effectiveness of accompaniment - using international observers to protect activists under threat - is explained using the backfire model.

Brian Martin. Plagiarism struggles. Plagiary: Cross-Disciplinary Studies in Plagiarism, Fabrication, and Falsification, Vol. 3, 2008. Tactics used by (alleged) plagiarists and those trying to detect or expose them.

Brian Martin. Enabling scientific dissent. New Doctor, No. 88, December 2008, pp. 2-5. Techniques for resisting attacks on dissent in science.

Samantha Reis and Brian Martin. Psychological dynamics of outrage against injustice. Peace Research: The Canadian Journal of Peace and Conflict Studies, Vol. 40, No. 1, 2008, pp. 5-23.

Brian Yecies. Planet Hallyuwood's political vulnerabilities: censuring the expression of satire in The President's Last Bang (2005). International Review of Korean Studies, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2008, pp. 37-64. Censorship tactics over the Korean film The President's Last Bang (2005, directed by Im Sang-soo).

Paula McDonald and Sandra Backstrom. Fighting back: workplace sexual harassment and the case of North Country. Australian Bulletin of Labour, Vol. 39, No. 1, 2008, pp. 47-63. How a victim opposed sexual harassment in the film North Country.

Brian Martin. The Henson affair: conflicting injustices. Australian Review of Public Affairs, July 2008. Tactics used in relation to Bill Henson's photographs of a naked girl are assessed as to whether they are characteristic of those used by perpetrators of injustice.

Truda Gray and Brian Martin. My Lai: the struggle over outrage. Peace & Change, Vol. 33, No. 1, January 2008, pp. 90-113. A backfire analysis of the 1968 My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war.

Truda Gray and Brian Martin. The American war in Indochina: injustice and outrage. Revista de Paz y Conflictos, No. 1, 2008, pp. 6-28. How the US government tried to inhibit outrage from the bombing, the Phoenix Program and the My Lai massacre.

Jørgen Johansen and Brian Martin. Sending the protest message. Gandhi Marg, Vol. 29, No. 4, January-March 2008, pp. 503-519. How protesters can connect with audiences, align their methods with their messages and deal with attacks.

Brian Martin. Opposing surveillance. In Katina Michael and M. G. Michael (eds), From dataveillance to überveillance and the realpolitik of the transparent society: the second workshop on the social implications of national security, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, 2007, pp. 71-82. Later published in IEEE Technology & Society Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 2, Summer 2010, pp. 26-32. Methods of resisting surveillance.

Kylie Smith and Brian Martin. Tactics of labor struggles. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, Vol. 19, No. 3, September 2007, pp. 193-206. How employers try to reduce outrage from anti-worker actions, with special attention to Patricks versus the Maritime Union of Australia.

Hugh de Kretser. Prison litigation: barriers to justice. Precedent (journal of the Australian Lawyers Alliance), Issue 81, July/August 2007, pp. 29-33: obstacles to justice when prisoners are abused by prison officers.

Brian Martin. Energising dissent. D!ssent, No. 24, Spring 2007, pp. 62-64: methods of resisting suppression of dissent, with a focus on Australia.

Truda Gray and Brian Martin. Backfires: white, black and grey. Journal of Information Warfare, Vol. 7, Issue 1, 2007, pp. 7-16: perpetrators can use black operations or ambiguous events as a pretext for action.

Truda Gray and Brian Martin. Defamation and the art of backfire. Deakin Law Review, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2006, pp. 115-136. Five examples are used to show how defamation suits can backfire.

Susan Engel and Brian Martin. Union Carbide and James Hardie: lessons in politics and power. Global Society: Journal of Interdisciplinary International Relations, Vol. 20, No. 4, October 2006, pp. 475-490: the disasters of Bhopal and asbestos were potential backfires for the corporations held responsible.

Andrew Herd. Official channels or public action: refugees in Australia. Flinders Journal of History and Politics, Vol. 23, 2006, pp. 117-134.

Andrew Herd. Amplifying outrage over children overboard. Social Alternatives, Vol. 25, No. 2, Second Quarter 2006, pp. 59-63: the Australian government misrepresented the actions of refugees.

David Hess and Brian Martin. Repression, backfire, and the theory of transformative events. Mobilization, Vol. 11, No. 1, June 2006, pp. 249-267: backfires can be transformative events for social movements, as show by the cases of the 1930 salt march, the 1991 Dili massacre and 1972 arrest of alternative cancer therapist John Richardson.

Greg Scott and Brian Martin. Tactics against sexual harassment: the role of backfire. Journal of International Women's Studies, Vol. 7, No. 4, May 2006, pp. 111-125. The case of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas is used to illustrate how to oppose sexual harassment.

Brian Martin. The beating of Rodney King: the dynamics of backfire. Critical Criminology, Vol. 13, No. 3, 2005, pp. 307-326.

Brian Martin. How nonviolence works. Borderlands e-journal, Vol. 4, No. 3, 2005; reprinted in Charles P. Webel and Jørgen Johansen (eds.), Peace and Conflict Studies: A Reader (London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 289-298: the events at the salt march illustrate how backfire analysis can extend Sharp's concept of political jiu-jitsu.

Brian Martin and Iain Murray. The Parkin backfire. Social Alternatives, Vol. 24, No. 3, Third Quarter 2005, pp. 46-49, 70: activists opposing the deportation of US peace activist Scott Parkin from Australia in 2005 used backfire techniques.

Brian Martin. Bucking the system: Andrew Wilkie and the difficult task of the whistleblower. Overland, No. 180, Spring 2005, pp. 45-48.

Brian Martin and Truda Gray. How to make defamation threats and actions backfire. Australian Journalism Review, Vol. 27, No. 1, July 2005, pp. 157-166.

Brian Martin. Boomerangs of academic freedom. Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, #12, 2005, pp. 64-79. A summary published as "The boomerang effect," Campus Review, Vol. 15, No. 26, 6 July 2005, p. 5. The dismissal of biologist Ted Steele from the University of Wollongong is analysed in backfire terms.

Sharon Callaghan and Brian Martin. Igniting concern about refugee injustice. In: Rick Flowers (ed.), Education and Social Action Conference, 6-8 December 2004 (Sydney: Centre for Popular Education, University of Technology, Sydney, 2004), pp. 299-303.

Sue Curry Jansen and Brian Martin. Exposing and opposing censorship: backfire dynamics in freedom-of-speech struggles. Pacific Journalism Review, Vol. 10, No. 1, April 2004, pp. 29-45.

Brian Martin. Iraq attack backfire. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 39, No. 16, 17-23 April 2004, pp. 1577-1583.

Brian Martin. The Richardson dismissal as an academic boomerang. In: Kenneth Westhues (ed.), Workplace Mobbing in Academe: Reports from Twenty Universities (Queenston, Ontario: Edwin Mellen Press, 2004), pp. 317-330. Also in Kenneth Westhues, Administrative Mobbing at the University of Toronto: The Trial, Degradation and Dismissal of a Professor during the Presidency of J. Robert S. Prichard (Queenston, Ontario: Edwin Mellen Press, 2004), Essays in Response, pp. 70-83.

Brian Martin with Will Rifkin. The dynamics of employee dissent: whistleblowers and organizational jiu-jitsu. Public Organization Review, Vol. 4, 2004, pp. 221-238.

Sue Curry Jansen and Brian Martin. Making censorship backfire. Counterpoise, Vol. 7, No. 3, July 2003, pp. 5-15.

Brian Martin and Steve Wright. Countershock: mobilizing resistance to electroshock weapons. Medicine, Conflict and Survival, Vol. 19, No. 3, July-September 2003, pp. 205-222: backfire analysis of the use of torture technology.


Other articles

Review of Eve Hillary, Sarah's Last Wish, in The Whistle (Newsletter of Whistleblowers Australia), No. 64, October 2010, pp. 10-12. Challenging medical abuse.

Brian Martin. Brave few expose corruption. Illawarra Mercury, 26 April 2008, p. 56. Tactics against corruption in Wollongong.

Jørgen Johansen and Brian Martin. Sending the protest message. Gandhi Marg, Vol. 29, No. 4, January-March 2008, pp. 503-519. How protesters can connect with audiences, align their methods with their messages and deal with attacks.

Brian Martin. Tactics against bullying at work. 2007.

Brian Martin and Steve Wright. Looming struggles over technology for border control. Journal of Organisational Transformation and Social Change, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2006, pp. 95-107.

Brian Martin. What to do when you've been defamed. The Whistle (Newsletter of Whistleblowers Australia), No. 45, February 2006, pp. 11-12.

Brian Martin. Resisting unfair dismissal: a campaigning approach. Leaflet, September 2005. Text published in The Whistle (Freedom to Care, UK), No. 26, October 2005, pp. 4-6.

Brian Martin. Hold a cover-up in the open. Sydney Morning Herald, 23 June 2005, p. 15.

Brian Martin. Rallying support. Peace News, March-May 2003, pp. 32-33.


Talks and workshops

Backfire workshop: notes for a low-technology workshop for 2-20 people, by Brian Martin.

Backfire workshop: notes for a workshop, plus handouts on promoting backfire and on Plan B, by Jason MacLeod.

"Tactics against injustice": a powerpoint show (1MB) for giving a talk/workshop, by Brian Martin.


Go to

Brian Martin's publications

Brian Martin's website