Backfire materials

by Brian Martin and others


For the most up-to-date version of this page, go to



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.


Brian Martin. Justice Ignited: The Dynamics of Backfire (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). The backfire model explained with many case studies, including Sharpeville, Dili, Dharasana, Rodney King beating, whistleblowers, dismissal of Ted Steele, environmental disasters, invasion of Iraq, Abu Ghraib, torture technology, and terrorism. Available direct from Rowman & Littlefield (also via Customer Service, toll free phone (800) 462-6420, fax (800) 338-4550, email



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

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. 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. 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: 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, Vol. 6, No. 2, June 2005. 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

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