Sageman's Slips

Leaderless Counterterrorism Strategy Portal Page

There are only a handful of references to the major scholarly works in the area of multi-disciplinary study of religion and violence and apocalypticism, and violence in the Sageman book. Sageman discusses “heroic sacrifice,” “martyrdom,” “absolute evil,” and the creation of a “personified villain.” (p. 82)

Yet Sageman does not mention the underlying scholarly studies that look at dualism, scapegoating, demonization, apocalypticism, millenarianism, and the sacralization of politics.

In two cases, perceptive text in Sageman's book Leaderless Jihad originates in the published work of other scholars, yet is not cited. This is a form of academic plagiarism.

See: Sageman & Plagiarism


Sageman dismisses scholarship on totalitarianism and totalist groups as the “myth” of “brainwashing” (pp.50-51), ignoring the scholarly work of Lifton, Strozier and others on the role of totalist systems of belief on violence and terrorism. Since the 1990s there has been a resurgence of scholarly interest in totalitarian groups, and there is even a scholarly journal of Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions with articles detailing the relationship to terrorism.1 Sageman’s discussion of conspiracism is weak and superficial. (pp. 81-82). He provides no cites to the standard works in the field, and plagiarizes the work of Richard Hofstadter.

Sageman's discussion of Leaderless Resistance is flawed.

-Chip Berlet


1 I am on the editorial advisory board of the journal Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions.


Marc Sageman Background Information


Leaderless Counterterrorism Strategy:
The “War on Terror,” Civil Liberties, and Flawed Scholarship

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