Publication Details

Martin, B, The beating of Rodney King: the dynamics of backfire, Critical Criminology, 2005, 13(3), 307-326. The original publication is available here from Springer.


The 1991 beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police provides rich case material in how an attack perceived as unjust can backfire. Drawing on nonviolence theory, an original framework is developed to analyze attacks as potential backfires that are usually, but not always, inhibited. Attackers can use a variety of methods to inhibit backfires, including covering up the attack, devaluing the target, reinterpreting the events, using official channels, and using intimidation and bribery. Writings on the Rodney King beating include evidence on the use of each of these methods. Studying the backfire process offers improved understanding on how to oppose unjust attacks.



Link to publisher version (DOI)