Logos Consulting Group is pleased to announce that the next book by Logos President Helio Fred Garcia is now available for pre-order.

Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It is about the power of communication to do great harm, and how civic leaders and engaged citizens can hold leaders accountable to prevent such harm. Garcia focuses on the forms of communication that condition an audience to accept, condone, and commit violence against a targeted group, rival, or critic.


Sending Up a Flare

In the book’s preface Garcia writes,

“In my teaching and research, I study patterns: patterns that help leaders enhance competitive advantage, build trust and loyalty, and change the world for the better. I study the patterns of audience engagement and audience reaction. I study persuasion and influence, and the power of language to change people, mostly for the better.”

But he also provides a caution:

“I’ve also been acutely aware of the use of communication to hurt, to harm, and to humiliate, and of how dehumanizing and demonizing language can lead some people to commit acts of violence. I typically don’t teach those things in a classroom, but I often send up a flare, warning students, former students, and others of the predictable, if unintended, consequences of speech that, under the right conditions, can influence people to accept, condone and commit violence against members of a group.”

Garcia notes that he found himself sending up many flares in recent years, but that something changed in 2018. In the Fall of that year he posted on social media persistent warnings about stochastic terrorism, the technical term for language that provokes some people to commit violence. He says,

“My concern grew into alarm as the 2018 mid-term elections approached and as President Trump’s language crossed a line. I worried that someone would be killed by Trump followers who embraced his increasingly incendiary rhetoric about immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, and critics.”

Garcia’s fears were soon realized.

“In a single week, about ten days before the mid-terms, two separate terror attacks took place: one killed eleven people at worship in a synagogue; one failed but had targeted a dozen Trump critics with mail bombs. In both cases the perpetrators justified their actions by quoting Trump language. One of them, the mail bomber, described his conversion from being apolitical to being ‘a soldier in the war between right and left’ that resulted from his several years in Trump’s orbit.”

The following day Garcia posted a blog on Daily Kos describing the relationship between language and violence. That post was republished by CommPro.biz. Words on Fire is the continuation of that original blog post.

In reflecting on the President’s language, Garcia noticed another pattern: the forms of his language were familiar. He realized that the president was using the very same rhetorical techniques that had preceded previous mass murders, including genocides. He worried that, left unchecked, the president would continue, with increasingly dire consequences.

Garcia explored the kinds of language that historically had preceded acts of mass violence. And he studied contemporary sources including the U.S. Holocaust Museum Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. The center defines “dangerous speech” as:

“speech that increases the risk for violence targeting certain people because of their membership in a group, such as an ethnic, religious, or racial group. It includes both speech that qualifies as incitement and speech that makes incitement possible by conditioning its audience to accept, condone, and commit violence against people who belong to a targeted group.”

One of the key elements of creating such conditions is to dehumanize others. The Center’s handbook Defusing Hate notes that:

 “Dangerous speech often dehumanizes the group it targets (e.g., by calling its members rats, dogs, or lice), accuses the target group of planning to harm the audience, and presents the target group’s existence as a dire threat to the audience.”

Garcia also studied the work of Yale University philosopher Jason Stanley, who says that when leaders persistently dehumanize others they lessen the capacity of citizens to empathize.

The Playbook

Dangerous speech begins with dehumanization but doesn’t end there. Garcia has identified twelve communication techniques that individually and collectively create a social context that conditions an audience to accept, condone, and commit violence against people who belong to a targeted group. Each technique is a bit different from the other, although the individual techniques have elements in common. They serve as a kind of Playbook that malicious leaders have used to divide communities and to accumulate power. The twelve forms are:

  1. Dehumanize: Calling groups of people animals or vermin who are infesting the nation.
  2. Demonize/Delegitimize: Attributing to a group or rival a menacing, evil identity or calling into question the legitimacy or qualification of a group or rival.
  3. Scapegoat: Blaming a group for all or many of the nation’s problems.
  4. Public Health Threat: Claiming that members of a group are carrying or transmitting dangerous diseases.
  5. Safety Threat: Claiming that a group, rival, or critic is a threat to public safety – likely to cause death or injury to the nation or to the dominant group – or is a threat to civic order.
  6. Violent Motive: Claiming that a group has violent or hostile intentions toward a dominant group.
  7. Severely Exaggerating Risk: Labelling a minor issue or routine event a major threat.
  8. Sinister Identities: Attributing vague or sinister identities to a group or its members.
  9. Conspiracy: Saying that something is part of a sinister conspiracy.
  10. Discredit Information: Discrediting the source of objective information or of information critical of the leader.
  11. Conflation: Conflating the leader and the state, so that any criticism of the leader is seen as an attack on the nation.
  12. Menacing Image: Juxtaposing a menacing image (noose, swastika, flaming cross) with a person or person’s image, a location, or a facility associated with the target.

Words on Fire documents these forms of communication, and the consequences of that language, both before Trump and by Trump.

But it does more. It assesses how American political life came to this dangerous and demoralizing place.

And it offers hope, a path forward: a framework, a mindset, and a set of techniques to help civic leaders and informed citizens recognize the patterns of dangerous speech early, intervene early, hold those who use such language accountable for the consequences, and ideally prevent such violence in the first place.

Garcia and a team of researchers spent 14 months working on the book. In addition to studying historic mass killings that followed the persistent use of dangerous speech, Garcia and his researchers watched hundreds of rallies, interviews, and public appearances by Donald Trump as candidate and president, and read thousands of his tweets. Garcia also examined hate crime violence statistics and trends. And he examined national security and law enforcement scholarship on lone wolf violence up to and including lone wolf terrorism. Garcia synthesizes the fruits of this research and describes how lone wolves develop a terrorist mindset and how they are activated to commit violence.


From Stochastic Terrorism to Lone-Wolf Whistle Terrorism

Since 9/11 the use of communication in ways that trigger lone wolves to commit acts of violence, up to and including terrorism, has been known as stochastic terrorism. The name comes from a principle in statistics and describes something that may be statistically predictable but not individually predictable.

But Garcia has concluded that the phrase stochastic terrorism is difficult to grasp, and even to say, and tends to limit discussion. He proposes a different way to describe the phenomenon, based on who is motivated to act on the communication – lone wolves – and what triggers them to so act – a kind of dog whistle that he calls a lone-wolf whistle.

He says:

“Acts of violence triggered by such language I call lone-wolf whistle violence. When such language triggers mass violence with a political, ideological, or similar motive I call it lone-wolf whistle terrorism.”

A Call to Action

Words on Fire also profiles leaders who stepped over the line and were called on it. All, in their own ways and in varying time frames, stopped what they were doing. As responsible leaders do.

Garcia also explores humility as an essential leadership attribute that makes empathy possible. It is empathy that allows leaders to see the damage their rhetoric may cause, and humility and empathy that lead them to stop.

The book closes by providing a framework for civic leaders, engaged citizens, journalists, and public officials to recognize when a leader may have crossed the line, and a way to understand the likely consequences of dangerous speech. Garcia takes the Lone-Wolf Whistle Terrorism Playbook and recasts it as a toolkit or checklist in the form of questions to ask that can help determine whether a leader’s rhetoric is likely to inspire lone wolves to take matters into their own hands.

Early Endorsers

Early reaction to Words on Fire by those who have read the manuscript has been quite positive, and the book has several early endorsers.

David Lapan, Colonel, USMC (ret), former Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security spokesman, says:

“Language is power, and powerful. It can uplift, or harm. Helio Fred Garcia is an astute student of language and communication. This book offers historic examples, keen insights and valuable advice on recognizing patterns of language that can harm or lead to violence.”

Evan Wolfson, Founder, Freedom to Marry, says:

“Drawing on history and his deep expertise in communications, Helio Fred Garcia documents how Trump’s barrage of hate, divisiveness, falsehoods, and triggering are even uglier and more dangerous than we thought, right out of the autocrat’s playbook. During the Nixon administration, John Dean blew the whistle on the ‘cancer growing on the presidency.’ Words on Fire provides a clear and alarming CAT-scan of the cancer growing from this presidency, and a highly readable guide to how we can call out and combat Trump’s toxic language and malignant agenda, pushing back against the corrosive forces that enable Trumpism and put our country in such peril.”

James E. Lukaszewski, America’s Crisis Guru®, says:

“Many of us were taught a lie as youngsters that sticks and stones can break our bones, but words will never hurt us. Fred courageously, graphically and powerfully illustrates that it is words on fire that bloodlessly, without scars or visible traces cause deep internal permanent damage while often triggering accompanying physical damage. And that if we remain silent one victim incinerated by words on fire damages the rest of us.”

Lukaszewski adds,

Words On Fire should be mandatory reading and a guide book for every reporter and editor anywhere. Journalists have significant responsibility for spreading the flames of intentionally incendiary, punitive, abusive language. There should be ethical and cultural sanctions for mindlessly but intentionally originating or transmitting dangerous language. Every business school needs to develop courses for managers and leaders in detoxifying and extinguishing fiery, intentionally emotional and harmful language, whatever the source, followed by every religious leader and elected official. Important institutions in our society and culture have the affirmative responsibility to stand up and speak out against the users and use of words on fire.

Public reaction has also been positive. In the week after Words on Fire became available for Amazon pre-order, it became the Amazon #1 New Release in Rhetoric and #2 in New Releases in Public Administration the #3 best seller in Public Administration.

Words on Fire is scheduled for publication in mid-June. It is available for pre-order in both paperback and kindle edition.

Prior Books by Logos President

Words on Fire is Garcia’s fifth book. His first, published in 1998, was the two-volume Crisis Communications, now out of print.

In 2006 Garcia co-authored with his NYU colleague John Doorley Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication. That book’s fourth edition is scheduled for publication in late Spring. Reputation Management has been adopted in undergraduate and graduate public relations and communication programs around the world, and was published in Korean in Seoul in 2016,

In 2012 Garcia published The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively. The Power of Communication has been adopted by dozens of graduate and professional schools, and was named one of eight leadership books on the U.S. Marine Corps Commandant’s Professional Reading List. It was published in Chinese in Beijing in 2014.

In 2017 Garcia published The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis. The Agony of Decision was named one of the best crisis management books of all time (#2 of 51) by BookAuthority, the leading non-fiction review site. It will be published in Chinese in Beijing later this year.

Garcia has been on the New York University faculty since 1988. He is an adjunct professor of management in NYU’s Stern School of Business Executive MBA program, where he teaches crisis management, and where he was named Executive MBA Great Professor. He is an adjunct associate professor of management and communication in NYU’s School of Professional Studies, MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication program, where he twice received the Dean’s award for teaching excellence, in 1990 and in 2017.  In that program he teaches courses in communication strategy; in communication ethics, law, and regulation; and in crisis communication.

Garcia is an adjunct associate professor of professional development and leadership at Columbia University, where he teaches ethics, crisis, and leadership in the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. Garcia is also a Senior Fellow in the Institute of Corporate Communication at Communication University of China in Beijing.


Logos Consulting Group president Helio Fred Garcia was a guest on the June 1, 2018 Women Worldwide Podcast hosted by Deirdre Breakenridge. The podcast is also broadcast on the C-Suite Radio Network.

Deirdre Breakenridge, host of Women Worldwide

Breakenridge is the CEO of Pure Performance Communications and the Author of Answers for Modern Communicators: A Guide to Effective Business Communication.

After more than 25 years of mentoring women and professionals in business and communications, Deirdre Breakenridge, an author, speaker, and consultant, launched her podcast, Women Worldwide, on C-Suite Radio to give women, and some men, a voice and platform to discuss their challenging yet rewarding career journeys. Interviewed by Breakenridge, women and men around the globe share their incredible stories; those who have experienced the heights of success and at times, the agony of defeat. With a vision to impart wisdom and to help people to soar to new heights, Women Worldwide uncovers different perspectives and ways for C-Suite listeners to find their inner strength.


The interview began with Breakenridge asking Garcia to share his journey as an immigrant to the United States.  Garcia responded,

I guess my journey is what you might call a typical American immigrant journey. I got to this country from Brazil when I was six. I actually arrived one week before first grade. And I didn’t speak a word of English… My first day of school I couldn’t understand what was going on and the teachers just concluded that I was dumb. Because of my appearance — I have fair skin and blue eyes and then had blonde hair — they didn’t see me as the typical Latin American immigrant. They just assumed that I was a dumb kid.”

Garcia described how he was essentially ignored by his teachers for the first five years of school.

“But in sixth grade a very special teacher took me aside on the first day and asked me a bunch of questions. And I have a vivid memory of her just smiling and beaming and her her chin lifting up to the sky and she let out a deep breath and said, ‘My son, you’re not stupid. You don’t speak English. And she realized that for five years I hadn’t failed in school; the school had failed me. And she made me her project.”

Garcia then described how that teacher had kept him after school for 90 minutes every day for a full year.

“We caught up with all the English I hadn’t learned and she had me begin to memorize public documents– the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address.  She had me speak in the front of the room. She had me do elocution. She had me recite so that every syllable could be heard in the back of the room. She had me put marbles in my mouth and do it again so she could hear every syllable. And by the end of that year I was not only caught up, I was way ahead of my classmates.”

After Garcia recounted his personal journey, Breakenridge shifted the discussion to issues arising from Garcia’s latest book, The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis.

You can hear the entire interview here:



Worth Reading: Jock Talk: 5 Communication Principles for Leaders as Exemplified by Legends of the Sports World by Beth Noymer Levine.



I am honored to have written the Foreword to Jock Talk by my friend Beth Noymer Levine, the head of SmartMouth Communications.

It is an inspiring book that will help any reader enhance his or her leadership communication skill.   Well worth reading, digesting, and applying.

Beth Noymer Levine, Author of Jock Talk

Beth Noymer Levine, Author of Jock Talk


The following is adapted from the Foreword:

Thirty years ago I made one of the best business decisions of my career. I hired Beth Noymer Levine.

I had just started work in the world’s largest PR firm, one of 25 people devoted full-time to a single Wall Street client. I was a mid-level member of the group, tasked with assembling a small team to promote our client’s nascent investment banking business. Beth became part of our five-person investment banking communication team. It was 1985, the go-go years on Wall Street — just a few years before actor Charlie Sheen captured the pace and possibilities, as well as the consequences of overdoing it, in the film Wall Street. We spent our days at our client’s Wall Street offices and trading floor, grazing for news by morning and early afternoon, and speaking with the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other media by late afternoon, all to earn our client a disproportionate share of voice in the papers.


We were young and brash and somewhat fearless. We began not knowing a thing about Wall Street — in my job interview I had to point out that I didn’t know the difference between a stock and a bond. My future boss reassured me, “you will.” And indeed we learned. And Beth was a star, earning not only our trust but also that of our (sometimes difficult) client and the news media. She was very, very good at it.

After a few years I left for another firm, and Beth also left for yet another. We reconnected at the end of the decade, when I became head of communication for a large investment bank. I retained Beth’s firm. Beth became my advisor, and I discovered that she had assembled her own team of young, brash, and talented investment banking communicators.

A couple of years later I had begun teaching investor relations and financial communication at New York University’s Marketing & Management Institute. They asked me to teach another course, so I needed to hand off Investor Relations. I could think of only one person to take over the course: Beth. She joined the NYU faculty and taught brilliantly for the next several years. Then her career led her to Atlanta, where she became head of corporate communications for a large bank – one that eventually would become part of Bank of America.

And then we went our separate ways. Beth started her own consulting practice and got involved in the world of Olympic and professional sports in addition to the corporate world. I spent the next 20 years building a crisis and leadership coaching practice, with a heavy emphasis on Wall Street, healthcare, and the military.



We reconnected over coffee in New York when she came to meet with people about her book idea – what became Jock Talk. And we discovered that we were each working on similar books – books on how to lead, build trust, and inspire loyalty through effective communication. Only I was doing it through the metaphor of military strategy, she through sports. We didn’t really compare notes. But we agreed to stay in touch.

My book, The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively, came out in mid-2012; Beth read it only after she had finished writing hers. But – perhaps not surprisingly – the two books are completely aligned. We come at things from different directions and use different vocabulary. But we’re fellow travelers, applying and interpreting the same principles in ways we have found to work for our clients. And why not? We came of age together, discovering the hard way what works and what doesn’t. One small example: Beth’s First Principle is audience-centricity. My book’s Second Principle is that you can’t move people unless you meet them where they are. Same idea. But hers also embodies her Fourth Principle: Brevity.

I was honored and humbled when Beth asked me to write the Foreword. I devoured her book. It is brilliant. It is witty. And it works. I know that after you’ve read the book, and taken to heart Beth’s principles and techniques, you will become a more effective communicator, and therefore a more effective leader.

Beth and I agree on this: If you cannot communicate effectively you will not lead. Whether you’re an athlete, a candidate for political office, a business executive, or just someone trying to build a career, you will benefit mightily from Jock Talk’s approach.




Adam Tiouririne Adam Tiouririne | Bio | Posts
30 Jan 2015 | 10:11AM

If I told you that a small man killed a large man with a slingshot, you might remember it for a few weeks. But if I told you a story about a small man killing a large man with a slingshot, you might remember it for a lifetime. In fact, we humans have collectively remembered the story of David and Goliath for thousands of years.

From the Bible to Hollywood, humans have shown a special affinity for storytelling.

Even the earliest hunter-gatherers told stories. But it took millennia until thinkers, starting with Aristotle, questioned just how stories captivate their audiences. More recently, theorists have shifted their inquiry to how narratives can inspire not just wonder and whimsy, but action and change.

And most of them, from Aristotle on, have found the answers not in words, but in shapes: The lines and contours, circles and arcs of good stories. Drawing on their work, we can uncover this shape of successful storytelling:

Storywaves - Simple

Before charting this shape’s every peak and valley, let me take my own advice and tell you its story.

Storywaves - Aristotle

First, there was Aristotle. His work undergirds almost every discipline of modern academia: Science, history, literature, philosophy. It’s even the source for the name of our firm. And of course, Plato’s pupil had something to say about storytelling.

Every story, Aristotle wrote, needs a beginning, a middle, and end. He called these three sections prologue (when the stage is set), episode (when the action happens), and exodos (when the conflict is resolved). It was the earliest realization of the power of structure to keep audiences’ attention.

Today, we learn about beginnings, middles, and ends in elementary school, but this lesson seems seldom remembered by grown-up presenters. Clear structure, building three parts in particular, is the first element of successful storytelling.

Storywaves - Sinek

Second, fast-forward more than 2,000 years. Simon Sinek is determined to turn leaders’ thinking, action, and communication inside out.

Rather than, for example, announcing what a product is, then explaining how it works, and then positing why it matters, Sinek argues that audiences are only moved to action when speakers reverse that order:

“Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows What they do, 100 percent. Some know How they do it, whether you call it your differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or your USP. But very, very few people or organizations know Why they do what they do. And by Why I don’t mean to make a profit. … By Why, I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? Well, as a result, the way we think, the way we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in. It’s obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out.”

Starting with Why isn’t easy, but it pays off by tapping into the dominance of emotion in human decision-making. Disciplined order, moving from broad, emotional themes to specific, logical actions, is the second element of successful storytelling.

Storywaves - Duarte Nancy

Third, there is another thinker who has searched for the shape of storytelling. “I even cried a little,” says Nancy Duarte, “when I figured out that it worked.”

What Duarte found is the Sparkline, a rhythmic flow that alternates between What Is and What Could Be. It starts with a gap between the current state and the ideal state that is “significant and meaningful and powerful” enough for the audience to be “stunned a bit” and “for the rest of your presentation, they’re leaning forward.” Then, in the middle of the story, Duarte advises to “move back and forth between those two perspectives and create interest.” And finally, she says, speakers should make a call to action, but not without ending on an even higher note: “You should always end your presentation with a ‘new bliss’ … explaining the way the world is going to be with your idea adopted.”

The contrast between the current state and the ideal state creates interest that keeps the audience engaged, and creates urgency for them to close the gap. Compelling rhythm, alternating between the current state and the ideal state, is the third element of successful storytelling.

Through the work of these and other experts, and our own experience, we can uncover the clearest picture yet of successful storytellling.

The Storywave combines the clear structure of Aristotle, with the disciplined order of Sinek, with the compelling rhythm of Duarte. It makes the convergence of the current state and the ideal state an inevitable imperative, and it makes your product, process, or new idea the seemingly obvious solution.

Storywave - Template Large

This is the shape of successful storytelling. For an example, here are key points in Barack Obama’s historic keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, mapped to the Storywave:

Storywave - Obama 2004

Obama’s speech didn’t quite make John Kerry president, but it did, in many ways, make Obama president. Immediately after the speech, analysts cooed that America may have just seen “the first black president of the United States.”  Four years later, Obama fulfilled that prophecy, besting Hillary Clinton and John McCain in his own David and Goliath story.

And any office, not just the Oval Office, can benefit from the power of storytelling. It’s a way to give your ideas clarity, urgency, and — yes — shape.

Share your thoughts here, like this post on LinkedIn, or tweet @Tiouririne.