How to Stop a Power Grab
November 20, 2020 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Andrew Marantz examines the work of civil-resistance experts and activists like Erica Chenoweth, Maria J. Stephan, and Kifah Shah (The New Yorker), including the Nonviolent and Violent Campaigns and Outcomes database and Hold The Line: A Guide to Defending Democracy. ”For a long time, there have been those of us who had a philosophical commitment to nonviolence, or an intuition that nonviolence puts you at a strategic advantage. Erica and Maria took that intuition and empirically proved it.” posted by adrianhon (16 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Very interesting. Thank you.
posted by Thella at 2:08 PM on November 20

Thanks for posting this. I hope we get some decent coordination to use these techniques if things continue to go to shit
posted by condour75 at 2:24 PM on November 20

This helped me polish my Grand Unified Theory of American Conservatism: what do the racism, pro-foreign-interference/pro-treason, anti-mask, anti-choice, pro-unlimited-firearms, sexism, anti-LGBTQIA, pro-war, but sometimes superficially anti-war while being pro-war-crimes in the same war, etc. stances all have in common?

The values of American conservatism are simply to not have any values at the precise point when it's politically convenient. This seems starkest in foreign policy: as the United States, our thing is basically totally fucking up countries, spraying Agent Orange or depleted uranium all over the place, and saying Welp, this is technically pretty much all your fault, or maybe some third party's or something, but either way we're not going to make anything more than token efforts to clean it up. Have fun with your kids getting cancer! And conservatism is the political tool most purpose-built for enabling that: for strategically not giving more than a thought-and-prayer about kids getting cancer, in exactly the right contexts, while maintaining a self-image as a wholesome upstanding person beloved by the deity or whatever.

Or for protesting against euthanasia options for people with terminal conditions who are suffering, then when covid shows up asking why all the older people can't just sacrifice themselves for re-opening the economy? Cross-propagation with another contemporary phenomenon, the attitudes toward the populaces of our client states being applied domestically.

And in the twenty-first century this political tool of conservatism has been honed beyond Orwellian doublethink levels, with Trump, the serial philanderer and adulterer who bragged about how night clubs were his Vietnam because of the risk of venereal disease, bringing witnesses from Bill Clinton's extramarital-blowjob-impeachment as props for a presidential debate in an incoherent criticism of the wife wronged by infidelity, which tens of millions of people cheered in delight at and saw as good cause for him to be president. It's past Orwell and nearly Lovecraftian at this point, a non-Euclidian ouroboros-chimæra of pseudo-morality.

Fascinating stuff about historical non-violent resistance by indigenous people in the FPP. The mention of the Iranian Revolution prompts me to plug the Safe for Democracy podcast by MeFi's own TheProfessor, who did an excellent eight-slash-nine-slash-ten part series on it.

This did nudge me in a slightly more optimistic direction—“The institutions can't save us, but maybe we can save ourselves.” The effectiveness of mass nonviolent resistance movements worldwide has gone down a bit in recent decades, according to Marantz and Chenoweth (but I got the impression it's still much more effective than violent resistance?) but their frequency has gone up, and I liked the discussion of the wide variety of innovative unconventional tactics, which seems like what is needed to match the “there are no rules anymore” of Trumpism.

p.s. thanks to both adrianhon and Paul Slade for setting up survival-of-the-fittest unintentionally competing posts—I arrived at Paul's deleted one first.

Most purpose-built... the rest of the American political spectrum is, on average, not much for caring a great deal about the messes we leave behind either.
posted by XMLicious at 2:31 PM on November 20 [29 favorites]

Metafilter: A non-Euclidian ouroboros-chimæra of pseudo-morality.
posted by otherchaz at 3:11 PM on November 20 [15 favorites]

Meanwhile David Shor was fired after tweeting this:

Post-MLK-assasination race riots reduced Democratic vote share in surrounding counties by 2%, which was enough to tip the 1968 election to Nixon. Non-violent protests *increase* Dem vote, mainly by encouraging warm elite discourse and media coverage. — (((David Shor))) (@davidshor) May 28, 2020
posted by fraxil at 5:34 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]

Does this go along with with the work of Gene Sharp and Jamila Raqib of the Albert Einstein Institution
posted by Agent_X_ at 7:22 PM on November 20

The most heartbreaking examples in history: when popular movements rise up against tyranny only to be hijacked or destroyed in turn by other tyrants. Case in point, the Iranian revolution and of course the French Revolution.

What are the dynamics involved in those situations? That would be interesting to study.
posted by storybored at 8:45 PM on November 20

It's probably easier to find information on the mostly peaceful breakup of the Soviet Union if you're looking for a well documented example of peaceful protest effecting a change that then got hijacked by the already powerful.
posted by wierdo at 1:45 AM on November 21

Agent_X_: The article covers Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution extensively, though not Jamila Raqib.
posted by adrianhon at 3:34 AM on November 21 [1 favorite]

>The most heartbreaking examples in history: when popular movements rise up against tyranny only to be hijacked or destroyed in turn by other tyrants. Case in point, the Iranian revolution and of course the French Revolution.
There are parallels in other fields, but it's not quite the same problem. Like, what did Punk Rock do when it became the pop system? What do all these disruptor businesses do when they become the incumbent?

I think there's a great example of what the nonviolent resistance does when it becomes the status quo in the Debian "Universal Operating System" Free/Libre Open Source project. People have a trust network and reputational standing in the Debian community and it's one of the four strands of Linux Debian and derivatives, IBM Red Hat, SuSE, Android) that the world uses. Really, Debian's success is derivative use in dotcom-millionnaire Mark Shuttleworth's Ubuntu which provides the guts for Microsoft's Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL and WSL2).

Debian isn't visibly the universal operating system, but people with vision use it as a platform to achieve their vision; nonviolent direct action isn't visibly the universal political operation but people with vision use it as a platform to achieve their vision.
posted by k3ninho at 5:53 AM on November 21 [8 favorites]

I was frowning at first about how what you were saying might be relevant, k3ninho, but you really brought that home. That's actually a great parallel: not a flagship, not a “market leader”, but a substrate for much of the known world.

Coöpting is a danger, but does not by itself make nonviolent resistance useless or the wrong path to choose.
posted by XMLicious at 6:19 AM on November 21 [8 favorites]

Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh might have other thoughts. Please read the works of these warriors and thinkers.

And what k3ninho and XMLicious said.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 10:31 AM on November 22

Case in point, the Iranian revolution and of course the French Revolution.

Also, the Russian Revolution; Russia was, for a few months, a fledgling social democracy, until the Bolsheviks crushed it and imposed their dictatorship.

It's rarely the nice guys who prevail in the chaos of a revolution, but rather the well-organised and ruthless.
posted by acb at 10:33 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]

On the comment just above this one: Please read just about anything about the Russian Revolution that wasn't written by a Western cold warrior.

Trotsky is a good place to start if Lenin was too much of an insider for you to trust.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 10:47 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]

Like for one thing—with all due respect because it was a century ago now and a mythologized focus of propaganda the world over, quite intentionally so even in the Soviet Union itself obviously—without even getting into ideological stuff, statements in the vicinity of “the Bolsheviks crushed their opposition” are not very accurate descriptions of the Russian Civil War.
posted by XMLicious at 11:14 AM on November 22

A lot of that take is based on the "palace coup" model of interpreting the Russian Revolution (not the Civil War). This was largely a framework used in the West to attempt to delegitimise the leadership of the USSR.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:53 AM on November 23

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