Summary: New research shows that violent protests decrease public support for that cause while peaceful protests can gain support. The Left’s increasingly violent protesters are Trump’s greatest allies. This reaction by the American public is logical and just, contributing to the long stability of our society.
Black Bloc “protests” at Toronto G20 Summit, 26-27 June 2010.
Here is an important and timely article: “The Psychology of Effective Protest” by Olga Khazan in The Atlantic, 27 February 2017 — “New research shows why nonviolence works better than extreme tactics.” She quotes two papers (not yet peer-reviewed). Their conclusions should be obvious. Perhaps these papers will find interested readers on the Left, before they liquidate what remains of their political influence in America.
(1) “Extreme Protest Tactics Reduce Popular Support for Social Movements” by Matthew Feinberg et al, 3 February 2017.
“Social movements are critical agents of change that vary greatly in both tactics and popular support. Prior work shows that extreme protest tactics – actions that are highly counter-normative, disruptive, or harmful to others, including inflammatory rhetoric, blocking traffic, and damaging property – are effective for gaining publicity. However, we find across three experiments that extreme protest tactics decreased popular support for a given cause because they reduced feelings of identification with the movement.
“Though this effect obtained in tests of popular responses to extreme tactics used by animal rights, Black Lives Matter, and anti-Trump protests, we found that self-identified political activists were willing to use extreme tactics because they believed them to be effective for recruiting popular support. The activist’s dilemma – wherein tactics that raise awareness also tend to reduce popular support – highlights a key challenge faced by social movements struggling to affect progressive change.”
Here is the money paragraph. This should be obvious, but it is not so to many activists.
Results of anti-Trump protesters.
“In advocating for their cause, many activists engage in extreme protest behaviors – defined here as protest behaviors that are highly counter-normative, disruptive, or harmful to others, for example the use of inflammatory rhetoric, blocking traffic, damaging property, and disrupting other citizens’ everyday activities. Past research suggests such tactics are effective in attracting media coverage of a movement, helping draw attention to its central concerns. However, here we argue that while extreme tactics may succeed in attracting attention, they typically reduce popular public support for the movement by eroding bystanders’ identification with the movement, ultimately deterring bystanders from supporting the cause or becoming activists themselves.”
Here is another study, with same results. “Do Protests Matter? – Evidence from the 1960s Black Insurgency” by Omar Wasow (Asst Prof of Politics at Princeton; his website), 2 February 2017.
“How do the subordinate few persuade the dominant many? Elite theories of political influence posit marginal groups exert little power. Pluralistic accounts suggest non-elites can set agendas, sway public opinion and shape policy. This article evaluates both theories in the context of black led protests in the 1960s. Contrary to the elite model, I find evidence of a punctuated pluralism in which subordinate groups, though protests, can temporarily break elite dominance of political communication and “lead from below” to influence national discourse and generate conditional feelings of support or opposition in the majority, depending on the type of tactics employed.
“In presidential elections, proximity to black-led nonviolent protests increased white Democratic vote-share whereas proximity to black-led violent protests caused substantively important declines and likely tipped the 1968 election from Hubert Humphrey to Richard Nixon. This research has important implications for existing theories of political communication, social movements and voting behavior.”
Excerpt, the money paragraph. This confirms the Feinberg et al study.
“In public opinion polls between 1950 and 1980, a majority of subjects identified “civil rights” as the most important problem facing America at the same time that nonviolent black protest activity peaked and, likewise, responded with “social control” when black-led violent protests were most active. I also find that black-led nonviolent protests precipitate increased Congressional debate about “civil rights” and increase proximate county-level white Democratic vote-share in the 1964, 1968 and 1972 presidential elections.
“By contrast, disruptions in the same period in which some protester-initiated violence occurred spark Congressional discussion of “crime” and “riots” and cause a statistically significant decline in proximate county-level white Democratic vote share.”
Men in black masks throw smoke bombs to disrupt Rally 4 Trump at Berkeley.
About protests by the anti-Trump resistance
The opening of the article is also interesting, describing recent anti-Trump protests. The Left has spent a lot of political capital on these, making large boasts about them. Although peaceful and organized, have any of the ones so far had any visible impact on the US public? I doubt it.
“The women have already marched, and now they’re doubling down with a day without women. (They’ve taken a page from immigrants, whom we also went a day without.) Soon, many scientists will march, as will some taxpayers who want to make sure Trump is one, too.”
Perhaps Americans are no longer impressed by marchers, peaceful or violent. Or perhaps there is another element necessary for marchers to have an impact — something allowing them to gain the moral high ground (as the Civil Rights marchers did). The anti-Trump protesters are providing us with valuable information from what is, in effect, a large social science experiment.
Leftist thugs in black masks do political “protest”.
Update: Defense of the Left by Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism
“Headline and article are a bit self-righteous. And as with Occupy and Black Lives Matter protests, it isn’t clear that violence was organic. Occupy Oakland, which had one of the worst incidents, had Black Bloc (anarchists who favor violence) join them, and the open structure of Occupy made it impossible to keep them out (they even tried rule changes, like changing consensus votes to IIRC 90% majority).” (7 March 2017.)
Did the leaders of Occupy Oakland publically condemn Black Bloc, warning their people about these infiltrators and enlist their help to prevent violent anarchists from degrading the program? If not, why not? More broadly, how widespread and loud have been the condemnations by the Left about recent violence done in their name?
This defence is quite modern American. “Not my fault” should replace “E Pluribus Unum” (“from many, one”) and “in God We Trust” as America’s motto. The current two no longer well describe us, whereas avoidance of responsibility has become our defining characteristic.
For More Information
- How to stage effective protests in the 21st century.
- How do protests like the TP and OWS differ from effective political action?
- The Million Vet March, a typical peasants’ protest.
- Martin Luther King Jr’s advice to us about using violence to reform America.
- Why don’t political protests work? What are the larger lessons from our repeated failures?
- The protesters at Ferguson might have won, but choose to lose.
- Analysis of Left’s mob violence at Middlebury, their fast track to irrelevance.
Anti-Trump Protesters at Berkeley, 4 March 2017.
Berkeley Free Speech March in 1964.