Monday, July 1, 2013

Headless Movements Rising in Egypt, Turkey, and Brazil

Headless Movements Rising in Egypt, Turkey, and Brazil:
Mohamed Morsi, cattle rustler.
Yesterday and today,
millions of Egyptians
have marched against Mohamed Morsi's
government. Time
reports
that the number of demonstrators yesterday "equaled and
possibly exceeded some of the highest peaks of the original
revolution against deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak," adding that
"Tahrir Square, on the edge of downtown Cairo, was packed to the
point where crowds extended all the way across two bridges to the
other bank of the Nile. And the crowds in Heliopolis were equally
massive—completely covering the district."
Today five ministers
resigned
from Morsi's cabinet, and the military has
threatened
to step in on the opposition's bahalf. On the bright
side, that suggests that Morsi won't be able to count on the armed
forces to crack down on the protests. On the not-so-bright side, it
means the military might try to coopt this surge of people power,
perhaps even using it as a cover for a coup.
Meanwhile, the mass protests in Turkey
have not ceased
, and another people-power movement is burning
in Brazil, where some protesters have taken to chanting "Turkey
is here!
" Tactics can be contagious: These movements have
different roots, are appearing in different contexts, and will no
doubt arrive at different outcomes, but they're all watching and
learning from each other, and from the other grassroots protests
that have flared around the globe over the last few years.
According to the Financial Times, Turkey's
ruler has
mistaken
that mutual awareness for a centralized
conspiracy:
I hear the conspiracy killed Whitney Houston, too.Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's
prime minister, has suggested that the same outside forces are
behind protests in both his own country and Brazil, as Turkish
authorities continue their crackdown on overwhelmingly peaceful
protesters....



"The same game is being played in Brazil," Mr Erdogan told a large
rally of his supporters in the town of Samsun on [June 22]. "There
are the same symbols, the same posters. Twitter, Facebook is the
same, so are international media. They are controlled from the same
centre. They are doing their best to achieve in Brazil what they
could not achieve in Turkey. It is the same game, the same trap,
the same goal."
In fact, far from being centrally controlled, these movements
are notably resistant to control. They are, in the Brazilian
sociologist Giuseppe Cocco's
phrase
, "self-convening marches that nobody manages to
represent, not even the organizations that found themselves in the
epicenter of the first call." But people in authority have a hard
time comprehending that sort of loose, decentralized action. As
Moisés Naím
wrote
 last week,
NO HEAD? WHAT HORRIBLE MONSTER ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?The protests—informal, spontaneous,
collective, often chaotic—are baffling to governments organized
along hierarchical lines of authority. In Brazil, for example, a
survey found that 81 percent of those who participated in one of
the massive rallies simply learned about it via Facebook or Twitter
and decided to join. In these cases, with whom should a government
negotiate to restore order?



The leaderless, spontaneous nature of the protests also makes it
difficult for the government to find someone to blame—or to decide
whom to arrest in the hope of weakening the movement by cutting off
its head. There is no head.
Governments misunderstand that at their own peril.
Related: "If
This Is a New Cold War, Who's the Enemy Supposed to Be?
"