News / Middle East

21st Century Dictators Take Cues From Activists to Hold on to Power

Dictators Take Cues From Activists to Hold on to Poweri
|| 0:00:00
X
July 11, 2012 6:00 PM
It's never been harder to be a dictator, says at least one analyst. Faced with rapid demographic growth, massive increases in unemployment for college graduates, and changes in the information environment, modern authoritarian regimes are increasingly coming under challenge. But in response, they are using 21st-century techniques themselves, to wield their power and maintain the status quo. VOA’s Vivian Chakarian has more.

Dictators Take Cues From Activists to Hold on to Power

It's never been harder to be a dictator, says at least one analyst.  Faced with rapid demographic growth, massive increases in unemployment for college graduates, and changes in the information environment, modern authoritarian regimes are increasingly coming under challenge.  But in response, they are using 21st-century techniques themselves, to wield their power and maintain the status quo.

In the battle between repression and freedom in the 21st century, opposition movements are increasingly turning to modern technology and non-violent methods.

So while a dictator’s goal in the past was to keep guns out of the hands of the people - says Slate magazine's William Dobson - the aim now is to prevent them from being able to march. “Why do I really care what you think? I just care that you don’t participate," he said. "You need to not participate.”

Dobson, the author of The Dictator's Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy, spoke at a recent Washington conference on dictators and authoritarianism.

Also on the panel was Srdja Popovic, founder and leader of the Serbian student movement that brought down former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.

Popovic says there are similarities between the protests he led in Serbia and those in Russia that started late last year after the country’s disputed parliamentary elections.

"They are mainly led by student and middle-class people. They are very much into enthusiasm and humor, and they are using the very creative and humorous tactics all around the place," Popovic stated. "And you would be amazed how the different groups, not only from the Arab world but also from places like Russia, are fast learning from each other, which is the achievement of the new technology.”

But modern authoritarian regimes are also learning from the activists.  As Marc Lynch of George Washington University points out, they have employed some of the same tools - the Internet, social media and SMS communications - to undermine opposition movements. 

"That constant back and forth, back and forth, is to me, one of the characteristic features of that whole decade of the 2000s - how activists were learning and how regimes were learning from each other," said Lynch. "And from the experiences across different countries.”

Lynch says regimes such as in Egypt, for example, were able to figure out ways to absorb opposition blows and readapt.  "So if you look at Egypt right now, yes, the new media allows activists to organize and to communicate and to spread their message in innovative ways, but then the military regime uses state television to spread sectarian incitement, to delegitimize and defame the protesters, and to spread rampant fear of chaos and disorder, which then helps to turn people against the revolution,” he explained.

And Lynch says the situation in Syria shows that authoritarian regimes do have bases of support, where a significant number of people feel deeply threatened about the possibility of change.  It is situations such as these, he says, where non-violent methods are essential.

You May Like

Video British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Multimedia Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid