Great news for Alexey Navalny came out recently by the means of this little experimental paper. The results are very intuitive and do not really expand our knowledge too much, but is it always nice to confirm the commonplace observation with something sciency. The abstract: 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 (Studies 1-3), we found that self-identified political activists were willing to use extreme tactics because they believed them to be effective for recruiting popular support (Studies 4a & 4b). 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.
This paper says that violence against Alexey actually gives him support. Well, the paper’s results can be applied, of course, only if people actually know about the violence and if they are not constantly bombarded by propaganda. But, you know, keeping things equal, this zelenka accident is good for Alexey’s career. Symmetrically, the paper’s result implies that Alexey’s leadership in what most consider excessive violence in 2011-13 protests turned many people away from him.
The results of the paper also explain why very soon people become disillusioned about protests in Russia. Very soon the protests movements become contaminated by radicals and “normal” people just leave the movement and eventually the movements boil down to a collection of crazy people.