Caroline Moorhead. A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers 2011)
During World War II, Marshal Pétain’s authoritarian Vichy regime guillotined women for abortion. It passed laws forbidding women from entering the civil service, encouraging women younger than 28 to quit their jobs upon marriage, and requiring women over 50 to retire. Pétain considered women responsible for remaking the state beginning with the family: what he called the “essential cell” of social order. Politically active women were considered a threat to the moral regeneration of France (Muel-Dreyfus 2001; Pollard 1998).
In October 1940, the French Vichy government entered into collaboration with Nazi Germany. Laws were promulgated to restrict the rights of Jews and foreigners, communists and other left-wing activists were declared enemies of the state, and French internment camps were transformed into labor and concentration camps for so-called “undesirables.” Continue reading
Will going to court help or harm the cause? This is a burning question for social movements and scholars siding with them. And it should be given careful consideration, in light of socio-legal scholarship suggesting that the “haves” come out ahead in court (Galanter 1974), and that even when social movement litigation succeeds, court victories are “hollow hopes” (Rosenberg 1991) bringing no real change. Fears are not only that it is ineffective and a waste of resources, but also that it may be counterproductive—that courts-centered activism will legitimize the system, circumscribe the struggle in ways that prevent radical challenges to the status quo, and change and de-radicalize the movement itself (Scheingold 1974). Continue reading
To account for the emergence of social movements one rarely starts with these movements themselves but instead with their context and/or creators – treated as explanations for mobilization. In terms of context, for example, differing economic and/or political resources, favorable political opportunity structures, developing protest cycles or networking have served to explain movement mobilization. In terms of creators, successful movement organizing or mobilizing have been explained by, for example, the “right” decisions of the “movement entrepreneurs” to invest limited movement resources, the capacity of “movement intellectuals” to produce and disseminate new knowledge, the ability of the leaders to “frame” reality to fit that of the potential movement members while emphasizing the urgency and the efficacy of collective action, etc.
From the emotions perspective the context is constituted by the relations of domination and their emotional underpinnings. Let me illustrate. Continue reading
In the realm of technology and repression, last week was filled with both dark and light.
On the lighter side, a Chinese dissident imprisoned using information from Yahoo! was finally released after 10 years. Yahoo! took a great deal of heat for turning over information originally, and settled a civil suit over the affair.
On the dark side, the New York Times reported that two researchers have identified an off-the-shelf surveillance program that can extensively monitor computer activity, including taking screen shots and recording skype conversations, which has been used against activists in multiple countries. It appears that governments that don’t have the resources to design surveillance systems themselves can just use off-the-shelf software instead. Although the maker says that the software is to be used exclusively in criminal investigations, evidence suggests that it sells to governments who intend to use it against protesters.
By Denis Bochkarev
Coverage of the Pussy Riot trial has been widespread. For those unfamiliar, the punk band/performance artists lip sank an original “punk prayer” entitled “Mother Mary, chase Putin out” from the alters of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Police arrested three of the five performing members in the days that followed and they have been imprisoned ever since. Their trial was nothing short of a judicial farce leaving many observers to describe the formality (and consequential sentencing) as “medieval.” The three members on trial were found guilty of “hooliganism to incite religious hatred” and will remain in prison for an additional nineteen months. While the sentence surprises no one familiar with the Russian judicial system, what comes next?
Not sure if you’ve been following Pussy Riot’s tussle with the Russian state, but the lead singer Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s closing statement is absolutely thrilling. It is difficult to imagine riveting political protest in the West. While the indictment of the “Corporate State System” might apply in the United States, and the cultural disruption of groups like the Yes Men is certainly engaging, the sheer inertia and success of the system renders many forms of protest inert and off-putting. In Russia, however, it sends a thrill down my spine to read: Continue reading
Guy Adams, a reporter, had his Twitter account suspended after he tweeted complaints about a Twitter business partner, NBC. Twitter “proactively” brought the tweet to NBC’s attention and encouraged NBC to file a complaint. When NBC did complain, Twitter kicked Adams off. The basis of the complaint was that Adams had released “personal information” about someone else, which is against Twitter policy. Interestingly, in this case, that “personal information” was the public business email address of the NBC executive that Adams saw as responsible for poor decisions about Olympic coverage.
The story of Adams’ ouster hit the news, and Twitter, which has been much more likely to protect free speech than many other social media sites, Continue reading
When scholars think of repression, they often think of the state as the repressor. This misses a tremendous amount of repression undertaken by private actors. Of course, this has always been true—from Pinkertons to the KKK—private actors have been critical repressive actors. But, the rise of digital technologies brings the role of private repression into even greater relief.
Case in point: a leaked game plan by International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), a music industry group, to police online music globally. A blog post from TorrentFreak summarizes the report.
Now, I realize that where the digital rights movement sees free culture, IFPI sees piracy. But, it is also the case that many of the platforms targeted by IFPI and other entertainment industry groups are also used for non-infringing uses that are important to the digital rights movement and in no way illegal. So, this global game plan gives a unique view into private repression.
Meanwhile, another case reveals the power of digital technologies to aid in the repression of dissent—this time by an unusual government repressor—the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Digital technologies played a key role in the FDA’s surveillance of watchdog scientists who felt that political concerns were being put ahead of good science and public health. The NYT report on the surveillance is shocking. According to the Times, over 80,000 digital documents were put together based on screen captures, key logs, and flash drives connected to work computers. The story, and the rather tepid reaction to it, will certainly make other potential whistleblowers think twice before they try to blow the whistle.