Author Archives: Jeff A. Larson

About Jeff A. Larson

I'm currently an independent sociologist living in Honolulu, Hawai'i. My research focuses on the institutional aspects of social movements, including how activists' choices of issues, tactics, and targets is shaped by their relative positions within a social movement field.

Social Movements: The Video Game

The U.S. military is on to something.   For recruitment and training purposes it has created video arcades, advertisements embedded in video games, combat simulators, and its own popular series of first-person shooter game, America’s Army. Your 13 year-old could join the Allied forces in Call of Duty, NATO’s counterterrorism unit in Rainbow Six, or U.S. Navy SEALs in SOCOM. The list goes on. Of course video games can be used to recruit and train. So why aren’t activists doing it?

People Power: News ItemsThankfully, they are. Brought to you by the makers of A Force More Powerful (the book and the movie), People Power: The Game of Civil Resistance puts you in control of your own social movement. For ten bucks you could be playing in five minutes. The games creators describe it this way: Continue reading

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Violence, Domestic Terrorism, and the Academy Awards

Promotional poster for "If a Tree Falls"

I know you’d never bomb, commit arson, or destroy property, even if it is for a good cause.  It’s not that you don’t feel deeply about social justice, you’d just never even consider using violence.  (I’m making an obvious assumption here that underground members of the Earth Liberation Front, Animal Liberation Front, KKK, or even al-Qaeda are not regular readers of this blog.)  So, violence is far from your reality.  But is it really?  Could you do it?

Who are these people setting fire to SUVs, releasing animals from fur farms, and bombing research labs?  How could Timothy McVeigh be so callous?  What kind of person would do such a thing?

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When Did Alinsky Become a Dirty Word?

Gingrich on the attack.First it was Bill Ayers, the radical 1960s activist and Weather Undergrounder “palling around” with Candidate Obama. Now it’s Saul Alinsky, the radical 1930s (through 1960s) community organizer whose teachings have influenced President Obama. While both men are unknown to the vast majority of the electorate, that hasn’t stopped GOP contenders from trying their damnedest to frame Obama as a radical. Leave it to none other than right-wing bomb-thrower (figuratively, in this case) David Horowitz to make the Alinsky-Obama connection book-length (pdf here). Conservative writer Mark Tapson agrees: “Newt Gingrich is hoping to expose the radical roots of Obama’s political nihilism.” Continue reading

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The Withering of the Occupy Movement

Photo by Frank Augstein (AP)

Artist Pit Bohne's "Silent Demonstration" speaks volumes about the current state of the movement.

I’m neither predicting an end to the Occupy Movement nor hoping for one, but I am bored with it.  The state of the movement was on display this week in Pasadena at the Rose Parade where protesters (estimates ranged from 400 to 5,000) marched with a banner reading “Occupy the Rose Parade” behind the last float in the parade as spectators were packing up to go home.  Yawn.

Occupiers went to great lengths to avoid disrupting the parade and, after extended negotiations with local police, agreed to march at the rear end of the parade.  Not surprisingly, weeks before the parade the police were confident:

“We’ve enjoyed 122 uninterrupted parades and the 123rd won’t be any different,” [Pasadena Police Lt.] Riddle said. “We have seen protests before, be it PETA, impeach George Bush or protests over Christopher Columbus. We have dealt with fears over Y2K and we are prepared for the Occupy movement.” Continue reading

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Race, Class, and Gender among the 99%

Occupy the HoodIdentifying as “the 99%” is sure to appeal to a diverse group, but the Occupy Wall Street movement has been dogged by issues of diversity. “Occupy Wall Street is a men’s movement,” blasts a recent brochure from feminist blog RadFem-HUB. Women’s interests are being pushed aside, it declares, and men are assuming positions of power. Chauncey DeVega says he is “concerned that white group interests, white experiences, white politics, white understandings of the good life, white history, white humanity, and white concerns, remain normalized by OWS” (also see Tim Wise on the Rachel Maddow Show). Still others report, “On multiple occasions, we have witnessed the exclusion of trans people from spaces and groups affiliated with Occupations…We have also encountered transphobic hate speech within the movement. This must not be allowed to continue.” Continue reading

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