Author Archives: Will H. Moore

About Will H. Moore

I am a political science professor who also contributes to Political Violence @ a Glance and sometimes to Mobilizing Ideas . Twitter: @WilHMoo

Online Surveillance as a Demobilizing Deterrent

Credit: The Syrian Free Computer Society

Mobilizing Ideas has published a number of posts on digitally enabled social activism, online censorship, the impact of online resources upon mobilization, and related issues (see here and here.) Gary King and his colleagues recently released an interesting paper that analyzes the Chinese government’s censorship of social media sites.  In a nut shell they scraped posts to over 1,300 social media sites in China and scraped them before human government censors were able to remove the posts. Rescraping the sites, they were able to determine what posts had been removed by the Chinese government.  They developed 85 topic areas, and thereby cataloged the states’ interests by comparing what was removed with what was allowed to remain posted across those issue areas.

Contrary to previous understandings, posts with negative, even vitriolic, criticism of the state, its leaders, and its policies are not more likely to be censored. Continue reading

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Hoaxing the Narrative

Boing Boing reports on a recent campaign by Chicago advertising giant, Leo Burnett Worldwide, to defeat a Tea Party campaign against a proposed 0.7% tax increase to support the Troy Michigan public library.  The campaign’s major feature was a hoax designed to change the narrative.  Burnett won an Effie Award in the Good Works category with the campaign, and produced a slick video about it:

I am only familiar with the literature on campaign spending and turnout from drinking beer with a colleague who studies ballot initiatives in California, and I will spare you my alcohol addled beliefs based upon such conversation.  Suffice it to say that Leo Burnett makes some intriguing claims about turning out Yes voters in local elections.  Perhaps I can entice someone with actual knowledge to comment somewhere.  In the interim, what should we take from this little nugget of a present day Mad Men agency executing a hoax to influence elections?

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Studying The Public Response to Police & Protesters

It is widely recognized that police and protesters compete for the moral high ground, as the iconic image from the US civil rights reminds us.

Christian Davenport and I have begun a Civil Society and Democratic Expression research initiative that we hope will serve as a model for how we should collect data so that we can better study the street politics of social movements. Matt Baggetta kindly posted about the “within the protest” street portion of the project, and we will post soon about our effort to also document the police deployment “behind the scenes” during large events such as the recent march and rally in Chicago organized by the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda.

Because the street politics of protest can be understood as a competition between protesters and police to earn the moral high ground we believe it is vital to study not only the interactions of protesters and police on the street, but also the resulting press coverage and public opinion. Continue reading

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The 99% or Marginalized Minority? Coercion and the Occupy Movement

By Christian Davenport and Will Moore

Repression like we have recently witnessed in response to the Occupy movement is not rare in democracy.  This fact tends to surprise people, so let us explain.  Government repression—the use of arbitrary arrest, physical force, and other forms of coercion—is the most common government response to publicly made challenges to existing policies: throughout the advanced industrial democracies popular protest tends to elicit repression.  To be sure, repressive behavior is neither automatic nor guaranteed: it is trivial to identify protests that are passively monitored by, and even some that are ignored by, police.  What, then, determines whether police will repress or monitor /ignore protesters? The simple answer is: perceived threat.  Threat can be usefully broken into three parts: stakes (the further from the status quo, the more threatening), the means by which the claims are advanced (e.g., lobbying and non-violent public action as opposed to violence), and the social status of the protesters (i.e., the extent to which they are marginal members of society).  Stakes play an important role, as do the means, but we focus here on the third category: marginalization.  Take, for example, the stakes of the Tea Party Movement /Occupy Wall Street (OWS), and the public demonstrations those groups have produced, thereby setting stakes and means aside.  In such a circumstance, the government’s, and most explicitly the police’s, perception of the social status of the protesters will strongly influence the level of coercive policing the protesters will experience. Continue reading

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