Tag Archives: riot

Occupier + current system + social media = ?

20 May 2012: The police crack down pretty hard on the Occupiers in Chicago today during their Anti-NATO protest.

I found this photograph moving around Facebook and I thought I’d post it.  I thought the Occupy protests were winding down, but based on this chaos, I’d say I was quite off the mark.

The focal point of the image is the young man guarding himself against a police officer, as well as on the overwhelmed and scared woman with the camera.  I feel like this image represents three main elements of the entire Occupy movement really well.

The young man represents the generic Occupier: the recent college graduate, possibly a hipster, who feels the need to stand out against the current regime and say that he doesn’t approve of the current status quo.  His hands are up to shield himself against the night stick, but the look on his face isn’t necessarily one of fear.  There is determination there, a confidence that comes out if you stare a little longer at him, and you can see that he isn’t just going to defend himself against the police officer, he is willing to take him on.

The police officer is not only representative of police presence and the issues that have come out of that during Occupy, but the illustration of faulty government itself.  The police are supposed to protect citizens, just as the government is supposed to benefit the people, but clearly the police were not protecting anyone but themselves in Chicago today, and clearly the system is not working for the governed because groups like the Occupiers and the Tea Partiers exist.

Finally, the woman with the camera represents media, more specifically social media.  Before social media took off, people heard about things like this through news articles or segments done by professionals.  Ideally, the news is supposed to be unbiased but it rarely is.  Now, with social media, people who were actually there in the moment can show their own evidence to anyone they want at lightning speed for free.  With these kinds of resources, the moments like this will always be available to the public and the truth will never be forgotten.

The Occupier, the current system and social media. Put them all together and what do you get?  Based on this photo, a real Charlie Foxtrot.



The Psychological Side of Protest

Bill Wasik does an excellent job of explaining how social media and the instantaneousness of contemporary technology make riots stronger, more unpredictable, and more dynamic.  Social media possesses the ability to bring groups together who would have never found each other otherwise, while instant communication bases like BBM and Twitter serve to physically converge the members of these groups in events like riots and protests.  Combined, these two forces strengthen one’s belongingness in the group and create the “Elaborated Social Identity Model” which creates a dynamic group, rather than individual, identity and frees members to act on their “baser impulses,” thus intensifying the riot.

When discussing the potential for apps to play a role in planning and executing riots more effectively, Wasik states that “When disorder strikes or danger looms, [rioters] will fall back on the social ties they have already established, the tools they already posses, the patterns they already follow.”  With this very observation, Wasik speaks against his own argument that when people come together to riot, they will act strongly in favor of the group’s agenda or “identity”.  The very nature of these violent riots presents participants, first-timers and regulars, with a dangerous, uncertain situation.  According to Wasik’s statement, these rioters are likely to fall back on their pre-established social ties and patterns, they will revert to their more practiced, and likely more socially acceptable, behaviors and lose the spark to act that is mob mentality.  Although Wasik thoroughly discusses the role of psychological group dynamic in riots, he fails to bring both possible outcomes together to analyze which group situations might produce stronger riots and which may weaken the event’s agenda, which is an important factor when considering the psychological processes involved in riots and protests.