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The Suppression of Dissent in the 21st Century 

“We do not yet understand why voting with massed feet became so much more a significant part of politics in the last decades of the [twentieth] century. One reason must be that in this period the gap between rulers and ruled widened almost everywhere, though in states which provided political mechanisms for discovering what their citizens thought, and ways for them to express political preferences from time to time, this was unlikely to produce revolution or complete loss of contact.” (Hobsbawm, pg. 458)




Dissatisfaction with governments in the early years of this century – whether in a developed or developing country, or a democratic or autocratic one – is never strictly an immediate reaction to the present economic stability of the state, despite a wealth of current rhetoric claiming so.

The power in a state – typically a ruling class that is a mixture of politicians and titans of industry, both energy and financial – find that a stable environment with docile citizens is the best way to retain its position, and one of the chief ways of doing so is properly relocating objections to the decisions it has made – whether sound or not – as far away from the most amount of people as possible.

Dissent is not only the rejection of the expected acceptance of the rules and statutes handed down from on high, but also the drive for alternative ideas to be heard and considered. While typically linked with social and political revolution – certainly a notion that state and corporate powers use as a scare tactic to keep citizens from supporting these supposedly dangerous groups – dissent can be as passive as refusing to pay fines or taxes, which falls under the heading of civil disobedience.

Howard Zinn offers what could be considered a classic example of such an act: “I would oppose curtailing the free speech rights of a bigot; but, even if the law were on his side, I would, if I were black, insist on sitting in his restaurant (whether or not I liked his food or his company, just to make a point). This would be civil disobedience” (Zinn, pg.15). In many cases, those that are arrested for these typically nonviolent and passive acts – one group of peace advocates broke into complex that manufactured ballistic missiles and symbolically smeared their blood over the fuselages – are either found not guilty or given lenient or suspended sentences. 

The middle ground between armed resistance and not paying parking tickets is typically the protest, a public gathering of similarly minded people attempting to get their concerns heard by the institutions they are objecting, or to reach as many people as possible thanks to the media coverage of the event,

All these forms of dissent can be compromised by the power that the state and corporations actually have, as they can simply refuse to acknowledge the validity of the protest and charge the participants with a wealth of crimes, or frame it in the mainstream media outlets that they control as either a fringe group of extreme left/right individuals, or a violent mob of criminals out to cause destruction (the possibility of physical altercations between protesters and police is a guaranteed way for the message of the demonstrations to be lost among the visual evidence of violence).

Certainly forms of dissent can blur the line between legal and illegal acts, but it immediately begs the question of the purpose of the protest in question. What is it objecting to, what are the resolutions it is demanding? The context of each protest, each form of dissent, is different, and must be treated as such:

“If the social function of protest is to change the unjust conditions of society, then that protest cannot stop with a court decision or jail sentence. If the protest is morally justified (whether it breaks a law or not) it is morally justified to the very end, even past the point where a court has imposed a penalty.” (Zinn, pg.30)

These are some of the basic observations one can make concerning dissent – and its suppression – but many distinctions begin to arise when these acts are examined in different states and societies. Those in the developed world have the luxury of mocking, marginalizing and just plain ignoring opinions that fall into the admittedly wide periphery of the political spectrum. The powerful in the West have a plethora of tools – from the bureaucracy of law enforcement to highly coordinated media outlets – to keep protesters in a non-influential sphere. In developing countries, a more base and brutal method must be taken. Threats of violence, internal espionage, show trials, and accusations of foreigners meddling in domestic concerns are common steps to suppress dissenting opinions.

Clearly these are two almost polar opposite reactions to the act of dissent, with suppression taking on forms that reflect the stability and living standards of the respective ‘worlds’. This paper will examines the similarities and differences of each.


The West

Both Chomksy and Zinn have acknowledged that much of the West – since the onset of the industrial revolution – has had a particularly violent history when it comes to labour relations. In the early twentieth century, America was the site of some of extremely bloody confrontations between workers that tried to unionize – and with that, the leaders being accused of holding socialist/communist inclinations – and company hired strike-breakers and policemen. As hard-won victories for the average worker created a slightly more even distribution of wealth and the middle class in the United States and Europe grew, such violent confrontations with the ruling class grew less frequent. Even the civil rights protests of the 1950s and the anti-war demonstrations of the 1960s did not reach the level of violence and suppression that the working class as a whle suffered in the early decades of the century. By the 1990s, protests became a relatively tame cottage industry, with smaller groups demonstrating against niche causes such as environmentalism, globalization, and military conflict (or lack of military intervention) in unstable regions across the globe. Vandalism has replaced outright violence as the most typically audacious crime associated with dissent. In The Ideology of Tyranny, Guido Preparata laments that dissent has fallen prey to an indifferent and passive attitude towards the problems of society, and to what extent the average citizens – even when many of them come together – can do about it. He claims that, “a frantic materialism of the postmodern sort… has impeached active dissent and opposition to the patent oligarchic deviancy of modern so-called Liberal democracies.” (Preparata, pg.xiv)

In an increasingly complex society that permits a wealth of possible answers for every issue, acknowledging that some responses might be truer for one person than the others fosters a sort of acceptance of a multi-interpretive analysis. While this might be more accommodating and open – even freeing – on an individual basis, on a practical level it makes uniting much more difficult. Accepting “different strokes for different folks”, in some way has forced dissent into splinter groups. With a collective voice reduced to a wealth of chatter, Preparata notes that:

“What seems to have so far functioned satisfactorily for this bureaucracy, then, is the combination of standard intimidatory tactics (police bullying and administrative sanctions) with the ideological diffusion of a gospel of divisiveness across society (in the schools and the workplace). The state of paralysis induced by the fluid dissemination of such a gospel has been extraordinary, far more crippling, in fact, than the contraposition between Socialists and Liberals.” (Preparata, pg.xvi-xvii)

Preparata laments a discourse that has focused on oppression theories – colonial/post-colonial, feminist, communist, queer – as the main form of analysis of cultural and political systems: “Never, though, are the students made to visit the polemic upon the concrete working of the hierarchies of real power: say, to investigate the effective composition, functioning, and history of the political and financial establishments of the West.” (Preparata, pg.4)

In effect, this argument takes to task the ever-diversifying protest movements of all stripes. Preparata would most likely be livid at the state of dissent in Western democracies in the early years of this decade, as the conservatives demand for a smaller government via the Tea Party and the liberals wish for environmental and health care reform completely overshadow the issue that should bind them together: objecting how the ruling class that has a larger say in the functioning of government policy due to a financial/corporate system that constantly rewards them with greater power. But even this possible uniting of the aggrieved gets scorn from Preparata, as it mirrors the designs of the thinker he is constantly at odds with throughout the Ideology of Tyranny: “Foucault’s idea of resistance was merely to join the forces of resentment that simmer in the lower depths of society (‘at the margins,’ as he put it), and engage in an endless tug-of-war with the constituted authorities.” (Preparata, pg.7)

The use of the term ‘tug-of-war’ suggests a lack of seriousness and a predicted outcome more fitting for a theatrical stage than sociopolitical one. This terminology should be quite familiar to those who see each of these successive populist moments as just another form of Us versus Them, a binary so clichéd that those in power have absolutely no problem in properly compartmentalizing them so they pose no real threat to the status quo. They can ensure that the revolution will be televised, but will in no way interrupt the evening’s regularly scheduled programming. As Preparata notes:  

“The postmodern routine operates according to a simple pattern: one has to side with the customary targets of disciplinarian authoritarianism and construct on their behalf a ‘discourse,’ which must then be employed as the antagonistic viewpoint for a war of accretion to be waged within the closed spaces of social interaction (at work, at school, in public spaces, conversing, etc.)” (Preparata, pg..125)

While he is correct in how this discourse is organized – and frequently benefits the powerful who define its boundaries and conflict space – in a postmodernist mindset, it should be noted that this is by no means a concrete and impenetrable structure. Granted, it makes complete sense that the group that would first embrace the possible shifting of the forms of dissent and adapt accordingly are the powers-that-be – seemingly embracing such postmodernist tenets before the academics – but pressing questions remain, such as what is left for the individual, then, if the coming together of citizens under a common goal is nothing more than a red herring? Preparata believes the answer is apparently power itself:

“Veblen accounted admirably for that process of ‘autointoxication’ whereby the instinctive awe that the average citizen feels before the powerful brings the latter to convince himself that the wealth accruing to the leaders rests on some proper and sovereign right. A right that the citizen may claim for himself in his drive to share the sheen of power.” (Preparata, pg.184)

Put simply, each citizen has the right to take the reigns of the power of the state if he or she wills it to be so, a notion that heralds back to such proto-postmodernists like Nietzsche (who would most likely decry such a bloodless and academic label). But certainly this is speculative, as no matter what a single citizen is willing to do to reach this stage of authority – anything from extremely hard work in the institutions of power, to compromising their morals at certain stages when making difficult decisions – there is no guarantee that the reforms they eventually attempt to institute – which is the goal of the dissenters finally coming to fruition by a seemingly insidious form of a sheep in wolf’s clothing – will be adapted by the larger power structure on the whole. It would seem that a coordinated group effort of like-minded individuals attaining to great heights of power (industrial, financial, state) would be required to make effect change on such a scale that would appease dissenters, but certainly ‘coordinated group’ reeks of the same problems that all movements succumb to, as discussed above.

Practically, the 21st century offers a wealth of examples of how dissent is employed by the masses and suppressed by the state. The most effective way of limiting dissenting opinion to the traditional power structures is to keep them from attaining any power of their own in the first place. Prior to modern democracies, this was a relatively simple method. Dissenting opinion was considered anyone who opposed the ruler or rulers, or – in the case of ancient Greek and Roman democracies – whoever took up arms against the insular and wealthy senate (which had plenty of internal power struggles to deal with).

The crushing of the reformists in Iran in the wake of the disputed June 2009 election is a sobering example of how governments requiring a severe restriction of opposing voices to retain power are forced to deal with citizens dissatisfied with its policies and actions. Similarly, in Afghanistan, the disputes regarding the 2009 elections also came from opposing, typically marginalized political parties, but the country’s instability ensured that protests were limited to the small circle of domestic intellectuals and all foreigners looking for another reason to lament the state of the country. In both cases, a lack of information is a great asset to the powerful as it typically keeps the many citizens outside of urban areas reliant on the current form of governance, if only because they are unfamiliar with any alternative. In Afghanistan the tribal regions are so dependent on a local social network that when it comes time to vote in national elections, many citizens take their cues from the tribal leader.

In developed countries, much more complex methods must be engineered and instituted in order to keep power in familiar and unsurprising hands. Electoral fraud is the most basic and typically blatant form of government corruption in a state that claims to be a democracy. As it is an exercise that is meant to show one’s complete freedom of choice and welcomed participation in the running of the nation, it is a form of dissent than can best be suppressed behind closed doors. As Soviet leader Joseph Stalin once said, "it's not who votes that counts. It's who counts the votes." The ruling class – whether it be monarchical, corporate, fascist, or simply the incumbents – wish to retain their power, and the easiest way in a democracy to ensure there are no changes to this, is to skewer the election results.

As much as the democratic Western nations would like to defend their record, democracy for much of modern history is rife with examples that the claim, ‘of the people, by the people’, is idealistic at best. In eighteenth and nineteenth century America, dissent was suppressed by not giving those who would typically oppose government policy a chance to vote. It was reserved for land-owning (read: rich), white males, who numbered thirty nine thousand in a country of four million. In Victorian England, the ‘rotten borough’ was a chance to seat politicians sympathetic to a particular party or policy by having him represent an electoral riding with no actual electorates.

Looking to the present day, in the 2000 presidential election, there were enough convenient anomalies in the deciding state of Florida that many feel it was fixed to give Bush a greater chance at victory. Peaceful protests across the country abounded, demanding that ballots with hanging chads be included or disallowed, or that – due to a confusing ballot arrangement that allowed for people to accidentally vote for the incorrect candidate – a re-vote be taken. Many accused Florida governor – Jeb Bush, the younger brother of the presidential candidate – and his election commissioner of ‘conflict of interest’, with example being of wiping many minorities off the voting records – meaning they would have a difficult time on election day to vote as they were suddenly considered ‘not registered’ – who would have voted for Bush’s opponent, Vice President Al Gore. In the end, the Supreme Court decided to stop the recount, thereby ending any chance of Gore winning the state of Florida and the presidency. The vote was 5-4. Commentators noted that most of the Supreme Court judges were placed on the bench when Bush’s father was either president himself or vice-president, and began to use the term ‘Bush Dynasty’ disparagingly. All of this was done under the watchful eye of the law, or as much of the law as the state would offer.

While all these steps are examples of a powerful organization – the state – manipulating the election results to their own whims, it should be noted that the 2000 election was famous (or infamous) for offering the citizens very little choice in the candidates and their positions, with the Bush and Gore essentially agreeing on a majority of the issues at the time in the autumn debates. A dissenting opinion was perhaps best represented by the third party candidate, Ralph Nader, who ended up receiving much enmity from the left, as he was accused of ‘stealing’ votes from the centre-left candidate Gore. What was truly at stake in 2000, however, or at least should have been, was the methods to narrow the political spectrum by the government. Dissent should have come from across the political spectrum as the system that had long been more tolerant of dissent in general was coming under fire, as two near-identical candidates were offered as the country’s only ‘choice’. 

The 2000 election was an anomaly, however, as in most modern democracies it is more typical to marginalize and disparage certain opinions and ideas long before they can be considered issues that are discussed and debated in the lead-up to an election. Marginalized voices on the left and right fringes – labeled as such by the corporate media and supported by a party-system of governance that demands politicians alter their individual positions to fit into them – object to the way that people are trained to put unquestionable faith in certain actions of the state: “Rather than purely representing the interests of citizens, the government produces a citizenry that is manageable and easy to govern.” (Fernandez, pg.26)

If Preparata was lamenting the state of dissent from a postmodernist, theoretical perspective, then Luis Fernandez, in Policing Dissent, approaches it from a practical, front line, twenty first century position. Just like Preparata, however, he acknowledges early on that in recent decades many hallmarks of protest movements have died off: “The changing nature of labor and the emergence of the multitude [a more complicated notion of the proletariat] open spaces and opportunities for new forms of resistance. Because resistance and social control go hand in had, they also trigger new forms of control.” (Fernandez, pg.31)

The extremely violent labour relations history in the West – with riots and violent clashes against corporate and government forces –have much in common with the current struggles seen in the developing world – in some cases with the similar corporations, almost a century down the road – but seem quite alien now to developed nations. As late as the nineteen sixties and early seventies  large segments of the population united under clear and explicit banners against far-reaching state decisions – in this case, the continued escalation of the American military presence in Vietnam – and faced off against authorities with bloody results (notably the DNC protests in 1968 and the Kent State shootings in 1970). But even during this period, when postmodernist thought emerged and began to offer rather sour opinions as to the nature of these Us versus Them campaigns, a high quality of life in the West had gone from a hard won privilege to practically a birthright, and with it came a passive but definite embrace of capitalism and a democratic form of government, the system that delivered such opportunities. During this period, Richard Nixon appealed to the silent majority, the notion that there were more people supporting the state and its policies than opposing it simply by going about their day. Even by evoking such a ludicrous claim – by not taking part in dissenting activity does not by any means suggest that you disagree with the tenets of the dissenters – an extremely poor litmus test had been haphazardly created. It supposedly reduced the dissenter’s opinion to that of if you were not on the streets, you were on the side of the oppressors. Most shockingly is that the dissidents themselves eventually accepted this binary, making extremely cynically assumptions about the general populace, where everyone but them were easily manipulated sheep brainwashed by those in power, and consequently marginalizing themselves by becoming more extreme and lost in the periphery.

Since that time, the typical narrative is that the ‘spirit of the sixties’ hemorrhaged in the 70s, was left for dead in the 80s – the ‘me’ decade – and return in tiny fragments in the 1990s, with the targets no longer just the state but international financial institutions, trade groups, corporations, and countries on the other side of the planet. In some sense, activism is a strong as is it has ever been in terms of the amount of people involved and the egalitarian goals they are trying to achieve, but as Preparata notes, this type of strength is not very useful when it comes to combating the nature of the twenty-first century globalized society.

Despite the change, the nuts and bolts of protest and the dissenting opinions typically voiced at them remain remarkably similar to what they were decades ago. A numbers game to the very end, the more people who take part in some sort of event – whether a public protest or a (anti)marketing campaign – means greater coverage by the press and the information is spread across greater sections of the populace. Awareness of the issue – in hopes that it will lead to greater public pressure for government reform – has replaced outright revolution as the goal to dissent in the developed world. This has been the schema in the West for many decades – to the relief of those in power, as it requires typically manageable reforms to society, rather than an absolute overhaul that may oust them – but what has changed drastically in the last twenty years or so is the technology, which allows for global coordination and better reaction time to hastily changing plans. This is important, as, to the surprise of no one, the portrayal of dissent in the current media is a complex one, as it can be framed in a myriad of ways: as a shining of example of the masses expressing their freedom of speech, as a gather of the lunatic fringe, or as events that do little more than disrupt the regular workings of society. Any violence that takes place becomes the focus, overshadowing the message of the protest itself. These perceptions by the ‘silent majority’ gives tacit permission to law enforcement to typically use whatever means necessary to restrain the dissenters, with the resultant coverage in media outlets focusing on any form of conflict rather than the nuanced aspects of the protesters’ arguments.

So with that we turn to the physical front lines, which remains the space for human connection of the best and worst kinds, inspiring camaraderie between strangers at one moment, and watching them arrested by heavily armed SWAT team members the next. Finding common ground between the actual role physical intimidation and policing in the developed and developing world is not easy. In Policing Dissent, Fernandez studies only North American protests, and concludes that through the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, and tasers in Miami during an international trade conference, “it is no hyperbole to say that, during the FTAA demonstration, Miami became a militarized sector, closely resembling a war zone.” (Fernandez, pg. 69) If a fault can be offered to those on either side of the crowd control barrier, preemptively denying the use of hyperbolic rhetoric suggests that even the author is aware that he or she is indeed in utilizing it. In the quote above you would be hard pressed to have anyone mistake Miami for, say, Kabul. The point, however, remains. Great lengths are taken by the state and its wing of law enforcement to contain the ability and goals of the dissenters, typically using the fear of violence as an excuse for a crackdown. Fernandez goes into great detail in how bureaucracy attempts to curtail the size of the protests – fences, pre-emptive arrests – and the supplies the protesters can use – signs made of certain materials, banners of a particular size. Small matters, certainly, but any infringement of these rules give the law and excuse to penalize.

In developing nations, these restrictions are much more severe in a rather simplistic sense. There, such details like signs and possible fencing is not an issue, as the military has no compunction to firing on the crowd if given the order. In some cases in these regions, violent protests do not even have to be based on vitriolic dissatisfaction of the governments, as dozens of people were shot in early 2006 in Afghanistan and Pakistan during demonstrations against the depictions of the prophet Muhammad in several European newspapers. In this case, many governments actually supported these protests, but the containment of the crowd apparently becomes such an overriding concern in unstable states that military intervention becomes necessary in what would at first seem to be unlikely events for it. Protests in general in these regions are dangerous enough, sizes of signs be damned. Only in the West does a lack of violence require a more detailed set of rules in order for law enforcement officials to find something ‘wrong’ with the event. The results are the same, however: Discredit and dismantle the uniting of people for the safety of the state.

In the West, what Fernandez finds more damning is the media coverage of the event. He interviews public relations experts who were hired by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police ahead of a 2002 protest, in order to facilitate a sort of negotiation as to avoid any violent confrontations between the two sides. (Fernandez, pg.142) However, despite the PR campaign itself being an attempt to show the public that the police were attempting to work with the protesters, “ultimately the approach was still about control: to minimize disruption, to reduce protest to passive and ritualized dissent.” (Fernanez, pg.147)

There are two battles when it comes to dissent. After the physical event in a (typically) public place is over, it moves to the media. And while the event itself might be called successful by its organizers, it is here, in this second realm, where the overall long-term effectiveness of the event will be decided. Typically the dissenters will be at a disadvantage here, as the media outlets (television, the most popular internet news sites, print, radio) are owned by the powerful and will frame the protest in negative terms (a fringe group of extremists), or not cover it at all. Larger organizations such as Greenpeace, aware of the importance of this stage of dissent/reform to not lose control of the argument completely, has attempted to have its own media relations officer, dispensed from time to time to offer the protester’s version of events. This, of course, has not gone unnoticed by law enforcement officials, as Fernandez noted that Miami police had its own public relations arm: “The task force was responsible for making information easily accessible to local, national, and international reporters. Housed in a central location, public relations officers could swiftly disseminate information.” (Fernandez, pg.148) Furthermore, reporters socialized with police in the form of training sessions, and this relationship is seen, “as Janet Lopez, director of communications for the city of Miami explained, ‘protesters cause injuries to police officers…our police department is not the aggressor… they are public servants, and we hope (embedded) reporters will show that” (Fernandez, pg.150). It should be noted that these are comments made prior to the protest in Miami, suggesting that Lopez is already projecting and framing the outcome. With the advent of the internet is a groundswell of independent media organizations that are not part of the typically large media corporations, and the state and the law are well aware that this apparent anomaly that might toe the party line, and not surprisingly Fernandez notes that these media organizations are both exempt from protection and targeted as part of the protest itself (Fernandez, 150-151). As far as the protection and training that mainstream correspondents receive, Fernandez places it in an easily understandable context: “From a social perspective, embedding reporters is an example of the evolution of the control of dissent through media management. It shows that police value the importance of media reports and understand the growing influence of independent media coverage.” (Fernandez, pg.151) When power controls both the enforcement and framing of dissent, the message of the protest in question can be severely skewered or diluted.

As far as how the mainstream media is portrayed in the media – despite an apparent unity and camaraderie in the coverage of these news event – it appears there is a divide that seemingly ‘mimics’ the debate between those in power and those that practice dissent. Classifying the political spectrum as simply right and left is an embarrassingly narrow-minded view that cheapens the discourse, but it is a common accusation that there is a liberal/left media bias coming from conservatives and conservative/right media bias coming from liberals.

This is essentially a divide in name only. Pundits representing the two dominant sides of political thought denigrate and belittle the other, defending or criticizing the party in power, depending on whether the party represents their views or not. In the United States, the Fox News cable network is acknowledged as holding a heavily conservative slant on the issues, while MSNBC is their liberal doppelganger. It should be noted, however, that the left splinters into many more factions than the right, and consequently employs many niche independent media outlets found mainly on the internet. The assumption then is that there is some sort of politically centrist belief that can appeal to all citizens of the state, that there are general foundations all can agree on. This attempt to take the edge off of the political fringe is not new, of course. In 1968, Howard Zinn noted that, “we live in an era where the national state monopolizes power and information. It therefore tries to persuade is that Domestic Tranquility is all important. It insists that we do not rebel against its authority, that we keep the ‘peace’” (Zinn, pg.19). In regards to the act of civil disobedience at the time, he adds that critics hold, “a supposition about the facts of life in the United States: that the American political system has been successful, that no more is required for the remedy of existing grievances than existing channels of dissent: ‘the rights to speak, to publish, to protest, to assemble peacefully, and to participate in the electoral process’” (Zinn, pg.54). If Zinn found these options limited and compromised in 1968 – which he does (ibid, pg.67-68) – then it goes without saying that in the second decade of the twenty-first century we are due for reform.

Most political stances that fall to the right and left of these mainstream positions (libertarianism, totalitarianism on the right, socialism and communism on the left), are never addressed in any seriousness in media dialogue, except as insults volleyed by one side to the other (conservatives would argue that liberal policies are attempts to turn America socialist, while liberals would argue that conservative policies are the equivalent of instituting a corporate oligarchy). This is especially true for the situation of the leftists. The fact that many of them embrace niche markets is a key point to consider. It prevents the positions taken on certain issues from ever being discussed within the mainstream, even if there is a sizable audience that would agree on the most basic points. For example, one who heavily pushes for environmental reform may have the same sentiments as one that wants more economic regulation (both left-leaning positions) but if their source of information is only their focused issue, banding together for the good of both matters is less likely. In a fragmented, complex society, it is hard to be an expert (even a semi-expert) in two disciplines that don’t often overlap.

What does pass for debate reduces the opinions into prepackaged factoids that are offered up in the six-minute segments between incessant two minutes chunks of advertising. Conservative programming will denigrate liberal positions; liberal programming will denigrate conservative positions, and an outlet claiming bipartisanship will have both sides attack each other with oversimplified accusations that do not offer much depth in the allotted minutes of debate. What constitutes a dissenting opinion is hard to come by in these theatrics, as one side constantly accuses the other dissent despite the fact that the two opinions are the most dominant views in the state. Hardly what anyone would call dissent, as opinions that would qualify as such typically fall on the far sides of this two-party system. While there are occasional nods to these views that fall to the left and right of the more accepted binary, rarely do these add up to a unified and respected policy platform.

The 2009-2010 Health Care debate in America is a key example of this manufactured discourse. Long ignored as a viable political policy issue since the 1993 Clinton health care plan did not pass in the House, Noam Chomsky notes it wasn’t even mentioned in 2004 by either presidential candidate despite the fact that it was one of the American public’s chief concerns. Chomsky goes on to surmise that it was only brought up four years later because enough manufacturing industries that had their own health care plans for their employees felt the services was costing too much (the example being that it cost $1000 more for the same car to be manufactured in Detroit than across the border in Windsor, Canada due to a government-run health care organization there). While a majority of Americans wanted a plan similar to this style – a single payer system that the government offered, as opposed to the programs private health care and insurance companies offered – it was quickly removed from the debate for being politically unfeasible, as too many politicians in congress had accepted fundraising money from these health insurance companies who did not want any form of government competition. Outrage at this was palpable on the far left, and received a sharp rebuke not only from the right but the ‘middle’ left as well, as these dissenters who were pushing for a single payer system were portrayed as people who might jeopardize any sort of health care reform at all.

As if this wasn’t enough, public debate was shaped in such a way to influence the terminally undecided/independent citizens that reportedly make up thirty to forty percent of the American electorate. From the right, those opposing health care reform in any capacity attempted to scare the average citizen into opposing it by warning them of the threat of death panels, a bloated inadequate bureaucracy (ignoring the fact that the private health care system is already in inefficient shambles) a rise of taxes, and the entire agenda being another form of government telling you how to live your life. A recurring term by this core group of objectors was that this was a bill being, “rammed/shoved down the throats of the American people”.

Manufacturing dissent – that is, dissent being encouraged by those in power to shape their own agenda – was pushed by politicians and pundits who opposed health care reform, which was encouraged and underwritten by certain corporate groups that wanted a very particular type of health care reform (power residing in the hands of the health insurance companies). The result being that many town hall meetings in the summer of 2009 that were chaired by senators and congressmen and women were interrupted by people protesting the possibility of government run health care. Now certainly some of this was genuine emotion by the citizens involved, and while calls that the health care reform was similar to laws passed in Nazi Germany were unwarranted (although in fairness many protest memes are prone to hyperbole for the sake of marketability), there should be concern when dissent is encouraged by those in power (not necessarily politicians, but corporations and lobbying groups).

In the end, an extremely watered down health care reform bill was passed. The result being that the manufacturing industry is pleased that much of the health care costs will now, in effect, be subsidized by the government, as it will pay private health care insurers, instead of running a single-payer system that many analysts believed would have been cheaper and more efficient. The winners are the American corporations that require and provide health care, and it comes at the expense of the taxpayer.

As illustrated in the examples above, dissent in the form of active protest has become carefully marginalized, policed, and framed in a way that it gains little traction with the general populace, or is not seriously addressed in the media and political discourse. As long as a majority of people in the West still live relatively comfortable lives – which is a privilege earned through decades of (mostly) responsible governance and hard work that included acts of dissent and protest – seeing change occur through these traditional methods will not come any time soon.

As far as a more legitimate movement directly involved in the participation of a democratically elected government that truly represents a wider spectrum of political opinions – perhaps the most plausible goal of dissent in the West – the ‘third way/party’ has long been a pariah in American politics. The closest a presidential candidate has come to winning the election was by Texas billionaire Ross Perot in 1992, who was leading in the polls for most of the year. He was forced to drop out in the summer due to lack of funds – corporate and wealthy donors help to ensure that it costs tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to run as a viable candidate for the highest seats in the government – but re-entered in the waning months of the election. His views were a mixture of traditional conservative and ‘radical’ libertarian, and were mocked and derided by both mainstream parties. In the wake of democrat Bill Clinton’s victory, many on the right viewed Perot with enmity, as it was thought he stole vote that would have gotten to Clinton’s Republican challenger, George H.W. Bush. It should be noted that in the 2000 election detailed above, many democrats felt the same way about the Green party candidate Ralph Nader, who took votes that would have gone to Al Gore. The third party, in other words, does not only have difficulty in establishing a platform that gains the attention of the citizens, but it also must overcome the reputation that it ‘ruins’ elections for the candidates from the mainstream parties whose policies run close to this other option.

What should be stressed for all these examples from America – the first world nation with the most dissonance between the policies the public wants addressed and the policies the government addresses – is that the dissent is suppressed in such a manner that there is no crime – on behalf of the state – to be found. No explicit curtailing of civil liberties that the oppressed can be pointed to as an example that they are not living in a free society. Arrests that come out of such protests are incidental to the actual message of the protest, ranging from assault to the more nebulous ‘disturbing the peace’. All of this is designed to ensure that the actions that can occur at these events can be suppressed or curtailed (essentially subduing the protest itself), while the state maintains that the rights of the citizen to express their disapproval of whatever policy remains in effect.

It is not so much that dissent has become outlawed, but simply that it has become bogged down by the bureaucracy (groups must apply months ahead of time for event permits that might not be granted), marginalized by a corporate media that is successfully curtailing independent outlets, and generally inefficient at pushing for reform as it is not recognized as a legitimate representation of the people. Part of this onset of irrelevance is due to the carefully orchestrated embracement of dissenting opinions by political parties that are currently relegated to minority status in the state’s government. In the 2006 and 2008 elections, the centre-left leaning Democratic party used the antiwar sentiments of half the nation that had been voiced by much of the left – who were long disillusioned with their military’s presence in Iraq and Afghanistan – to propel it to victory, first in the house in 2006, and then to the presidency and senate in 2008. After these political goals were met, however, with much dithering on the exiting of Iraq and an actual increase in troop levels in Afghanistan, the left once again become disillusioned with the party that they were/are expected to support and in this instance had promised them change. Now obviously a politician breaking campaign promises should not come as a shock to anyone, but the result of this manipulation of the dissenters that do come out on election day drives both groups further apart. The dissenters are further marginalized, convinced once again that any type of compromise with the centre will not see their objectives come to fruition, and the politicians aggravated that the support the dissenters offered evaporate almost immediately, as they are unwilling to make the necessary concessions that they believe is part of the democratic process. Any followers to the current political climate in America will see this same scenario being played out once again between the centre-right Republicans and the further right political movement, the loosely named Tea Partiers. Riding a wave of public discontent on the current state of the economy, the Republican party went from the minority to majority party in the House of Representatives in the 2010 elections, bolstered in part from candidates who are further right than the typical GOP politician, some of whom have endorsed the eradication of the IRS, the education system, and the U.S. Treasury. It seems likely that Tea Partiers will become disenchanted with supporting this mainstream party, just as the left did supporting the Democrats not many years prior. Catering to such groups and not delivering to exact specifications is unwanted but practically inevitable fallout. Just as mainstream America mocked and marginalized the far left protesters under Republican president Bush, the Tea Partiers are now mocked and marginalized by the mainstream under Democratic president Obama.

What cannot be understated is how obsessively these uncertain, always-changing relationships are covered in the media. Despite having little reservation for decrying the dissenting opinions as unfeasible and extreme, these outlets of information have little problem discussing and number crunching the role these groups might supposedly have in shaping government policy. As shown above, there is typically little influence, but that has not stopped the media as describing the 2006/2008 democrat/liberal advance and the 2010 conservative return as earth-shaking political revolutions, despite the fact that voting records typically show that the true difference is the shifting moods of the centrist independent/undeclared voters, not the fringe, dissident elements. So not only are these discussions typically wrongheaded and irrelevant to what truly instigates political change, but they take away time that could be better used to discuss the breadth of the opinions on actual issues that these dissenting groups wish to be considered on a national level. While Obama declared the end of military operations at the end of August, there are still 50,000 American troops in Iraq. And with the self-imposed deadline for exiting Afghanistan set for July 2011 (although an admittedly flexible date), General Petraeus has stated that the Afghan government has begun negotiations with the Taliban, and it is becoming clearer that the insurgents cannot be defeated in a traditional military format. These are essential questions that should be addressed not only by the White House and the Pentagon, but also by the American public, not matter where one resides along the political spectrum. Dissenters wish at the very least to have their grievances heard, if not corrected, and when that does not happen, a vicious circle of marginalization comes into effect. The reactions to these developments have angered both the left and right, but in a first world nation, the response is not typically violent. Instead, it comes in the form of tepid support for the ruling party in the upcoming elections, guaranteeing no change at all.

These are all permissible forms of political theatricality, which become the focus of the media – and therefore a sizable segment of the population – which is of welcome news to the wealthy corporations that have much stronger hand in shaping policy that keeps the power of the nation in their control. For example, during much of the spring and summer of 2010, the question regarding the power of the Tea Party overshadowed much of the debate over financial reform, an issue that, only two years earlier, almost brought the world to its knees. In the developed world, it can be said that dissent is not so much suppressed as it is permitted to exist in such a fashion that it can be easily ignored or conveniently assimilated. The result, however is equal to the consequences of more traditional forms of suppression, which we will turn to now.


Most of the World/The Non-West

From this miasma of information in the Western world, where words as weapons far outweigh the use of actual weapons in the attempted advance and successful suppression of dissent, we now turn to much of the rest of the globe. In developing countries where the stability of the state is constantly in question, notably in Afghanistan and Congo, the suppression of dissent is much simpler, much more explicit, and much more violent.

Power resides in the hands of the very few – an insular, static group of politicians, businessmen, and their families – and the government wields much more direct control over the lives of its citizens. In the West large corporations that work in not-so-secret collusion with those in the government control the media (mainly form but content as well), whereas in many developing countries the media is controlled and content created directly by the government. The framing of the issue in terms of how it may appeal to various positions upon the political spectrum are not necessary. The only dichotomy that exists ignores left and right notions of policy, focusing simply on what the government does versus those who are against the government. This makes for a rather straightforward and obvious message that comes out of the government-controlled media: the government is always looking out for the citizen and those that object to state powers are enemies of the state.

Speaking out against the government is subject to investigations at the very least and intimidation, arrest, and physical harm if it appears to be having any effect. The much-maligned protests permit applications found in the West are unheard of in these countries. The very act of assembly is typically looked at with some suspicion, unless a high-ranking government official has approved it. Prearranged pro-government rallies are a popular propaganda tool in these countries and are portrayed as events that prove much of the country’s citizens do in fact support the government currently in power.

Throughout history – but never as much as the industrial/post-industrial period – it was important for a ruler(s) to have the public believe that he (or she, but typically he) is making decisions that benefit the state as a whole. For thousands of years it was sufficient to simply say that the power(s) in charge was/were ordained by god. With the advent of democracy in the early industrial era, however, it was then expected for the leaders to represent the will of the people to some degree. Certainly there were flaws in the plan early on in all nations (at first voting was restricted to wealthy white males, and in America, only 1% of the population was eligible to vote in the eighteenth century), but over time inclusiveness became the norm and elections were heralded as the most direct way to approve or disapprove the performance of a government (ideally, the election ballot is the purest form of dissent, so much so that if it worked properly, dissent should not have to manifest itself in any other fashion). Of course, for those who are unwilling to relinquish power, this is the very scourge of democracy. It is an honour to proclaim you are representing the will of the people, unless they vote to take it away from you.

In the developed world – with the exception of the US presidential election noted above – most of the attempts by power institutions to influence the vote is done before the election. In developing countries that claim to be a democracy it is the election itself that is subject to manipulation. With weak infrastructure it is very easy for officials to alter the vote without detection, and charges of fraud are rampant by bipartisan global officials. Not only ballot stuffing and physical intimidation while standing in line to vote, but entire towns being ordered to vote a certain way by village elders are common occurrences in countries like Afghanistan. In Pakistan in 2007 President Musharif simply declared emergency rule, arresting Supreme Court judges and any political activists that opposed him, and political opponents such as Benazir Bhutto were placed under house arrest. Troops were sent to television and radio outlets and any form of media broadcast was banned unless it came from the government.

While violence is the exception in the developed world, it remains the chilling norm in the developing one, and it’s not limited to average citizens speaking out against the government. In Congo, longtime president Robert Mugabe’s opponent Morgan Tsvangirai found himself and his campaign frequently harassed and attacked by the government’s secret police, at one point telling supporters they may be killed if they voted for him. When his wife died in a car collision in early 2009, the party he was leader of claimed it was no accident. In many African countries, there is little chance for a strong, peaceful protest (as it is quickly crushed by state law enforcement and the military), and many dissidents quickly turn to protecting themselves with weaponry, becoming armed resistance fighters, or, in the language of the state, rebels and terrorists. An endless circle of violence quickly begins.

For Iran, the fallout of the 2009 election that saw two comparatively conservative candidates vie for the position of president – largely a figurehead role, as the real power lies with the religious leaders and Revolutionary Guard – resulted in massive students protests accusing the winner – incumbent Ahmadinejad – of voter fraud. The slightly more liberal second place candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, levied a charge of deception, and was soon placed under house arrest by the government. Strangely enough, while there was certainly reason enough to believe that some level of deception was involved, it certainly was possible that Ahmadinejad won the popular vote simply due to the amount of supporters he had outside of the more liberal capital city of Tehran.

What became the focus of how Iran truly dealt with political rights and the freedom of speech in the wake of the disputed elections was the crushing of the hundreds of thousands that took the streets. The use of firearms on crowds, beatings, arrests, and even torture became the common form of suppression over the ensuing days, weeks, and months after the election. The murder of one unarmed protester, Neda Agha-Soltan, created a second wave of marches, this time in her name. In response to these constant (illegal) assemblies, the government took steps to deactivate internet and phone services for the country to discourage communication between a youthful demographic that has embraced new technologies. Publicly, on the government-controlled airwaves, the accusation that foreign agents were influencing these events was common. In the eyes of the powers-that-be, dissent must be suppressed at all costs, including the simple lie of framing the protest as alien, unwarranted, and non-representative of the average citizen. Once again the media plays an essential role in silencing a nation’s critics simply by discounting them outright as people worthy of being considered, although outside of the West this can occur in a much simplified form as it can skip the matter of a left-right debate and make it simply right-wrong. Much of this is an attempt to curtail the ideas of the dissenters as much as it is to marginalize the people themselves. The more practical step of silencing opposition – as has happened in Iran, Afghanistan, the Congo, and a host of other developing countries – is to ensure that these protesters do not disturb the balance of power again by removing them from the equation, either by execution or imprisonment.

While dissidents in the developed world have complained with some justification that they were arrested without warrant and held in jails cells or detention centers for an inordinate amount of time (perhaps a day) without charges being formally made, in the developing world it is quite typical to avoid arresting protesters in the first place and shooting them in the streets. Those that are arrested are frequently beaten and tortured into signing false confessions and coerced into giving names of their supposed associates. With no trial or public declaration of charges (or false version of both), such protesters can face life in prison with little effort on behalf of the government.

The physical manifestation of the demands and power of the state at this point is law enforcement. With unwavering support by the government when it comes to methods – as long as the expected results are met – it must be acknowledged that there are people behind the supposedly faceless force that – in the most basic sense – gives the state its power: “Those responsible for policing protest are a mixture of policing and intelligence agencies firmly associated with the nation-state apparatus but who also articulate missions, activities, and strategies beyond the nation-state” (Fernandez, pg.23). Fernandez acknowledges here the interdependency of global economics when he mentions “beyond the nation state”. Large corporations that pay hefty sums of money to do business in certain countries are frequently the ones pulling the strings and demanding that governments curb protests by striking workers or citizens that feel the effects of the company in question’s business is destroying their lives. In Nigeria those protesting the drilling complex oil giant Shell has in the country were hung. In Peru, it was for a time illegal for citizens to collect rainwater as the American company hired to provide a federal water supply system demanded a complete monopoly on the resource (in this respect, protests worked and the company backed off, suggesting that such a basic natural resource might be the community as a whole’s breaking point when it comes to corporate intervention). 

Death as punishment for the act of dissent is as strong a warning as they come, and throughout history it has been particularly effective. Dissent in the medieval era simply meant treason, which guaranteed jailing, torture, and death, followed by a display of the body (or body parts) in public places as a warning to others. When one’s body is typically all you had, the state had to lay claim on this wholly physical attribute to ultimately control you. Non-Western, developing states are still relying on Foucault’s concept of ‘biopower’ when it comes to subjugating its citizens: “The word refers generally to the exercise of control over the human body at the anatomical and biological levels. Biopower can emanate from national policies (such as abortion policies or capital punishment), but it aims at not only controlling individual behavior but also producing entire populations.” (Fernandez, pg.25) If the state has near complete control over how its citizens live their lives – by offering or withholding certain rights and privileges – even the notion of any alternative way of living or form of society can be eliminated before adulthood. A cult-of-personality surrounding the leader of the state can be considered the most extreme form of this type of control over the populace – they live to serve the greatness of the dear leader and his state – by simply pushing the belief that the government is always in the right and that the failures of the nation are due to those that object government policy. To keep citizens in line it frequently uses – as the body itself is central to the notion of biopower – the most effective physical form of suppression: violence and the threat of violence.

Due to the wealth of Western nations, it can be said that this form of control has been mainly outsourced to multinational corporations. And it is forced upon these states in a much more passive, conceptual way, through the push of conspicuous, interdependent consumption. This relation to the suppression of dissent cannot be ignored. Keeping materialism as the focus of the merits of society over the debate of how this materialist culture came to be is an effective way of keeping as many of the public out of the discussion as possible.

Clearly this cannot be as easily sold to citizens in the developing world, although with globalization creating middle classes in China and India and lower classes (where before there was straight poverty) in African and Middle Eastern countries, it has become yet another wedge between the government and the demands of citizens that are becoming more and more aware of the economic inequalities throughout the world.

As the world becomes more globalized, the stranglehold that several of these nations has over its people will inevitably loosen, but the process will involve several acts of dissent that range from peaceful protest to insurrectionary riots. These manifestations of dissent will not necessarily be part of a larger demand to reach the level of freedom and materialism that are the hallmarks (deserved or not) of Western nations, but simply an advance on the lack of whatever the current situation happens to be in regard of the relationship between the few with power and the many without.

What should the West make of these protests/revolts in developing nations? First, it should be acknowledged that despite trumpeting the wonders of the Western capitalist system domestically, many states and institutions with considerable power are very particular when it comes to helping this system be enacted in developing states. Protests against Western corporations in Western countries, and how it conducts its business can frequently lead the company to locate its headquarters or factory in more ‘business-friendly’ regions (typically ones that do not have minimum wage or job safety laws).

Second, that there is a sharp distinction between dissent against an autonomous state and against a corporation or industry that operates within such states. In the case of the former, the chances for any type of intervention from the West – whether militaristic or financial – is comparatively low if the functioning industries which service the West that exists in this particular state can continue unimpeded. In the case of the latter, Western involvement becomes much more apparent, typically ordering the state in question to quell the rebellious factions, sometimes taking a direct part in the suppression. It should be noted at this point that how this is framed in the Western media frequently has the Western industry – or Western-supported government – as being attacked by seditious rebels and violent protesters, regardless of how the powers treated its citizens.

The globalization of the economy has made the actions and social movements in many developing nations to be of great interest to the Western world, but the types of support for such situations have been varied. ‘Regime change’ has entered into the sociopolitical lexicon as the term for one nation – typically a powerful Western one – overthrowing another that it deems to be hostile to its own safety and interests. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 would be a primary example, and it offers an illuminating view on how dissent is handled in both nations, before and after the initial attack. Anti-war demonstrators across the globe marched to no avail, and those in certain positions of power who spoke out against the impending strike against the Middle Eastern nation were denounced and criticized for living in a ‘pre 9/11 mindset’. The targeted nation, Iraq, had been controlled by its dictatorial leader Saddam Hussein for decades, who ruled with an iron fist, crushing dissenters with extreme violence (using toxic gas to suppress Kurdish uprising in the north). This attack on his own citizens was one of the justifications – becoming the main one once no weapons of mass destruction were found – the U.S. led coalition offered as reason for their invasion, despite the fact that it ignored a sizable amount of its own citizen’s protests for invading in the first place. And while ‘assisting’ developing nations in creating a freer and more stable form of government is certainly an honourable goal, many questions can be asked concerning the method of choosing which unstable nations should receive such an ‘opportunity’. The United States was accused by many on the left for invading Iraq mainly to have a large stake in the country’s vast oil reserves. It also begs the question why such limited forms of intervention has been deployed in many African countries were the government frequently persecutes socially active citizens, particular subcultures, and any rebel groups that protest the actions of the state.

The responsibility of international intervention to defend a marginalized group, culture, or party in a particular state has no clear and constant outline. More often than not it is left to be an internal problem, with other nations tacitly condemning the government for any well-documented suppression of citizen’s rights to protest and speak out. Certainly examples can be brought of intelligence agencies supporting rebel groups – whether based on legitimate grievances or nothing more than an attempted coup by well armed mercenaries – but this quickly leaves the realm of grassroots dissent that is being discussed here (in fact, many examples of large-scale dissent in South America come out of a reaction against these quickly propped up governments by not-quite-oblique support from other powerful Western nations).

When the state is violent, it more often than not justifies a violent reaction by the populace, although when it comes to specific events, there can be much debate over who threw the first stone, literally and figuratively. Even in cases when the state has a long history of violent subjugation and cessation of basic human rights, its defense that it is doing what is required to keep anarchy from overrunning the country is frequently acknowledged by other nations as a legitimate act in extremely difficult circumstances. And the acceptance of this behaviour by the governments of other states is enough to convince many of its citizens to support this stance, as much of the information they receive is based on pro-corporate/government positions. It is in this extremely difficult circumstance that many dissenters – persecuted by their own government, and ignored by many other states to varying degrees (even those that might support the rebellious factions) – find themselves in. All players seek legitimacy to their actions, and violence has the visceral power to gain and lose this quality. Both the State and any dissenters must way the use of such actions carefully, as overstepping their hand could lead to its own demise. The ethics of the use of violence seems to go out the window completely, as it becomes just another political tool. Howard Zinn acknowledges this when he states that, “what we should be most concerned about is not some natural tendency towards violent uprising, but rather the inclination of people, faced with an overwhelming environment, to submit to it.” (Zinn, pg.17)

While inspiring prose, time and time again it is shown that in developing nations this attitude leads to a vicious circle of violence. The more impassioned and intense the protest, the harder the state will come down on the dissenters, which will result in the dissenters to step up their resistance and actions against the state. Both sides claim that their actions are in done in the name of such terms as “freedom” and “legitimacy”, which calls to mind the Philip K. Dick aphorism which acknowledges that “to fight against the empire is to be infected by its derangement”. The small ray of hope to the typically dismal life of the dissenter in a developing nation is that due to the overall instability of the country – certainly compared to the operation of Western nations – there is a chance that those that march in the streets or take up arms against the government may one day find themselves in charge of it. And that suddenly becomes another matter completely.



Despite the obvious differences between how dissent can be suppressed in developed and developing nations, what must be stressed is how both methods produce the same result: the power remains in the hands of the unchanging few by marginalizing and silencing those that oppose this system. In both types of states, the rulers are effective in their goals, enabling the dominant voice to reign unimpeded and claim that it is centrist and appeals to all ‘good and noble’ citizens of the state.

It can be said that the West has had in the last several decades the luxury of never being so desperate as to take up arms against those in charge. As long as one has something to lose besides their life – job, house, savings, position in their community – they will not put in the same effort as people that have lost everything (an occurrence that happens with great regularity in much of the developing world). This luxury means that violence is the exception, punishment comparatively lenient unless it can be proved that they were guilty of assaulting any law enforcement officials (most crimes at protests are either vandalism or disturbing the peace).

It is with this fact that makes dissent and its suppression in the developing world all the more heart wrenching. Fighting for rights long since accepted as essential in the West, those that participate are risking not only their lives but those of their families and friends. If the West can accept not intervening in these matters, it can at least make their citizens more aware of these clashes for basic rights through the media (unfortunately this might clash with certain corporate interests in the state in question).

A fair analogy would be an evening of boxing matches. The main event – dissent in the developed world – is filled with more speculation and hype surrounding it, which makes the discussion before and after the actual fight just as essential as the fight itself. And the fight is not necessarily a violent clash, instead going through the familiar motions with perhaps only or two heavy blows that could possibly turn the tables. Meanwhile, the undercard – dissent in the developing world – is not given as much attention, and the fight is much more unpredictable and tenacious, as both fighters are trying to reach the level of the main event (a ‘developed’ state) and take more risks doing so.

The advantage to this comparison is that it effectively eradicates the criminal element that power repeatedly claims is occurring and that dissent repeatedly claims is irrelevant considering the crimes of the state itself. The rule of law becomes moot when those that enforce the law are guilty of breaking it and seek justification for it via increased persecution of those that demand they be held accountable: “If the effect of civil disobedience is to break down the public’s mind the totalitarian notion that laws are absolutely and always to be obeyed, then this is healthy for the grown of democracy.” (Zinn ,pg.19)

The future of dissent and its suppression in a globalized world will perhaps see a merging as the two worlds – developed and developing – truly become more familiar to each other. Increased violence in the West – recent student protests in London being an example – and a more concerted effort at peaceful resolutions in regions such as Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. What is unchanging, however, is that the reasons behind these protests and movements remain the same. That the many demand that the few who hold the reigns of power be accountable for their actions, as they are making them on behalf of all the citizens of the state. How the government suppresses this pressure can come in a variety of forms, but those that sic their apparatuses on this movement – whether it be a media outlet or troops – to discredit or dismantle it are committing the same actions of suppression, and should be held responsible for both the reasons for its inception and the fallout from their efforts.  After all, if patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, then dissent should remain the first choice of the conscientious citizen.




Fernandez, Luis A. Policing Dissent. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2008.

Hobsbawm, E.J. Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century ,1914-1991. London: Michael Joseph, 1994.

Preparata, Guido G. The Ideology of Tyranny: Bataille, Foucault, and the Postmodern Corruption of Political Dissent. New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2007.


Zinn, Howard. Disobedience and Democracy. Toronto: Random House, 1968.


i believe i hear the ringing bells of inevitability