Headless Movements Rising in Egypt, Turkey, and Brazil – Decentralized protests baffle centralized states

HEADLESSYesterday and today, millions of Egyptians have marched against Mohamed Morsi’s government. Time reports that the number of demonstrators yesterday “equaled and possibly exceeded some of the highest peaks of the original revolution against deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak,” adding that “Tahrir Square, on the edge of downtown Cairo, was packed to the point where crowds extended all the way across two bridges to the other bank of the Nile. And the crowds in Heliopolis were equally massive—completely covering the district.”

Today five ministers resigned from Morsi’s cabinet, and the military has threatened to step in on the opposition’s bahalf. On the bright side, that suggests that Morsi won’t be able to count on the armed forces to crack down on the protests. On the not-so-bright side, it means the military might try to coopt this surge of people power, perhaps even using it as a cover for a coup.

Meanwhile, the mass protests in Turkey have not ceased, and another people-power movement is burning in Brazil, where some protesters have taken to chanting “Turkey is here!” Tactics can be contagious: These movements have different roots, are appearing in different contexts, and will no doubt arrive at different outcomes, but they’re all watching and learning from each other, and from the other grassroots protests that have flared around the globe over the last few years.

According to the Financial Times, Turkey’s ruler has mistaken that mutual awareness for a centralized conspiracy:

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In fact, far from being centrally controlled, these movements are notably resistant to control. They are, in the Brazilian sociologist Giuseppe Cocco’s phrase, “self-convening marches that nobody manages to represent, not even the organizations that found themselves in the epicenter of the first call.” But people in authority have a hard time comprehending that sort of loose, decentralized action. As Moisés Naím wrote last week…



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