What the “Costs” in a Cost-Benefit Analysis of Protest Really Look Like

Apr 25 '11

Those of us who write about protest from the vantage point of the individual protestor often think about “the costs and benefits of protest”:http://homepages.nyu.edu/%7Ejat7/POP_5_3_Tucker.pdf. One of the insights of this kind of theoretical formulation is that it pushes us to think about what embattled regimes can do to increase the potential cost of protesting in an effort to deter future protesters. The Syrian regime has apparently “taken this approach to heart”:http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/M/ML_SYRIA?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-04-25-17-21-15, with the “Associated Press reporting”:http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/M/ML_SYRIA?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-04-25-17-21-15 that “Residents and human rights activists said the regime wants to terrify opponents and intimidate them from staging any more demonstrations”.

Ever wonder what “potential costs” actually look like in practice? Here’s a YouTube video of tanks reportedly entering Daraa, Syria, yesterday. I say “reportedly” because I have no way to vouch for the authenticity of the video, so I present it with that caveat. There’s no actual violence in this video, just a sense of impending doom.

I’m moved by the fact that the protestors don’t actually seem to be running away. Also, if you watch until the end of the clip, it sort of looks like the soldiers aren’t exactly sure what is going on either. I always wonder what is going through the heads of soldiers in these situations, when they are clearly about to be in conflict with their own people. I don’t know what happened immediately after the video was shot, but here’s more of the “AP report”:http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/M/ML_SYRIA?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-04-25-17-21-15 for what happened today in Daraa:

bq. Thousands of soldiers backed by tanks and snipers moved in before dawn to the city where Syria’s anti-government uprising began, causing panic in the streets when they opened fire indiscriminately on civilians and went house-to-house rounding up suspected protesters. At least 11 people were killed and 14 others lay in the streets – either dead or gravely wounded, witnesses said.

bq. The offensive was meticulously planned: Electricity, water and mobile phone services were cut. Security agents armed with guns and knives conducted house-to-house sweeps, neighborhoods were sectioned off and checkpoints were erected before the sun rose.

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h/t to “Alicia Barker-Aguilar”:http://www.trumanproject.org/programs/fellowship/people/alicia-barker-aguilar for the YouTube Video