Use Humor to Open Minds

Civil resistance actions can have many different purposes. But one goal is often to persuade the general public to change their opinions and support your cause. You might try to do this directly or through media coverage. In either case, this is a tough task because many in your “audience” will have pre-formed opinions. Entrenched beliefs and attitudes are the lens through which they perceive

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Laughing at Authority

A few years ago Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then president of Iran, spoke at Columbia University. I heard a clip from that speech on the radio that stuck in my mind. The authoritarian leader was answering a question about the treatment of gay people in his country. This is what he said: In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. (Laughter.) We don’t have that

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Harnessing Grassroots Power

When people band together to engage in smart, strategic activism, they can sometimes compel their government to act in their best interest. That seems to be what happened recently when the Maryland state legislature passed a permanent statewide ban on fracking, against the wishes of a powerful oil and gas lobby.But it didn’t happen by chance, or because the politicians wanted to do the right

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Start Small

Let’s say you’re passionate about fighting climate change. You form a local group to work for a national reduction in carbon emissions. You write letters to congress, hand out leaflets to raise public awareness and organize demonstrations in your town. Meanwhile, more climate-change deniers are elected, coalmines reopened and auto fuel-efficiency standards relaxed. Despite your hard work, membership in your little group gradually wanes to

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Sharp on Resistance by Government Workers

Governments, like all large bureaucracies, are run by people. People can be disobedient, uncooperative and stubborn. As a result, governments are vulnerable to noncooperation attacks from the civil servants who are tasked with carrying out their policies. In his famous list of 198 methods of nonviolent action, Gene Sharp includes resistance techniques that have been used by government workers. The methods are categorized as “Political

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Top 15 Disruption Techniques from the OSS

In 1944 the predecessor to the CIA, known as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), produced a little pamphlet called Simple Sabotage Field Manual. Apparently it was to be distributed to enemy occupied countries during World War II in an attempt to encourage disruption of their governments’ war effort. The manual is full of tips on how to disrupt the smooth operation of industry, government and

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Monkeywrenching Government

If you work for a government that is exhibiting authoritarian tendencies, there are many nonviolent methods you can use to obstruct and impede the implementation of its policies. Government leaders depend on the support of ordinary civil servants to get their policies carried out. But that support is always tenuous. The ways of fouling up the work of government are endless. Far from being rational,

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Making Your Protest Count

You organize a big local protest march. Hundreds of people turn out. Energy levels are high and everyone is in good spirits. It is considered a wild success. But what did you really gain? Unless the event was part of a larger strategy, you are probably no closer to achieving your goal. It was largely a wasted effort. That is not to say there is

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Thinking Strategically

A few years ago when the Iraq war was going on, I would sometimes attend the meetings of our local peace coalition. The people there, mostly respectable members of the community, would tell you they were strong advocates of “nonviolence.” Yet I sense that nonviolence meant something different to them than it did to me. For them, it was simply the absence of violence—not physically hurting

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About Nonviolence 3.0

First there was the satyagraha of Mahatma Gandhi and the soul force of Martin Luther King—nonviolence 1.0. Then there was the purely strategic nonviolence of Gene Sharp and his theories of raw power stripped of ethics and morality—nonviolence 2.0. What’s next? That’s what we intend to explore here. While Gandhi, King and Sharp have much to teach us, the 21st century is seeing amazing new

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