Monday, September 17, 2012

The Protests in Perspective

While some rush to use last week's embassy protests to discredit 2011's Arab uprisings, Marc Lynch puts them in a different perspective:
"After one week I am struck by the significant differences between 2006 and 2012 in how Arab and American publics have responded to the cycle of outrage.  This week, a wide range of prominent leaders and ordinary citizens publicly rebuked the attacks on U.S. Embassies, and have denounced the riots (even if many continue to voice their right to criticize the anti-Islamic film).  The protests, most of which were rather small in the first place, have in most places largely sputtered out, in part because key Islamist forces decided that their interests were better served by restraint than by escalation.  What is more, a very significant number of Arab voices complained publicly over their peers demonstrating over an obscure film rather than over the slaughter in Syria or serious domestic challenges in their countries.  I do not remember any similar backlash in 2006."
What Lynch points out is that there is more space for protest now, but also far more ideas being expressed.  Another important point is that states are still building the capacity to control what happens in their countries, and I would add that some new governments and security services are still feeling their way toward new red lines as they strive to ensure public order without sparking a backlash for suppressing popular expression.


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