Дата публикации

The Cynical Side Of The «Soft Power»

The degree of instability around the globe is only increasing. Of no exception is the post-Soviet space as evidenced by the events emerging in the Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. Against this background, Belarus has every chance to break this trend, since there is a consolidated support for the President by all the centers of power: including the power bloc, the media resource, the Parliament formed on the majority principle, the top management of state-owned enterprises and large businesses, — the BISR analyst Vitaly Demiror believes.

At the same time it should be borne in the mind that the development of highly redistributed economy in Belarus, an economy of knowledge and appropriate education, a high share of high-tech services in GDP, and the level of democratization of broadcast channels by means of the Internet give potential protests the form of a dynamically non-equilibrium system that is extremely dependent on any, even insignificant, information fluctuations and influences.

In these circumstances, it is not so much the event itself that is important, as the message about it — one second in the video can bring the protesters closer to the goal much more effectively than many hours spent in full view of passers-by in the center of Oktyabrskaya Square.

In the new conditions of the information space, the pumping tools available for the opposition — the channels of bloggers who were previously promoted on apolitical positive topics (tourism, urban environment, cycling, etc.) – are more effective than classical media. The reason is that they are in line with the general trend towards the development of a "neighbor" (horizontal) circle of trust. It seems, after all, that the content activity of subscribers, followers, members of social groups and bloggers is based on belief, and not on money. If necessary, these bloggers play the role of public opinion leaders, and their resources are turned into coordination and propaganda platforms.

In addition, the importance of such channels of control is based on the fact that today's protests and social resistance movements take place in the era of the so-called post-militarism. The main characteristic of the period is the reliance on "soft power" methods. Even Joseph Nye, the author of this term, noted that you can manage power, money and attractiveness. Since the protesters, as a rule, have less power and money than the state, their main goal is to create its repulsive image, to call for a large-scale refusal to cooperate. On this path, it is easier to increase the mass of protest, since modern people, realizing the possible risks of a violent clash with the authorities and, most importantly, criminal, rather than administrative punishment, are likely to prefer passive support. Practice shows that after a protest has gained a certain mass character, in order to achieve a result, they try to give a vector to the mass with the help of a spark in local hotbeds of radicalization.

Information pumping uses another important feature of the current protests — their hyperlocality. Attempts to gather in the center of the Belarusian capital were suppressed in the first two nights after the announcing the election outcomes on August 9. This led to the fact that the protest dispersed and started emerging in different locations at the same time. In my opinion, this extended its life. 

The point is, given the prevalence of digital mobilization tools, there is a "trap of fragility of the digital horizontal". Communication within the frames of standard political institutions and organizations has less potential for mobilization, but is more resilient to long-term political activity. Unlike collective actions within social institutions based on ideological assumptions and values, connective actions in digital platforms are more difficult to translate into the plane of significant political changes and preserve them in the wake of the decline and preservation of protest processes. Since one of the main factors for the success of political protest is the "spectrum of involvement", we can say that the" trap of fragility" of the Belarusian protest is overcome precisely due to its hyperlocality. For example, if the protest concentrated in a certain place, digital platforms would be forced to broadcast a picture of a corresponding decrease in the number of participants due to violent actions. Such a picture does not encourage the protesters to participate in the actions. Digital platforms and distributed protest, on the contrary, enable us to break the dependence of reducing the number of participants due to force, even if it occurs in practice, at the level of perception. It is not an increase in coordination, but rather the creation of a feeling that the number of participants increases in response to force, that is fundamentally important in order for the desire to participate to outweigh the "logic of risk".

The development of dialogue platforms, along with the introduction of digital innovations by the authorities that can manage the subjective threshold of participation, will help to stabilize the situation.  

Read the full version on the "Belarus Today" website.