Posted 9 марта 2022,, 08:56

Published 9 марта 2022,, 08:56

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

Education by Fear: why people are scared, humiliated and beaten in prison trucks

9 марта 2022, 08:56
Security forces who brutally crack down on protests are guided by the understanding that fear not only kills activists politically, but also makes them lonely.

The Russian protest movement has long faced unprecedented law enforcement brutality in detaining activists. The capital's security forces are especially zealous in this matter. Meanwhile, the underlying reason for such behavior has long been studied by experts. The Russian anthropologist Alexandra Arkhipova spoke on her channel about the motives used by law enforcement agencies, using the example of exactly the same actions of law enforcement officers in Zimbabwe:

"Political scientist Lauren Young studied how citizens make decisions about expressing their political position in autocratic regimes, including in Zimbabwe in 2014-2015 (the dictator Mugabe ruled there from the 1980s to 2017: one-party system, harsh suppression of dissent, repression, police violence, everything, as we remember, we know, we see).In order to test how the emotions of fear provoked by the authorities affect “repressive risks”, an experiment was conceived (how she did it and how ethical rules were observed, this article says).

It was attended by 671 people with opposition views and experience of participating in opposition demonstrations. Moreover, the level of involvement was different - from sympathizers to hardcore activists. The “oppositionists” (I will call them that) were randomly divided into a control group and the actual participants in the experiment. The participants in the experimental group were again randomly divided into two more groups, and then a special interviewer subjected them to a procedure called fear treatment. Those in the first group of the experiment had to remember from their own experience some general emotion of fear that was not related to politics in Zimbabwe. As a rule, these were darkness, diseases, witchcraft. Those in the second group of the experiment had to recall the emotions of political fear, which were supported by memories of experienced political violence (beatings at rallies, detentions, torture in departments). Further, these sensations and this experience were discussed with the participant of the experiment in both groups.

Lauren Young then asked participants to rate their propensity to engage in six acts of dissent: 1) wearing an opposition party T-shirt; 2) retell a joke about Mugabe; 3) go to an opposition rally; 4) refuse to go to a rally of the ruling party; 5) tell the state security agent that you support the opposition; 6) testify in court about police violence.

This part of the experiment was called hypothetical. Because the participants had to submit hypothetical “what if” actions. But at the end of the conversation there was also a small behavioral experiment. Participants were asked to take with them a bracelet with the symbols of the opposition.

In contrast to the control group, those who were immersed in an atmosphere of fear were less likely to agree to perform the above actions. For example, if in the control group 28% of oppositionists expressed a desire to joke about the dictator, in the “frightened” groups there were already 7-8% of such people. Moreover, those who were exposed to fears of political repression agreed very reluctantly. For example, in the control group, 53% wanted to arrange the next opposition rally, among those frightened by common fears - only 30%, among those who recalled political fears - 25%.

And of course, those who were exposed to fear almost never took with them a bracelet with the emblem of a political party.

The conclusion is simple.

The most demonstrative violation of the law, police violence, public beatings and violence against detainees has its own social function: it is fear that has a demoralizing effect on dissenting citizens. But there is another important conclusion. The emotion of fear not only reduces the desire to resist, but also reduces the feeling that there are a lot of people around who “think like me”.

As Lauren Young herself writes, “While 39% of participants in the control group believe that most of their opposition-minded environment will take part in the next protest, among those exposed to general fears, such remained 30%, and among those who discussed police brutality, only 20% were inclined to this idea”.

Fear not only kills you politically, it makes you lonely.