April 9th, 2014
05:45 PM ET

What I'm reading: Do street protests work?

By Fareed Zakaria

“In today’s world, an appeal to protest via Twitter, Facebook, or text message is sure to attract a crowd, especially if it is to demonstrate against something – anything, really – that outrages us,” argues Moises Naim in The Atlantic. “The problem is what happens after the march. Sometimes it ends in violent confrontation with the police, and more often than not it simply fizzles out. Behind massive street demonstrations there is rarely a well-oiled and more-permanent organization capable of following up on protesters’ demands and undertaking the complex, face-to-face, and dull political work that produces real change in government. This is the important point made by Zeynep Tufekci, a fellow at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University, who writes that ‘Before the Internet, the tedious work of organizing that was required to circumvent censorship or to organize a protest also helped build infrastructure for decision making and strategies for sustaining momentum. Now movements can rush past that step, often to their own detriment.’”


“As the Ukraine crisis continues it is clear that Mr Putin has made a significant strategic mistake,” writes Nick Butler in the Financial Times. "Russia is a petropower rather than a superpower and in a global market petropower is unusable as a means of pressure. By raising European consciousness about the degree of dependence on Russian gas that had developed, he has done his own country a great disservice.”


“Private enterprises have every incentive to reduce their marginal costs. Doing so means they can increase profits, offer goods and services at a lower price, or both. But now the Internet and other innovations have reduced marginal costs to near zero for some commodities and services, which has left many traditional companies reeling,” writes Jeremy Rifkin in the Los Angeles Times.

“The zero marginal cost phenomenon has sowed a path of destruction across the recording and information industries over the last decade, as millions of consumers began to produce and share music, video, news and knowledge with one another on the Internet at near zero marginal cost. This phenomenon has weakened revenues in the music industry, newspaper and publishing fields, and the book publishing industry.

“Now, as we are seeing with Airbnb, the phenomenon is crossing over from soft goods in virtual space to physical goods in the brick-and-mortar world.”


“The American and Iranian opiate epidemics cannot be divorced from events in Afghanistan. That means they cannot be divorced from what the United States has done there. In 2001, when the United States invaded Afghanistan, that country produced one metric ton of heroin,” writes Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Globe. “Last year it produced 5,500 tons. This came after the Department of Defense spent $2 billion on counter-narcotics efforts. No assessment of the Afghan war is complete without these stark statistics.”

“Because Iran understands Afghanistan far better than Americans do, making Iran a partner in a long-term effort to transform Afghan agriculture makes sense. One other country in the region would also have good reason to help: Russia, where millions are addicted and overdoses kill nearly 100 people every day, most of them young. This is not only an enormous public health and safety problem, but also a chance for the United States to work with two countries it often considers enemies.”


soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    April 9, 2014 at 6:58 pm |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      America is the root of all terror? Perhaps not quite all of the terror in the history of the world, but it is well known that the heinous crimes of Gilles de Rais were a direct result of unbridled admiration for the United States of America.

      April 10, 2014 at 8:44 am |
  2. chrissy

    Nah @ John Smith. GREED is the root of all evil. GREED is the number one motivator of all wars no matter which country they occur in or which country starts them. Egotrippinmaniacs are motivated by GREED!

    April 9, 2014 at 8:52 pm |
    • ✠RZ✠

      Our belief and dependence upon money and governments to get things done is slowly bringing about global ruination. The damage is globally evident, on going, and increasingly spreading.

      April 10, 2014 at 9:53 pm |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    @chrissy. Yes. But what's even more aggravating, is that some folks have the sagacity to refuse to share their pepperoni pizza.

    April 10, 2014 at 9:56 am |
  4. chrissy

    Lol @ fake Joey? Thats called gluttony and that also is an unattractive quality as well.

    April 10, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
  5. Ferhat Balkan

    Countries like Russia and the US will always get the bigger share of the pie, whether its land, oil or pepperoni pizza. Those simple rules haven't changed since the stone age. The bigger beast always gets the larger share. We can protest all we want, but in the end the strong win and the weak loose.

    April 10, 2014 at 3:31 pm |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ Ferhat Balkan, thank you for reminding us of that good thing, although sometimes a puny virus does very well for itself in a cooperative gang.
      Darwin is one of my saints.
      "Sebastian saw God that summer in the Encantados," thanks to Tennessee Williams, is a fine mantra to keep handy.

      April 11, 2014 at 9:59 am |
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