August 19, 2012

Professional Protesters

Alexander Motyl has another interesting blog about civil society in Ukraine. He writes that political apathy of Ukrainians is a myth. He writes that:

" Meanwhile, Ukrainians are protesting like there’s no tomorrow. According to a study by the Center for the Study of Society, Ukraine has experienced 100 to 300 protest actions every single month of 2010 and 2011. The numbers are usually highest, between 200 and 300, when you’d expect them to be highest—during the spring months of March, April, May, and June and during the fall months of October and November.
Now that’s a helluva lot of protests, especially in a country that’s supposedly disinclined to protest. In the social sciences, you’d say that the evidence disproves the “passivity hypothesis.” In any case, it certainly doesn’t support it.
The numbers for this year are especially impressive. There have been about 100 to 150 more protest actions per month in March, April, May, and June than for corresponding months in 2010 and 2011. A more recent study (by the same center) of protests in July shows that, at 404, they exceeded the previous month’s 330 by 74. That’s a record, sparked largely by the Regionnaire-controlled Parliament’s adoption in late June of a law on languages that is as stupid as it is supremacist. Significantly, July also saw another record: the number of repressive responses went up from 70 in May and June to 101—a 44 percent increase."

According to the Center for the Study of Society, number of protests increased by 22% just in one month. Also, it is very interesting to know that there are at least 200 protests per month in Ukraine. All these facts are pretty cool except that their data sample is pretty biased.
They collect their data from mass media coverage. Well, it's the first bias in their sampling method because the media coverage is very biased in Ukraine. Another issue is their definition of a protest. Is it only political? People protest for other reasons too. Is there a cut-off number of people for an event to become a protest? Do they differentiate between small- and large-scale protests. Let's say that five people yelling near mayor's office is not a mass protest even if it's covered by media. Also, I wonder how they control for paid protests that are very commonplace in Ukraine.       

Nowadays people doubt sincerity of protesters because everyone assumes that protesters are paid. Most of time the assumption is correct. It was not like that before the Orange Revolution when both sides of the conflict paid their supporters.

When I was in Ukraine two months ago, I saw how hard it was to organize unpaid protests. Actually, the issues that caused several NGOs to protest were very important for majority of population. Nonetheless, the NGOs didn't pay their protesters because they wanted to avoid the negative publicity.
So what happens when you don't pay your protesters? NGO that had a network of 5,000 members was able to recruit only 25 members, including 20 board members. It was very disappointing. Another protest that several NGOs organized in five major cities had total of 150 protesters or 30 protesters per city, on average, when their network had at least 30,000 members. 

No comments:

Post a Comment