This Wednesday, June 20, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted the workshop “Dictatorship 2.0: Modern Authoritarian Regimes.” Karim Sadjadpour moderated the discussion of various authoritarian regimes throughout the world. The event began with the introduction of panelist William J. Dobson’s book, The Dictator’s Learning Curve, which describes the difficulties that a dictator faces in today’s Internet culture as a result of media monitoring. The book addresses the question of why dictators are able to maintain authoritarian regimes despite the growing challenges by describing their ability to adapt with new cultural changes by promoting propaganda via new communication channels, using inspectors and lawyers for their own means, and playing a more subtle game of writing vague laws and then taking them to extremes in implementation.
Also featured as a panelist was Srdja Popovic, an organizer of the Serbian nonviolent resistance group that successfully took power from dictator Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Popovic described the success rate of nonviolence protest, which he claimed was the best way to unseat an authoritarian regime. He said that in Serbia the use of humor and subtler forms of noncooperation, such as driving at half speed, would be their best bet to unsettle the government. While Popovic acknowledged that each country requires special consideration, he claimed that nonviolence is the best option in all circumstances.
Marc Lynch, the final panelist, discussed the details of activist-government struggle. He claimed that the dynamic consists of a push and pull scenario where the mass protests will temporarily weaken the government before it adapts and finds a way to counter the movement. This kind of interaction will make change seem impossible, but in order for the revolutions to be successful, the activists must convince the masses that it is indeed possible for change to come.