Protests, violence and mimesis.


Ever wondered how come The  Global Wave Protests in 2019 (and still on in 2020) were born? Going back few years ago how was it possible for the Arab Spring to occur amongst brutal dictatorships? And on a smaller scale, why would a peaceful protest turn to violent riots?

On my previous post (, I pointed out a link between desire, desire of recognition and mimesis. Humans are driven by desire and by competition which is an underlying desire of recognition, leading to envy, to jealousy and to imitation. These social dynamic concepts are intensified by the infinite mirror of the word that is social media. Social media is the production (one can use the word industry) of mimesis. It takes one massively broadcasted happening protest on social media to trigger many other protests around the world. Also, it takes one individual violent act during a strike to turn a peaceful march into a war zone.

I have spent half of my life protesting down the streets for all kind of rights. I know for a fact that once in a crowd, the energy level of each participant is intensified. There is a crowd bath that makes all people function like one body. Fear of being attacked becomes a rage of attacking. The boiling energy, as any energy, will eventually burst out, especially when awaited solutions are delayed. The more they are delayed, the bigger will be the possibility of violent acts. The rage of one person will trigger mimesis or the rage of every marching participant. This happened in Black Lives Matter movement (The US riots: a mirror of the world), with the Gilets Jaunes, in Hong Kong, in Lebanon Protests (Revolution and emotional wreck), in the Arab Spring, in Ukraine, in Sudan and elsewhere too throughout history until now.

However, this mimic violent act, mostly caused by rage and energy of protesters, is the desire of the government. Violence is responded by violence. And who has based its power on the “legitimate violence” (Eric Weil)? The State has. “The legitimate violence” is incarnated by the State’s armed forces. Forces of order will mimic violent protesters and sometimes it is vice versa, depending on the situation. Everybody imitates everybody. It explains why Mahatma Gandhi was so powerful in both his silence and his stillness down the streets along millions of his Indian followers.

The question remains on the importance or not of violence for a protest’s success. There is no one size fits all type of answer. Sometimes violence works and sometimes it turns against protesters. What is a common ground to any violence act in the world, whether in protesting or in wars, is mimesis and the desire of recognition.

6 thoughts on “Protests, violence and mimesis.”

  1. So as per your experience? Social media puts fire to the cause and once protesters are grouped together in common-cause this then emboldens them to react more emotionally aggressive. Perhaps even temporarily losing their normal individualistic unaggressive behavior to adapt to the current herd mentality. In other words “getting caught up in the moment?”

    Yet some will still only shout in disprovable and impatience, while others will be stirred to violent aggression? So do some of us still retain (or control) our moral limitations while in a large protest group while others don’t? Or do we bring these personal characteristics with us as individuals to the protest in the first place? — ie the aggressive individuals will always be the aggressors and the meek the pacifiers?

    Or does your charge of recognition and mimesis during protest. override all crowd sensibility? — What an interesting topic Maylynno!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for finding it interesting!
      To be honest, the answer is all the above you mentioned. But aggressiveness is amplified in a herd energy. I don’t know how to explain it, sometimes words are not accurate, there is a sudden burst of energy once an individual is in a herd. One would feel invincible. So objectivity and tactics are swept away by the burst of emotions, hence mimic acts of violence. I say this out of experience although I have never been violent nor aggressive. With age, I learned how to be on the border of a herd and watch people. Still get the energy amplified with less eagerness to be violent.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the explanation May-Lynn! Perhaps one day you could tell us about some of your own personal experiences inside a protest movement. It would be a fascinating read!

        Liked by 1 person

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