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Crossing the Line: Protesting to Rioting
This article was mainly about how protesting crosses the line into rioting. In this current age, protests and riots have heavily gained the attention of the media. Not just in the US, but also the London riots and the riots in Egypt and Libya. Many times, these riots start out as peaceful protests and are meant to be just that. There are many protests that begin and end just as peacefully as well. However, there are a few that do not go as planned. Dr. Stephanie Sarkis claims that “crowd psychology” plays a large part in how these riots form. This has a similar effect to that of cascades and decision-making that we learned about in Chapter 16. Dr. Sarkis claims that “when you are in a crowd, you are more likely to behave as others do, even it is against your own personal belief system.” She believes that it only takes a handful of people to begin using violence in order to incite the rest of the crowd to do the same. By analyzing the situation, we can see how this makes sense. You can imagine the group as a mix between individuals who are educated about the subject of the protest, i.e. the experts; there are also the people who may not be too educated but have violent intentions; and finally, you have those you are neither educated nor do they have violent intentions initially, they just saw a big crowd and decided to join it. The experts get a signal that incites them to maintain a peaceful protest and stick to their view. Those more violent have a higher chance of getting a signal that convinces them to accept violence as a good idea. The rest receive minor neutral signals, but they are also the group that forms the majority. If the violent crowd receives strong enough signals to incite them to riot, they will choose to riot among everyone else. The experts may take more swaying to join in, but many in the neutral crowd are more probable to join in the riot because they see someone else doing it. This number increases more and more, but it has a limit. It reaches a point where there are so many rioters that many are too scared to join in and flee the scene. This point can be interpreted as a stable equilibrium, as seen in Chapter 17. Overall, this is a simplified analysis of a very complex situation, but we can see that the basic ideas of decision-making through cascades is ubiquitous in everyday life.


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November 2011