|Originally published in the Jan. 2011 Socionomist|
With stunning suddenness, citizens across the Arab world have challenged authoritarian regimes long thought invincible. In Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan and Egypt, thousands of Islamist and secular protesters thronged the streets demanding the removal of their corrupt authoritarian leaders.
Our authoritarianism study in the April 2010 issue of The Socionomist anticipated such conflict:
We forecast that a continuing long-term trend toward negative social mood will produce increasingly authoritarian—and anti-authoritarian—impulses.
We went on to say,
Governments will shut down sections of the Internet.
A government that feels threatened by its citizens usually clamps down on the information flow. This makes the Internet a prime authoritarian/anti-authoritarian battleground.
Other authoritarian governments are becoming nervous and also are attempting to control communications. For example, Chinese authorities have restricted news of Egypt’s protests. CBS News headlines, “Renewed Push to Give Obama an Internet ‘Kill Switch.’”
AFP reported on January 29, 2011 that Egypt’s Internet shutdown was the “worst in Internet history.” The chart below shows an entire country suddenly forced into electronic silence. Authorities also cut cell phone service in “the most comprehensive official electronic blackout of its kind.”
Pundits—as they continue to do with the financial crisis—recount timelines and cite a litany of exogenous causes for the Arab unrest. Many think WikiLeaks, Twitter and social networking made the anti-authoritarian actions possible. A January 27 Reuters analysis says, “Authoritarian states are facing an information age. Control of the media is harder and protest can spread much faster.”
A February 3 Financial Times article, “UK seeks global accord on cyber behaviour,” describes cyberspace as “a growing security threat.” As we said in the November 2010 issue of The Socionomist, “The free and open Internet is a creation of peaking social mood; a large-degree bear market will change it radically.” It is now more apparent that the social mood decline is generating fear that is darkening society’s perception of the Internet. What it once saw as inclusive, connective and beneficial, society increasingly perceives as a threat or even a weapon.
History shows that people have gathered, protested and rebelled for centuries whether or not social media were available. Gathering and communicating—however it happens—is important to anti-authoritarian movements. We illustrated this dynamic in our April study via a quote from psychologist Stanley Milgram, author of the famous 1961 Milgram experiment:
When an individual wishes to stand in opposition to authority, he does best to find support for his position from others in his group. The mutual support provided by men for each other is the strongest bulwark we have against the excesses of authority.
The social mood trend—not electronics—will define the potential for more anti-autocratic conflict. If the 22-month rebound in global social mood yields to the larger downward trend, as Elliott Wave International expects, authoritarian/anti-authoritarian conflict will both widen and intensify.
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Most economists, historians and sociologists
presume that events determine society’s mood. But socionomics hypothesizes
the opposite: that social mood regulates the character of social events. The
events of history—such as investment booms and busts, political events,
macroeconomic trends and even peace and war—are the products of a naturally
occurring pattern of social-mood fluctuation. Such events, therefore, are not
randomly distributed, as is commonly believed, but are in fact probabilistically
predictable. Socionomics also posits that the stock market is the best available
meter of a society’s aggregate mood, that news is irrelevant to social
mood, and that financial and economic decision-making are fundamentally different
in that financial decisions are motivated by the herding impulse while economic
choices are guided by supply and demand. For more information about socionomic
theory, see (1) the text, The
Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior © 1999, by Robert Prechter;
(2) the introductory documentary History's
Hidden Engine; (3) the video Toward
a New Science of Social Prediction, Prechter’s 2004 speech before
the London School of Economics in which he presents evidence to support his
socionomic hypothesis; and (4) the Socionomics Institute’s website, www.socionomics.net.
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