In this episode of the People Who Read People podcast, I interview Dr. Omar Wasow (here’s his Twitter), an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics at Princeton University, and author of a paper entitled “Agenda Seeding: How 1960s Black Protests Moved Elites, Public Opinion, and Voting.” In that research, he found that civil rights-related violent activity in the United States in the 60s shifted public opinion and voting more conservative/Republican. I ask Dr. Wasow about his research, his methods for finding correlations, public reactions to his work (which have included some negative reactions), and what lessons are in his work for modern-day activists. We also talk about the role of news and social media in political movements, and about Trump-related worst-case scenarios.
This interview was the second I’ve done on the subject of protests and riots; in the last episode, I interviewed a Portland antifa/BLM protester.
Links to this episode:
Topics discussed include:
- How the United States turned toward more conservative, “law and order” stances in the wake of MLK being assassinated and the violent street protests and riots in response to that.
- The mechanisms by which peaceful protests are more persuasive and impactful than using violence
- The news/media coverage of protests and riots and how that shapes public opinion, and how today’s media is different from the 60s.
- Social media’s effects, positive and negative, on politics and public opinion
- Negative responses of some liberals and BLM activists to their interpretation of Wasow’s work
- Lessons that are present in Wasow’s work for modern-day social justice activists
- Worst-case Trump-related scenarios
Related content and resources:
- PBS interview of Omar Wasow
- June 2020 Washington Post piece by Wasow about these topics
- NJ.com article about negative responses to Wasow’s study
- “The protesting of a protest paper,” about negative responses to Wasow’s study
- NYMag.com article by Jonathan Chait that talks about someone apparently getting fired for tweeting about Wasow’s study.
- Vox piece by German Lopez “How violent protests against police brutality in the ’60s and ’90s changed public opinion“
- Article that talks about the lessons from Nazi Germany and how socialist street violence was a factor that helped the Nazis.
- WaPo op-ed: No police reforms would be complete without gun reforms.