OK

These are just some general musings that I have no illusions about being original, but it seems to me there are six stages of how the political and social establishment relates to a grassroots mass movement:

1.  Ignorance
2.  Denial
3.  Distraction
4.  Conflict
5.  Appeasement
6.  Co-option

It's an elaboration on and qualification of Gandhi's quote that "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win."  I don't think the Ignorance stage begins as a deliberate act so much as a movement simply being beneath the radar: Institutions just can't see phenomena beneath a certain size or influence because they have finite numbers of people operating them with finite time and attention spans.

Eventually they do become aware of it, but that's when Denial sets in: This is the stage where things of significance are happening within their awareness, but institutions are failing to react in any substantial way.  They are watching, but the collective sensory information is failing to trigger institutional responses.  This is like that delay between when you see a baseball flying at your face, and your decision to duck.  But because it's on the level of large numbers of people, it can last for months or years.  There might be sporadic comments here and there by individual political and cultural authority figures dismissing or belittling it, but no coordinated attempt to address the movement positively or negatively.  A justified fear takes hold that paying too much attention to the movement will help it grow, and the reactions to rash statements or acts of some individual leaders confirm this fear.

Distraction is what happens when institutions become coherent enough about the threat posed by a movement to the status quo that they begin implementing strategies to limit its effectiveness - particularly oblique strategies that avoid direct conflict so as not to inadvertently empower and motivate the movement.  This usually involves attempting to redirect the movement into "safer" avenues of politics, and divert the public from joining it with irrelevant issues and media misdirection.  They typically avoid namecalling and spurious propaganda, but engage in innuendo, selective reporting, and slanted framing to cast the movement in a negative light while dangling shiny objects to peel off the low-hanging fruit.

Conflict ensues if/when Distraction doesn't work, the movement remains focused and continues to gain momentum despite oblique tactics, and the response becomes overtly authoritarian.  Law enforcement and possibly military/intelligence agencies are deployed en masse to treat the movement as a threat to law and order, infiltrate and disrupt, defame, provoke, and discredit it.  The media either buries what's going on or focuses on the spectacle and is intimidated away from covering any deeper political aspect of it.  They report the fact of controversy without its substance in order to facilitate public digestion of the movement as "just another" dispute rather than something unorthodox happening.  The "All is Well" line is mixed with naked propagandizing against the "disruptive elements" who are selectively associated with all sorts of socially disreputable forces: One giant, drawn-out ad hominem ensues.

Movements that are nebulous or obscure at their core will be broken at this point.  Without zeitgeist and external validation, and under the constant pressure of authoritarian forces, people who were just expressing a fashion or a fetish and never found anything deeper in the movement end up flaking off quickly.   But movements tied to personal necessity and/or identity crystallize at this point, and governments confronted by the crystallized movement diverge into democratic and authoritarian models.  An authoritarian government will escalate until examples are made through murder, kidnapping, torture, and long prison sentences, which either breaks the movement or leads to civil war.  From there, chaos or reciprocal tyranny are the likeliest outcomes, but democracy is a possibility.  

A democratic government, however, is differentiated by how it responds to crystallized grassroots reform movements: Conflict having failed, it moves on to Appeasement.  This is like the Bargaining stage of grief.  Voices who advised a hard line fall out of favor in the counsels of power for failing to deliver results, and now cooler heads prevail.  They still insist on a firm grip on the status quo, but believe the movement can be dissipated by dicking it around with symbolic offers, insincere negotiations, and tempering their own previously outrageous responses.  This is where the depth of a movement's grievances and commitment is measured - if it was always just an ego trip by the groups involved, the appearance of having broken the government's will is enough to make them declare victory and lose focus.  They'll have won social cachet but not really achieve much.  Or if the depth of grievances is heterogeneous, the movement splinters into moderates who go to sleep and radicals who go batshit.

But the most solid, diamond-hard movements are neither bought off nor frustrated into chaos by the Appeasement stage.  Usually they have singular, easily-defined goals that appeal to the highest ideals of not only their own society, but all societies, and yet address the specific necessities and grievances of a strong identity group.  It's no longer the government who is pressuring them, but they who pressure the government, and their people end up being included in the government as attempts to Appease become more urgent.  An inflection point is ultimately reached where political gravity by itself starts to push the movement forward, bringing it toward the status of a consensus.

That is when political animals instinctively turn to the next and final stage, Co-option.  This is as close as it gets to victory in a democracy, and really as close as you want to get - because anything beyond Co-option would involve reciprocal tyranny.  It's actually a mutual process: The Old Order tries to feed on the energy of the New, and the New gains legitimacy and status in the process.  Invariably compromise and disaffection follow.  People for whom rebellion was an end in itself flake off into bitter irrelevance, spiritual and moral leaders either end up leading their nations politically or else retire if politics doesn't suit them, and eventually the whole thing is devoured by narcissistic parasites until a new generation renews the movement with smaller grievances and humbler objectives.  

Eventually the conflicts and individuals of the movement generation become as alien and magical through the lens of time as statues of ancient kings, and people no longer understand what happened, the society in which it occurred, or the values of the people behind it.  Then, some day, some different movement will have to rediscover the same things by experience and trial.  But each time, some higher cog turns, and the arc of history bends a little further toward justice.

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