CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER

To Defy a Dictator, Send in the Clowns

Protest Movements Can Wield Humor as a Weapon Against Oppressive Regimes

Members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) or Red Shirt put makeup on their faces at Lumpini park in Bangkok, Thailand, July 2010. About 200 UDD members took part in the gathering to show their unity and to defy the country's security act. Photo by Apichart Weerawong/Associated Press.

When Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square to protest the regime of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, they brought with them a funny weapon against the guns and tear gas of the military: a sense of humor. They carried cartoons, sang parodic songs, and renamed the central garbage heap after one of the president’s agencies. In the short term, their humor was a powerful vehicle for nonviolent struggle against a potentially violent regime, and it followed in the footsteps of similarly antic protests in places as disparate as communist Poland and the …

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