Tactical Advantages of Nonviolence

The Black Lives Matter movement has been set back in recent years by the use of violence. In 2020, Black Lives Matter protests and protests against police brutality directed toward minorities (black people in particular) erupted across the United States with violence being caught on camera. Protesters and police alike hurt their own stated messages and positions through the use of violence during protests.
Nonviolent protests sound like a good approach simply because they fall within positive moral frameworks. But the reality of nonviolent movements is that they provide a tactical advantage. Steven Pinker writes about this tactical advantage, and its deliberate use, in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature. He writes, “a taboo on violence, [Martin Luther] King inferred, prevents a movement from being corrupted by thugs and firebrands who are drawn to adventure and mayhem. … By removing any pretext for legitimate retaliation by the enemy, it stays on the positive side of the moral ledger in the eyes of third parties, while luring the enemy onto the negative side.”
This is where both police brutality protesters and the police themselves failed in the summer of 2020. The police were being criticized for being unreasonably violent in their tactics and approach toward policing black people. Displays of force caught on camera during protests reinforced this image. Using violence against protesters put the police on the negative side and put protestors on the positive side.
However, looting during the protests, along with vandalism and the destruction of both public and private property, made the protesters themselves look bad. Protestors also employed violence against the police at some points, defeating the message they were trying to present. Outside of BLM protests in 2020, the violent storming of the capital on January 6th by angry Trump supporters demonstrates how the use of violence can shock the public and destroy credibility.
Being nonviolent is not just a good moral position to take. It is a tactical advantage in protests and grass roots movements. Violence is harmful and counter productive to the purpose of a protest or movement, while nonviolence is a strategic aid.

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