The Marketing of Rebellion

In Western China a certain population has been struggling
against government control for decades. The people face suppression
at the hands of a strong centralized government implementing
top-down development plans and anti-terror policies. But they
aren’t the Tibetans, whose cause has been championed by rock stars,
aid groups, and college activists.
are the Uighurs
. ‘Uighurs who?’ you may ask. The root of that
question — why one group’s cause commands the world’s attention as
another’s languishes in obscurity — is at the center of The
Marketing of Rebellion
, a recent book by Clifford Bob
excerpted on
The Globalist.

‘In this global morality market, challengers must publicize
their plights, portray their conflicts as righteous struggles, and
craft their messages to resonate abroad,’ says Bob, an assistant
professor of political science at Duquesne University in
Pittsburgh. The fact is, with the number of international causes
far outweighing the nongovernment organizations (NGOs) available to
help, only a few can garner media attention and international aid.
And who gets what isn’t entirely a matter of need or chance, Bob
argues. Even in conflict and disaster, the name of the game is

Bob writes that in today’s streaming newsfeed of conflicts, it’s
less that NGOs and media seek out causes, and more that causes find
them. To do so, local movements have to be savvy about getting
their messages out, and sometimes that means shifting priorities to
garner interest from journalists and granting outfits. What gets
one group’s cause on the front page and another’s buried on A24?
Bob found the most successful movements had knowledge, resources,
and previous international coverage — resources that not all those
in need are afforded. ‘At stake, is more than a global popularity
contest,’ writes Bob. ‘For many challengers, outside aid is
literally a matter of life or death.’ What’s more, Bob warns, it’s
not just the unseen and unheard who are at risk. Catering to a
foreign NGO’s conceptions can alienate a movement’s base and set
groups up for a fall: ‘Challengers, enticed to attention-grabbing
tactics or extreme stances, may find distant stalwarts absent or
helpless at moments of gravest peril.’ — Rachel

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The Marketing of Rebellion

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