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Why Dictators Don't Like Jokes: Social Change Speaker Srdja Popovic
Social Change | April 08, 2013

Why Dictators Don't Like Jokes: Social Change Speaker Srdja Popovic

There is a reason why humor is an important tool to the 21st-century protestor, Srdja Popovic writes in Foreign Policy. The reason is simple: "it works." The social change speaker recently co-authored the article and discussed peaceful protesting tactics. As the founder of Otpor! (the Serbian youth movement that toppled Slobodan Milosevic), Popovic encouraged the use of street theater, pranks, and simple (yet powerful) messages as tactical strategies. Now, in his work at CANVAS, he encourages activists to use similar techniques—including what he calls "laughtivism"—to triumph over dictators.

Humor can be a powerful tool in the advancement of non-violent movements. "For one," Popovic writes in the article, "humor breaks fear and builds confidence." Second of all, it adds a "cool factor" to the movement which attracts new members—a crucial component to success as the more people you have on your side, the more successful your campaign. "The best acts of laughtivism force their targets into lose-lose scenarios, undermining the credibility of a regime no matter how they respond," he concludes. "These acts move beyond mere pranks; they help corrode the very mortar that keeps most dictators in place: Fear."

Sweeping social and political changes can be achieved without the use of violence or force, as Popovic himself showed with Opor!. In his entertaining and informative keynotes, he shares his first-hand experience protesting injustice around the world. Named as one of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers, and a widely respected voice on social change, Popovic shows audiences how to overcome oppression in a peaceful way. He details what is needed to catapult a revolution to success—and how we can play our own role in toppling oppression and tyranny.
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