The Conversation

The Conversation

conversationThe Conversation US arose out of deep-seated concerns for the fading quality of our public discourse – and recognition of the vital role that academic experts can play in the public arena.

Independent and not-for-profit, it is part of a global network of newsrooms first launched in Australia in 2011. The Conversation began its US operations in 2014, and now also publishes in Canada, the UK, France, Indonesia, Africa, Spain as well as Australia.

The Conversation’s mission is particularly resonant in the U.S., where people universally sense that the country’s social fabric is strained and the common ground people share is shrinking.

Information always has been essential to democracy – a societal good, like clean water. But many now find it difficult to put their trust in the media. And with little consensus about what to believe, it only becomes harder to reach agreement with fellow citizens regarding what’s truthful.

The Conversation US seeks to be part of the solution to this problem.

The Conversation’s editorial process is deliberate and collaborative. Editors pay close attention to the news environment to identify the issues citizens are concerned about. They reach out to leading scholars across academia and work with them to unlock their knowledge for the broad public.

Through a Creative Commons license, we share Conversation US articles – at no charge to news organizations – across the geographic and ideological spectrum. We pay particular attention to strengthening news organizations that are severely under-resourced. The Associated Press distributes The Conversation US articles daily to thousands of newsrooms.read more>

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How the Ebenezer Baptist Church has been a seat of Black power for generations in Atlanta

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preaching from his pulpit in 1960 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dozier Mobley/Getty Images

 Jason Oliver Evans, University of Virginia

 The high-stakes U.S. Senate race in Georgia catapulted the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church back into the spotlight. For 135 years, the church played a vital role in the fight against racism and the civil rights movement. It was the spiritual home of the civil rights leader, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Was it a coup? No, but siege on US Capitol was the election violence of a fragile democracy

Clayton Besaw, University of Central Florida and Matthew Frank, University of Denver

 

Did the United States just have a coup attempt?

Supporters of President Donald Trump, following his encouragement, stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, disrupting the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. Waving Trump banners, hundreds of people broke through barricades and smashed windows to enter the building where Congress convenes. One rioter and one police officer died in the clash and several other police officers were hospitalized. Congress went on lockdown.

While violent and shocking, what happened on Jan. 6 wasn’t a coup.

This Trumpist insurrection was election violence, much like the election violence that plagues many fragile democracies.

What is a coup?

While coups do not have a single definition, researchers who study them – like ourselves – agree on the key attributes of what academics call a “coup event.”

Coup experts Jonathan Powell and Clayton Thyne define a coup d’etat as “an overt attempt by the military or other elites within the state apparatus to unseat the sitting head of state using unconstitutional means.”

Essentially, three parameters are used to judge whether an insurrection is a coup event:

1) Are the perpetrators agents of the state, such as military officials or rogue governmental officials?

2) Is the target of the insurrection the chief executive of the government?

3) Do the plotters use illegal and unconstitutional methods to seize executive power?

Coups and coup attempts

A successful coup occurred in Egypt on July 3, 2013, when army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi forcefully removed the country’s unpopular president, Mohamed Morsi. Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, had recently overseen the writing of a new constitution. Al-Sisi suspended that, too. This qualifies as a coup because al-Sisi seized power illegally and introduced his own rule of law in the ashes of the elected government.


Civilians and soldiers in fatigues holding weapons cheer on a balcony, at nighthttps://images.theconversation.com/files/377457/original/file-20210106-23-hydyzz.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/377457/original/file-20210106-23-hydyzz.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/377457/original/file-20210106-23-hydyzz.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/377457/original/file-20210106-23-hydyzz.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/377457/original/file-20210106-23-hydyzz.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px">

Egyptian protesters celebrate the military overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi along with officers of the Egyptian Republican Guard, July 3, 2013, in Cairo.
Ed Giles/Getty Images

 

 

Coups don’t always succeed in overthrowing the government.

 

 

In 2016, members of the Turkish military attempted to remove Turkey’s strongman president, Reçep Erdogan, from power. Soldiers seized key areas in Ankara, the capital, and Istanbul, including the Bosphorus Bridge and two airports. But the coup lacked coordination and widespread support, and it failed quickly after President Erdogan called on his supporters to confront the plotters. Erdogan remains in power today.

 

 

What happened at the US Capitol?

 

 

The uprising at the Capitol building does not meet all three criteria of a coup.

 

 

Trump’s rioting supporters targeted a branch of executive authority – Congress – and they did so illegally, through trespassing and property destruction. Categories #2 and #3, check.

 

 

As for category #1, the rioters appeared to be civilians operating of their own volition, not state actors. President Trump did incite his followers to march on the Capitol building less than an hour before the crowd invaded the grounds, insisting the election had been stolen and saying “We will not take it anymore.” This comes after months of spreading unfounded electoral lies and conspiracies that created a perception of government malfeasance in the mind of many Trump supporters.

 

 

Whether the president’s motivation in inflaming the anger of his supporters was to assault Congress is not clear, and he tepidly told them to go home as the violence escalated. For now it seems the riot in Washington, D.C., was enacted without the approval, aid or active leadership of government actors like the military, police or sympathetic GOP officials.

 

 


A Congress staffer holds his hands up while Capitol Police SWAT team clears an officehttps://images.theconversation.com/files/377475/original/file-20210107-14-pnllvc.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=399&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/377475/original/file-20210107-14-pnllvc.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=399&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/377475/original/file-20210107-14-pnllvc.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=502&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/377475/original/file-20210107-14-pnllvc.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=502&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/377475/original/file-20210107-14-pnllvc.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=502&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px">

SWAT police try to clear the Capitol building of pro-Trump rioters, Jan. 6, 2021.
Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

 

 

American political elites are hardly blameless, though.

 

 

By spreading conspiracy theories about election fraud, numerous Republican senators, including Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, created the conditions for political violence in the United States, and specifically electoral-related violence.

 

 

Academics have documented that contentious political rhetoric fuels the risk of election-related violence. Elections are high-stakes; they represent a transfer of political power. When government officials demean and discredit democratic institutions as a simmering political conflict is underway, contested elections can trigger political violence and mob rule.

 

 

So what did happen?

 

 

The shocking events of Jan. 6 were political violence of the sort that too often mars elections in young or unstable democracies.

 

 

Bangladeshi elections suffer from perennial mob violence and political insurrections due to years of government violence and opposition anger. Its 2015 and 2018 elections looked more like war zones than democratic transitions.

 

 

In Cameroon, armed dissidents perpetrated violence in the 2020 election, targeting government buildings, opposition figures and innocent bystanders alike. Their aim was to delegitimize the vote in response to sectarian violence and government overreach.

 

 

The United States’ electoral violence differs in cause and context from that seen in Bangladesh and Cameroon, but the action was similar. The U.S. didn’t have a coup, but this Trump-encouraged insurrection is likely to send the country down a politically and socially turbulent road.

 

 

This story has been updated to reflect the death toll of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.The Conversation

 

 

Clayton Besaw, Research Affiliate and Senior Analyst, University of Central Florida and Matthew Frank, Master's student, International Security, University of Denver

 

 

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

Why being stuck at home – and unable to hang out in cafes and bars – drains our creativity

Korydon Smith, University at Buffalo; Kelly Hayes McAlonie, University at Buffalo, and Rebecca Rotundo, University at Buffalo

While the pandemic has caused thousands of small businesses to temporarily close or shutter for good, the disappearance of the corner coffee shop means more than lost wages.

It also represents a collective loss of creativity.

Researchers have shown how creative thinking can be cultivated by simple habits like exercise, sleep and reading. But another catalyst is unplanned interactions with close friends, casual acquaintances and complete strangers. With the closure of coffee shops – not to mention places like bars, libraries, gyms and museums – these opportunities vanish.

Of course, not all chance meetings result in brilliant ideas. Yet as we bounce from place to place, each brief social encounter plants a small seed that can gel into a new idea or inspiration.

By missing out on chance meetings and observations that nudge our curiosity and jolt “a-ha!” moments, new ideas, big and small, go undiscovered.

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