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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.
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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.
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.
Coups don’t always succeed in overthrowing the government.
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.
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.
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.
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.