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Social Media Government

Brazil’s Wired Protests

Image by Alexander Hugo Tártari / Flickr.

The mass demonstrations that convulsed Brazil in June and July 2013 are more than a raw display of people power; they confirm that we are living in a new era of digitally enhanced protest.

The storyline is by now well rehearsed. What started out as a modest protest by the little-known Movimento Passe Livre (Free Fare Movement)–a group calling for free public transport over the past decade–went viral. Only a few thousand members initially turned up in São Paulo to reject the equivalent of a $0.09 hike on bus fares and corrupt tendering processes for the issuance of transportation licenses.

When their protest was brutally put down by the military police, over a million people from more than 350 cities in Brazil and around the world took to the streets to march against all manner of grievances. The rapid spread of these demonstrations is the ultimate expression of open empowerment–the emboldening of millions of wired young people worldwide to press for change.

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Government

Quiet Corruption: Not Just an African Problem

Corruption, quiet and invisible / Photo: xiaming, flickr

The World Bank is pouring old wine into new bottles in a publication on corruption in Africa. The insight that everyday corruption is detrimental to Africa’s development is old wine. The new bottle is “quiet corruption,” a term created “to indicate various types of malpractice of frontline providers (teachers, doctors, inspectors and other government representatives) that do not involve monetary exchange.”

To be fair, the World Bank’s communication strategy is to redirect the media focus from high-profile corruption involving politicians and business leaders to small corruption by civil servants. Such ‘quiet’ forms of corruption includes “absenteeism,” “lower level of effort than expected or the deliberate bending of rules.” However, the claim that “one of the main reasons Africa is lagging behind is the poor service delivery that is a consequence of quiet corruption” is hardly surprising.

Power and Moral Hypocrisy

When it comes to corruption, I find more insightful a recent research article entitled “Power Increases Hypocrisy.” Joris Lammers and Diedrik A Stapel (Tilburg University) along with Adam D Galinsky (Northwestern University) conducted a series of experiments in political psychology. They found that powerful people impose strict moral standards on others but practice less strict moral behavior themselves – a phenomena they call moral hypocrisy (note that the experiments were not conducted in Africa, but with students at a Dutch university).