A Conflict Analysis of Radical Freedom
The need for more questions
2020 ended and 2021 began with heated disagreements over what limits on freedom are reasonable. Authorities emphasize reasonable limits as the answer. Protesters emphasize freedom. Traditional who, what, where, when and why questions don’t ask: how do protesters define freedom?
I support peaceful protests and demonstrations, and will defend freedom to the end. And I support public health measures and reasonable limits on freedom. What happened in D.C. on January 6, 2021, was a demand for radical freedom, which I can’t in conscience support, but I analyzed it so I could understand.
Nothing in my conflict analysis suggests that the protesters for radical freedom have a plan for what society would look like if radical freedom prevails. From my decades of studying protest, there are other questions we need to analyze to ensure an adaptive society and sustainable future.
1. Whose interests do the protest’s aims serve?
Protests operate in contexts of politics, personal interests, values, beliefs, and more. Who benefits from each desired outcome? How is it better than the outcome they fear? Who is harmed in the change?
2. Which worldview(s) support the protester’s beliefs?
Social media ecosystems bestow perceived legitimacy on grievances, contrary opinions are lies, and beliefs justify acting as defenders of their truth. What changes when people interact only with those who agree? What attracts users to a worldview of no one can tell me what to do? What results from pursuing social media fame without boundaries
3. With freedom meaning No One Is the Boss of Me, what do protesters gain and lose?
Protests trigger counter-protests, equal and opposite reactions exerted against each other for influence. What consequences flow from (un)willingness to comply with rules, (dis)respect for science, (dis)inclination towards mainstream media, (mis)trust of authority, (anti)government opinions, (non)partisan (im)partiality, insistence on (dis)allowing public events, (il)legal (in)equality, (dis)belief in facts, and more? What are the residual effects within the complex social systems?
4. Whether intended or not, what happens after the protest ends?
Protests are inputs in a complex system that, if resilient, will reset from turbulence with unknowable consequences. How committed are those protesting for radical freedom long term? What are some likely challenges if radical freedom becomes normative?
5. How would radical freedom co-exist with responsibilities and other rights?
Courts have long balanced rights, freedoms, responsibilities, and reasonable restraints on freedom. What legal frameworks would survive if radical freedom prevails?
A supplementary question
Will those demanding freedom without limits be happy with or prosper in the society they protest to create?