Political scientist Erica Chenoweth used to believe, as many do, that violence is the most reliable way to get rid of a dictator. History is filled, after all, with coups, rebellions and civil wars. She didn’t take public protests or other forms of peaceful resistance very seriously; how could they possible upend a powerful, authoritarian regime?
Then, as Chenoweth recounts in a Ted Talk posted online Monday, she put together some data and was surprised by what she found. “I collected data on all major nonviolent and violent campaigns for the overthrow of a government or a territorial liberation since 1900,” she says — hundreds of cases. “The data blew me away.”