Nonviolent movements have come and gone in the last century, some successful, others not. In either case, whether during Gandhi’s fight for Indian independence, the Palestinian uprising during the First Intifada, or today’s Black Lives Matter protests, participants have questioned and debated the effectiveness of their tactics: Is peaceful protest the best way to make your voice heard? Or is there a time when a smaller violence is the right response in the face an even more violent injustice? Are the tenets of nonviolence holding back change that could happen with a more aggressive fight?
These questions were asked—and acted upon—during the 1960’s at the height of the civil rights movement. They are asked all around the world, practically every time a protest movement or armed faction has aimed to topple a dictator from his perch.
But only in the last few years have researchers started to answer these questions by looking at the data. And it turns out the data says something hopeful: In the face of even the worst oppression, violence is not the answer. Peaceful movements are simply more effective.