A Spatial Analysis of the Impact of West German Television on Protest Mobilization During the East German Revolution
Posted: 8 Mar 2014
Date Written: February 6, 2014
Formal models of revolutionary collective action suggest that "informational cascades" play a crucial role in overcoming collective action problems. These models highlight how information about the aggregate level of participation in collective action conveys information about others' political preferences, and how such informational cues allow potential participants to update their beliefs about the value of participating in collective action. In authoritarian regimes, foreign mass media are often the only credible source of information about anti-regime protests. However, very little systematic evidence exists on whether foreign media can indeed serve as a coordination device for collective action. In this paper we make use of a detailed dataset on protest events during the 1989 East German revolution and exploit the fact that West German television broadcasts could be received in most but not all parts of East Germany. Our empirical analysis does not support the widely accepted claim that West German television served as a coordination device for anti-regime protests during the East German revolution.
Keywords: East Germany, natural experiment, collective action, television, authoritarian regime
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