Overcoming the ‘Barrier of Fear’ in Order to Resist: the 2020 Protests against the Lukashenko Regime in Belarus
Article by Craig S. Brown
In August 2020, widespread open resistance emerged against Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus, in the wake of the presidential elections. Through a media content analysis, this paper assesses how the emotion of fear was presented by English language European and North American print and online media, with the departure point being the perceived loss of fear among Belarusians. It seeks to understand: how was fear discussed in relation to resistance in Belarus in the mainstream media accounts? How did fear manifest among Belarusians and what were its effects? For resistance movements, what are the practical implications of understanding how fear manifests and affects actors? Although several headlines in the key period of mid-August 2020 reflect the phenomenon of a ‘barrier of fear’ being broken, Belarusian resisters’ perspectives present in some of the articles show how feelings of fear are far more complex. The themes are as follows: ‘fear remains’; the ‘loss of fear’ among opponents of Lukashenko; ‘pre-election loss of fear’; ‘fear among the regime and security force elements’; ‘taking action as imperative—regardless of fear’, as well as a ‘point of no return’ being reached. It is clear that it is more accurate to talk about people making a decision to resist despite their fear. Moreover, there seems to be a crucial relationship between feelings of anger about regime brutality and the willingness to act regardless of fear about the implications.