Deterrence pp 141-155 | Cite as

‘The Outrage Was Really Quite Visceral’1: Overt and Covert Deterrence Effects on Social Movement Activism

  • Thomas O’BrienEmail author
Part of the Advanced Sciences and Technologies for Security Applications book series (ASTSA)


Environmental resources and how these should be managed are an area where tensions between state and social movements have long festered. Direct action by social movement actors is particularly challenging in this context, as it requires the state to physically engage with activists. When coupled with the proliferation of media technologies the reputational costs can be high, with activists demonstrating the heavy-handed nature of the state’s responses. Attempting to reduce the potential backlash, states may turn to preventative deterrence, dissuading social movement participants by raising the potential costs to those involved. Overt methods, including banning orders, legal restrictions, or regulation can be effective, but risk reinforcing portrayals of the state as preventing the free expression of deeply felt concerns. Covert or hidden methods can enable the state to gain information and develop more sophisticated deterrent tools and subvert from within, but risk significant reputational damage if exposed. This chapter considers the case of New Zealand to examine how overt and covert forms of deterrence have been used to deter environmental activism and how these have impacted the environmental movement.


  1. Aminzade R, McAdam D (2001) Emotions and contentious politics. In: Aminzade R, Goldstone J, McAdam D, Perry E, Sewell W Jr, Tarrow S, Tilly C (eds) Silence and voice in the study of contentious politics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 14–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Battersby J (2018) Terror where terror is not: Australian and New Zealand terrorism compared. Stud Confl Terror 41(1):59–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boykoff J (2007) Limiting dissent: the mechanisms of state repression of the USA. Soc Mov Stud 6(3):281–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bradley T, Sedgwick C (2010) Policing beyond the police: a “first cut” study of private security in New Zealand. Polic Soc 19(4):468–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bührs T (2014) Environmentalism in New Zealand. In: Doyle T, MacGregor S (eds) Environmental movements around the world: shades of green in politics and culture, vol 2. Praeger, Santa Barbara, pp 331–358Google Scholar
  6. Carson J (2014) Counterterrorism and radical eco-groups: a context for exploring the series hazard model. J Quant Criminol 30(3):485–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cianchi J (2015) Radical environmentalism: nature, identity and more-than-human agency. Palgrave, BasingstokeGoogle Scholar
  8. Cunningham D (2003) State versus social movement: FBI counterintelligence against the new left. In: Goldstone J (ed) States, parties and social movements. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 45–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cunningham D, Browning B (2004) The emergence of worthy targets: official frames and deviance narratives within the FBI. Sociol Forum 19(3):347–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cunningham D, Soto-Carrión R (2015) Infiltration. In: Duyvendak J, Jasper J (eds) Breaking down the state: protestors engaged. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, pp 157–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dalton R, Recchia R, Rohrschneider R (2003) The environmental movement and the modes of political action. Comp Pol Stud 36(7):743–771CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Davenport C (2017) Performing order: an examination of the seemingly impossible task of subjugating large numbers of people, everywhere, all of the time. In: Morgan K, Orloff A (eds) The many hands of the state: theorizing political authority and social control. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 258–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Downes D (2000) The New Zealand environmental movement and the politics of inclusion. Aust J Polit Sci 35(3):471–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Earl J (2003) Tanks, tear gas, and taxes: toward a theory of movement repression. Sociol Theory 21(1):44–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Earl J (2004) Controlling protest: new directions for research on the social control of protest. In: Myers D, Cress D (eds) Authority in contention. Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp 55–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Endres D, Senda-Cook S (2011) Location matters: the rhetoric of place in protest. Q J Speech 97(3):257–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Evans E (2016) Bearing witness: how controversial organizations get the media coverage they want. Soc Mov Stud 15(1):41–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gale R (1986) Social movements and the state: the environmental movement, countermovement, and government agencies. Sociol Perspect 29(2):202–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goldstone J, Tilly C (2001) Threat (and opportunity): popular action and state response in the dynamics of contentious action. In: Aminzade R, Goldstone J, McAdam D, Perry E, Sewell W Jr, Tarrow S, Tilly C (eds) Silence and voice in the study of contentious politics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 179–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Greenpeace New Zealand (2014) Greenpeace win Supreme Court battle, August 6. Accessed 24 Nov 2017
  21. Hager N, Mussen D (2007) I was paid to betray protestors. Sunday Star-Times, 27 MayGoogle Scholar
  22. Hall K (2008) Solid energy boss dodges stunt. The Press, 25 NovemberGoogle Scholar
  23. King M (2013) Disruption is not permitted: the policing and social control of occupy Oakland. Crit Criminol 21(4):463–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kousis M (2004) Economic opportunities and threats in contentious environmental politics: a view from the European South. Theory Soc 33(3):393–415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kousis M, della Porta D, Jimenez M (2008) Southern European environmental movements in comparative perspective. Am Behav Sci 51(11):1627–1647CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lee R (2015) Charity without politics? Exploring the limits of “politics” in charity law. J Civ Soc 11(3):271–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lidskog R, Elander I (2007) Representation, participation and deliberation? Democratic responses to environmental challenge. Space Polity 11(1):75–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. MacLean M (2010) Anti-apartheid boycotts and the affective economies of struggle: the case of Aotearoa New Zealand. Sport Soc 13(1):72–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mark A, Turner K, West C (2001) Integrating nature conservation with hydro-electric development: conflict resolution with lakes Manapouri and Te Anau, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand. Lake Reservoir Manage 17(1):1–16Google Scholar
  30. Marx G (1974) Thoughts on a neglected category of social movement participant: the agent provocateur and the informant. Am J Sociol 80(2):402–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McAdam D, Tarrow S, Tilly C (2001) Dynamics of contention. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McClintock W, Taylor C (2002) Business ownership in natural resource dependent industries in New Zealand. Paper prepared for the 9th international symposium on society and resource management, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2–5 JuneGoogle Scholar
  33. McMenamin M (2013) Protest at sea: an analysis of the Crown Minerals Amendment Act 2013. LLM Research Paper, Victoria University Wellington. Accessed 24 Nov 2017
  34. Meyer D (2003) Political opportunity and nested institutions. Soc Mov Stud 2(1):17–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Meyer D, Minkoff D (2004) Conceptualizing political opportunity. Soc Forces 82(4):1457–1492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Morgan K, Orloff A (2017) Introduction: the many hands of the state. In: Morgan K, Orloff A (eds) The many hands of the state: theorizing political authority and social control. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. NZPA (2004) Protesters occupy proposed mine site. New Zealand Press Association, 13 AprilGoogle Scholar
  38. NZPA (2005a) Cold and rain may drive coal protesters sway. New Zealand Press Association, 7 MarchGoogle Scholar
  39. NZPA (2005b) Protesters lock themselves to rail line – stop coal trains. New Zealand Press Association, 13 AugustGoogle Scholar
  40. NZPA (2006a) Save happy valley protesters take to the streets of Wellington. New Zealand Press Association, 4 NovemberGoogle Scholar
  41. NZPA (2006b) Anti-mining protesters target solid energy headquarters. New Zealand Press Association, 15 FebruaryGoogle Scholar
  42. NZPA (2007) Two arrested over anti-coal mining protest on Chch Railway Line. New Zealand Press Association, 29 AprilGoogle Scholar
  43. NZPA (2008) Climate change March to begin on January 28. New Zealand Press Association, 19 JanuaryGoogle Scholar
  44. O’Brien T (2013a) Fires and flotillas: opposition to offshore oil exploration in New Zealand. Soc Mov Stud 12(2):221–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. O’Brien T (2013b) Fragmentation or evolution? Understanding change within the New Zealand environmental movement. J Civ Soc 9(3):287–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. O’Brien T (2015) Social control and the New Zealand environmental movement. J Sociol 51(4):785–798CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. O’Brien T (2016) Camping, climbing trees and marching to parliament: spatial dimensions of environmental protest in New Zealand. Kōtuitui N Z J Soc Sci Online 11(1):11–22Google Scholar
  48. O’Brien T (2017) “Cut pollution, create jobs? Yeah, nah”: partisan effects on environmental protest in Aotearoa New Zealand. Policy Sci 69(3):264–281Google Scholar
  49. Offe C (1985) New social movements: challenging the boundaries of institutional politics. Soc Res 52(4):817–868Google Scholar
  50. Papatsoumas N (2014) Greenpeace wins right to register as charity. New Zealand Herald, 6 AugustGoogle Scholar
  51. Rodgers K (2010) “Anger is why we’re all here”: mobilizing and managing emotions in a professional activist organization. Soc Mov Stud 9(3):273–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rootes C (2007a) Environmental movements. In: Snow D, Soule S, Kriesi H (eds) The Blackwell companion to social movements. Blackwell, Malden, pp 608–640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rootes C (2007b) Acting locally: the character, contexts and significance of local environmental mobilisations. Environ Polit 16(5):722–741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sewell W (2001) Space in contentious politics. In: Aminzade R, Goldstone J, McAdam D, Perry E, Sewell W Jr, Tarrow S, Tilly C (eds) Silence and voice in the study of contentious politics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 879–125Google Scholar
  55. Smellie P (2013) At sea with “Anadarko Amendment”., April 10. Accessed 7 Sept 2017
  56. Tarrow S (1993) Cycles of collective action: between moments of madness and the repertoire of contention. Soc Sci Hist 17(2):282–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Tarrow S (2011) Power in movement: social movements and contentious politics, 3rd edn. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Taylor B (2008) The tributaries of radical environmentalism. J Study Radic 2(1):27–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. The Press (2009) Group brings protest to city, 24 AprilGoogle Scholar
  60. Tilly C (2008) Contentious performances. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tilly C, Tarrow S (2007) Contentious politics. Boulder, ParadigmGoogle Scholar
  62. van der Heijden H (1999) Environmental movements, ecological modernization and political opportunity structures. Environ Polit 8(1):199–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Vicari S (2015) The interpretative dimension of transformative events: outrage management and collective action framing after the 2001 anti-G8 summit in Genoa. Soc Mov Stud 14(5):596–614CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Walby K, Monaghan J (2011) Private eyes and public order: policing and surveillance in the suppression of animal rights activists in Canada. Soc Mov Stud 10(1):21–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zald M (1978) On the social control of industries. Soc Forces 57(1):79–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of YorkYorkUK

Personalised recommendations