Newton’s third law: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Most of us associate this statement with the field of physics and exact calculations, however, many of the dynamics observed in the world around us are also fulfilled in the social movements of which we are part.
On Saturday, March 14, 2020, the government decreed a state of alarm throughout the country, forcing millions of people to remain in their homes. Most of us Spaniards understood the need for such a measure and complied with it, but as our friend Newton predicted, there has also been some resistance.
In sociology, this dynamic produces what is known as a social counter-movement. The truth is that we are more used to them than we think, for example, we are probably familiar with the debates around abortion, euthanasia, or capitalism’s economy. These are all fields of development of different collectives that are opposed to the vision of the majority current of thought.
In this article we will analyze the social countermovement of the state of alarm in Spain, specifically, the social structure of the movement #StopConfinamientoEspaña. Following our principles of action, we will not violate the privacy of any of the members of the protest, but rather analyze their characteristics in a global way.
THE BEGINNING OF THE MOVEMENT AND THE SOURCES OF DEVELOPMENT
On April 20th the Telegram StopConfinamientoEspaña group is created at 22:22. The growth and adhesion of new members to the group is exponential. On April 22nd, a Twitter account is created with the same username, showing a growth in followers that is smaller than in the case of the Telegram group, but rapidly reaching 300 followers. The diffusion was not only concentrated in the previous social networks, but also encouraged to participate from different Youtube channels.
The narrative and objectives of the movement were reflected by the promoters themselves in an initial message:
The narrative employs a perspective of catastrophic consequences if the exonerated freedom of the people is not regained. The terms “catastrophes”, “deterioration” or “irreversible” try to justify the need to achieve the desired “freedom”.
After the appeal to a catastrophic scenario, an epic argument was used, with which an attempt was made to give a perception of freedom crusade to the acts developed in the movement.
This type of catastrophic and epic narrative has been used by many other minority social counter-movements because of the need to motivate their components and attract new participants.
THE COMPOSITION OF THE MOVEMENT
Like any social movement, StopConfinamiento is made up of a heterogeneous group of people with different social profiles. In the first instance, the movement was developed by a group of users who defend conspiracy theories, as the centrality of many of the agents in the social network obtained will show. As the movement generated attention and social momentum, different far-right groups joined in, focusing their demands not on the general conspiracy, but on criticism of the government. Throughout the development of the movement, various observer agents joined together to monitor the movement’s development.
In order to obtain the structure of the social movement, the links between the different Twitter users who followed or promoted the movement’s publications were analysed, selecting only the most active or influential users within the network. The result was as follows:
Composition of the social movement #StopConfinamientoEspaña on twitter. Size: Centrality or importance of the agent according to the PageRank. Color: in function of community. Explained below.
As can be seen, by applying a community detection method by modularity, three large communities have been obtained within the hard core of the movement.
- Conspiranoids: represented by the dark blue color, they are the agents with the most weight in the network because of their initial role within the movement. They are responsible for most of the information flow within the network and contain hubs of certain national relevance.
- Spanish extreme right-wing: with the light blue colour, they are the group with the highest density within the network, although they joined later. This characteristic is due to the fact that this social group showed a strong union before the beginning of the movement, while the other two groups generally act autonomously or in small information exchange groups.
- Journalists and onlookers: the group in grey is made up of users looking for information and contact with the movement, in order to control its progress and evolution. The density within the group is lower than that found in the other two because these agents used to be autonomous and had no connection with the rest. At the same time, a small percentage of bots were also found that possibly captured the advance of the movement.
How were these groups related? The evolution in the posts clearly shows an internal power struggle for leadership of the movement between the conspiratorial group and the extreme-right-wing group:
Example of tweet from the conspiracy collective against the political party Vox.
What was the result of that struggle? The big fish ate the little fish.
Currently the movement has led to different initiatives with a clear political focus that have led to demonstrations and marches throughout Spain . Paradoxically, a movement initiated by anti-system groups has led to a dynamic that has been exploited by political groups.
Every action has a consequence. Every social movement has a social counter-movement.
The confinement of the population has led to the appearance of StopConfinamientoEspaña, a movement made up mainly of conspiratorial and extreme-right-wing sectors. Internal struggles within the movement itself have determined the direction of the social dynamic towards the political agenda. The analysis of social media has allowed us to obtain the structure of the network in order to understand the different dynamics described.
At Human Trends we will continue to analyze these dynamics to provide you with intelligence about the social environment, about the way we relate to each other, about who we are.
Social engineer – Data Scientist