Social Interactions

Hate and violence spread through the air

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Science  26 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6204, pp. 1575
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6204.1575-e

During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, radio station RTLM aired racist propaganda promoting violence against Tutsis. We now can see quantitatively some of the effects of this propaganda. Yanagizawa-Drott modeled radio signal propagation across this “land of a thousand hills” to determine which villages could receive the RTLM signal. Then they compared their map with court records of the number of people in each village later prosecuted for violent crimes during the genocide. They found that RTLM radio reception was associated with an increase in violence. Militia violence was higher when neighboring villages also had radio coverage, suggesting that social interactions promoted the diffusion of organized violence. The authors estimate that RTLM was responsible for 10% of the total participation in the genocide, by roughly 51,000 people.

Quart. J. Economics 10.1093/qje/qju020 (2014).

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