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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Opposition Movements Get Fashion-Conscious

It took a while, but Lebanon's uprising against the Syrian occupation finally has a color. Some had called it a Rose Revolution -- like the one that felled President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia in 2003 -- because protesters distributed roses to soldiers. For a moment, it looked poised to be a Candy Cane Revolution, based on the demonstrators' red and white striped scarves.

Now, Lebanon's stirrings have become widely known as a Cedar Revolution, after the tree on the national flag.

Lately, it seems, you cannot have a decent political upheaval unless you color it in. The pro-democracy movement that recently swept Ukraine was famously known as the Orange Revolution, after its emblematic hue. When Iraqi voters dipped their fingers in purple ink last month to signify that they had cast their ballots, U.S. President George W. Bush declared a Purple Revolution.

In Iran, the revolution is pink. Fed up with their theocratic government's strict laws, many Iranian women are rebelling by shucking sartorial strictures, flaunting their femininity with hot pink coats, sweaters, head scarves and bags.

Given the rise of satellite dishes, camera phones and other means of instantaneous visual communication, it was perhaps inevitable that mass movements would use eye-catching colors that transcend language barriers and make messages recognizable around the world.

"Those thousands of people in Ukraine wearing orange didn't even have to open their mouths," said Leatrice Eiseman, director of the Pantone Color Institute. "You knew what they stood for."

Karen Beckwith, a political science professor at Wooster College of Ohio and an authority on comparative political movements, thinks that color is a uniquely effective weapon.

"How does the state respond to it?" she asked. "It's very hard to defeat. You can't go around making people take off their clothes. ... And it shows incredible solidarity. You don't even need to carry a sign. The person himself or herself is the protest."

Color and political conflict are actually old bedfellows. In the 1400s, England had its Wars of the Roses, with white representing the House of York, red the House of Lancaster. The Bolsheviks' Red Army fought White tsarist loyalists during the Russian civil war. About Hitler's Brownshirts, the less said the better.

But rarely has so much color been associated with so much activism. "If the Orange Revolution had failed, we wouldn't have seen this," said Charles Tilly, a Columbia University professor.

All this political peacockery has its detractors. President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus is appalled that one of his country's beloved totems, the cornflower, might be used against him. It is all part of a plot by the West, he said.

"They consider that Belarus is ripe for some sort of an orange, or -- I'm terrified to utter it out loud -- some blue or cornflower revolution," he was quoted as saying recently. "Such blue revolutions are the last thing we need."