Interpretation is when nonviolent actors assist the media by explaining nonviolence, nonviolent events, and nonviolent social movements. Nonviolent actors must interpret their actions to the media, by explaining exactly what happened and its significance so that the chances of public sympathy with the goals of the nonviolent movement are increased. For example, without the interpretation of nonviolent advocates the media claimed that the Philippine People Power movement was in a “category all by itself,” when clearly it was connected to and an outgrowth of Gandhi, King, and previous movements around the world. More recently, when Serbia’s Otpor Uprising overthrew the notorious dictator Slobodan Milošević, the New York Times reported “a mob descended on Belgrade.” This report was published despite a campaign that took months of careful planning and strategic organizing, including a well-organized nonviolent moment.
For nonviolence to spread, the nonviolent participants must find ways to have the media describe how nonviolence actually works, or risk having their successes and their work misunderstood, overlooked, misrepresented, and marginalized. Interpretation leads to greater understanding, appreciation, and proper evaluation of nonviolence.