One other thing that has occurred to me is the power of the internet in such crises. Imagine if we had twitter and youtube during Tianamen square.
And the Authoritarian Fear wing of the GOP fought the Gore Senate bill in the early 90's that opened up ARPA into the World Wide Web. Instead they used that meme to savagely pillory Gore during the 2000 election with the false accusation that he said he "invented" the internet.
The availability of such outlets are tantamount to the printing press... which brought on the first assault against authoritarianism. (Eric's Thomas Paine references made me think of it.)