A piece in The Guardian, of all newspapers, which just nails the point under discussion.
In August 1991, when Communist party hardliners tried to wrest back power, fear was the magic component they lacked. Some people got scared, to be sure – but enough did not. Radio journalists continued reporting on the coup and finding ways to broadcast even when their signal was repeatedly cut off and their offices were invaded by special forces. Print journalists from several newspapers that had been shut down got together to put out a joint publication they called the Common Newspaper. And ordinary people, including college students, professionals, and former army military men, flooded into the streets to protect the Moscow white house where Boris Yeltsin sat, personifying democracy.
Bernard Levin, the late great Bernard Levin, identified the exact moment when the whole edifice came tumbling down.
That crowd, around Boris, the hardliners had someone shout over the loudspeakers that the crowd was ordered to disperse. Or terrible things, they knew not what but they would be the terror of the Earth, would be done by the KGB.
And the crowd laughed.