To get to what may be the real news of what is going on in Russia, where there were protests in 99 areas over the weekend, you have to go past the headlines and look for signs. The signs point to a profound and crucial change in what activism is and how it can be expressed. It bodes well for what we might call a peaceful global democratic revolution. When opposition leader Aleksei Navalny was arrested Sunday, the New York Times reports, he urged his followers to continue in a peaceful manner. "Walk along Tverskaya." he urged.

Mass nonviolence?

The real news may be that this largest demonstration against Putin in five years signals a continuing idea that we can, around the world, walk our way to peace and justice.

This is not Pollyanna stuff. It is the hard-won insight that comes from the failure of violence and the need for nonviolence to become a basis for truly mass movements. There were beatings yesterday. But the Times and other media were at fault when they painted it as continuous with the past. It is a move to something very different.

Innocuous politics

There is nothing innocuous about corruption, but if you are making that the message of your protest, you are signaling that this is an inclusive cause and not some ideological agenda. There was no banner waving as the demonstrators walked along. In fact, there were expressions of patriotism, a favorite Putin ploy. This is part and parcel of a move toward silent revolution where the issue is decency and the watchword is fairness.

These are powerful when they are backed up by the willingness of people to take a stand -- or a walk as the case may be.

Could Putin be brought down?

The current situation in Russia may be the most important bit of news on the planet.

It holds the very remote promise that the form of protest under discussion could become so emphatic that change would result. If so, it will owe its birth to two key factors that were present yesterday. There was first the peaceful approach that generally prevailed. Then there was the idea of an almost generic "cause" like corruption rather than a narrow bill of particulars. The purpose of a protest need not be spelled out when a peaceful walk lies at its center.