Sunday, May 20, 2012

Protest Fail

I'm sure that as the NATO meeting gets underway in Chicago today, one of the stories we'll be hearing about is the protest and police response. Of course this one was taken up a notch yesterday with the arrest of three people for plots to blow up things like the Obama campaign headquarters and Rahm Emmanuel's house. Yeah, that's a good look for the left...NOT.

But overall, I think David Frum actually summarized pretty well why this kind of protest fails.
Your core problem is this: Your supporters seem to think of protest as an expressive activity, a way for them to tell the world how they feel. But protest is not an expressive activity. It is a communicative activity. If you crave self-expression, join a creative-writing class. If you want to relieve your feelings, see a therapist.

The medium is the message, as the saying goes. People won't hear what you have to say if they don't like how you behave. Or don't understand it.
I doubt its likely that you'll ever find another issue where David Frum and Al Giordano agree. But on this one they do. Back in the summer of 2010, Giordano wrote basically the same thing about the protests happening at the G-20 meeting in Toronto.
So what is left from these summit-hopping protests, beyond the tons of garbage and reaction that local movements have to pick up afterwards? Some brief media stories about violence – by police or by protesters, whether against people or merely against property, you can’t ever count on the mass media to distinguish between the two, and you ought to know better in advance that that will be the case – is about all that is left over when the show has packed up and gone. Nobody outside the event's own protagonists knows what the protest was about, or why it was done.
Of course the difference between Frum and Giordano is that the latter actually would like to see a positive message emerge. I remembered this article by him because - in typical Giordano fashion - he demonstrated in such a powerful way what a little creativity on the part of the left could accomplish.
And to think: At least twice in recent months, in the same city of Toronto, there were two creative actions – neither of them “protests, per se – that were designed, and succeeded, to win over hearts and minds and public support. They involved planning, discipline and a lot more fun than the tired summit protests offer, and they show us a possible path toward a new kind of protest that, rather than provoking automatic police repression, sneaks up on society with stealth and then disappears quickly avoiding any physical confrontation at all.
What was he referring to? This.

Add a coherent political message, banners, leaflets, a dance tune that resonates with the message, and such to a dancing musical flash mob like these and you have the seeds of a new, more effective, kind of protest than the tired old marching around in circles of the last century that has ceased to win any cause for anyone.
It kinda makes you wonder just when the left in this country got so consumed with anger and so g-d...boring.


  1. Frum is an exceptionally precious commodity in today's media, because he's someone I basically disagree with with whom I could have a long conversation and from whom I learn a great deal. This continues the thread of our conversation from my last comment.

    I think I'm going to read Habermas now. The language in this post reminded me of the theory of communicative action, and it's time I dug into something like that again. From the wikipedia article, a quote:

    "Counterinstitutions are intended to dedifferentiate some parts of the formally organised domains of action, remove them from the clutches of the steering media, and return these 'liberated areas' to the action co-ordinating medium of reaching understanding"

    That's what needs to happen. I tend to see the building of counterinstitutions primarily--I'm old-fashioned, I guess--in spatial terms. We need spaces in which we can really be, and there aren't many (for me, temples, monasteries, libraries, and parks...).

    As always,

    1. I totally agree with you about Frum. I find him fascinating!

      And thanks for the connection to Habermas.

  2. ummmmm....You weren't around in the late '60s? Remember Prarie Fire? the Weathermen? Symbionese Liberation Army?

    Mainline Leftists are boring, Socialists are tea sipping boring, 'Rouchies are just boring period, most anarchists are too busy reading to be anything but boring.

    Besides, without protests, how would these guys get laid?


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