Friday, September 03, 2004


Here’s my argument for today: Protests don’t work.

This annoys me because it’s as if I’m the only one who realizes it. Whether it’s a full on Million Man March, or 3 people carrying placards outside the dean’s office somewhere, protests don’t do a damn thing.

There was a time when street protests were a potent political expression. A time when they got things accomplished. Civil Rights for example. Demonstrable pressure on the US to exit Vietnam. They got the voting age lowered to 18. But this was all 30 and 40 years ago.

Back then, I think, street protests represented an honest kind of mainstream indignation. Things have gotten so bad, (goes the logic of protesting) we can’t just sit at our jobs anymore, we have to take to the streets en masse and shout it out.

Nowadays, (and I’m looking at the headlines about the protests outside the RNC) a protest is fully toothless. This was adequately demonstrated during the buildup to the Iraq war. By numbers alone, more people took to the streets worldwide to protest the invasion of Iraq than any other protest in a decade or longer. Did the protests do a damn thing? No.

Anyone who enjoys getting out there for the occasional political protest: tell me one thing, anything, that street-protesting has accomplished in 20 years. Name one politician who was moved at the sight of 50,000 people in the Washington Monument Mall and had a change of heart. On any issue. Name one corporation that changed one policy as the result of street protesters (not counting any economic protests like a union strike or a boycott – those of course work).

Let’s say you were an anti-Iraq-war protester. What if you and the millions of other protesters had, instead of protesting, used all that time and energy to say – organize a giant boycott against any companies hired to do Iraq reconstruction. And you had done this before the war. Now, if I’m running a company fighting for a reconstruction contract, and this boycott becomes reality, I have to seriously reconsider whether I want to get involved. At the very least the price of my services is going to go way up to offset the effects of the boycott.

Then the US government is looking at much higher prices for all aspects of Iraq reconstruction due to the boycott. Now they have to seriously reconsider if they can do it. And all because millions of people who didn’t want the Iraq war chose to exert ACTUAL pressure that couldn’t just be ignored.

Nah! Let’s just march down the street with signs that say Bush=Hitler! That’ll make ‘em think twice!

And man, do the students love to protest. Is there anything on earth less effective than a student protest? A spoon used upside-down? A long-sleeved shirt at the North Pole? And there are few things more moronic than a student protest too. I think the most stupid, pointless student protest that I ever saw was my senior year at college. Several students were staging a sit-in in the offices of the student newspaper. It seems the student paper had run a cover story on a party that had gotten out of hand. But their sin was that the photo they used, the photo to go along with the party story, primarily showed two women dancing. From the back. And they were black by the way,

It seems that this photo was wildly offensive for a multitude of reasons. Apparently, showing the backs of the women instead of their fronts draws attention to their asses. Therefore the newspaper is objectifying women. It’s encouraging its readership to look at women as sex objects. But also, the women were black. What is the newspaper trying to say about black women and their asses? What EXACTLY is the NEWSPAPER trying to SAY about the ASSES of black WOMEN? Oh, it’s sit-in time!

I guess this example doesn’t really support my thesis that protests don’t work, because in this particular case, the paper backed down immediately and printed a fawning, blubbering apology like the flaccid ninnies they were.

Protesting has become the last resort of people who oppose something but have no idea what to do about it. It’s become the exclusive domain of radicals, wackos and crazies – to the point where anyone who may have a shred of a real point to make is going to be lost in all the noise and will be assumed to be a kook.

If I held high political office, I would encourage my opposition to protest frequently. Think about it: every hour of time or dollar spent on a street protest is an hour or dollar that isn’t spent on activities that can actually hurt me politically.

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