alien & sedition.
Monday, January 29, 2007
  On Protesting

Steve Gilliard reposts the link to this Mahablog post from last April, about the differences between effective protests and those that are just counterproductive. Maha suggests some "rules of ettiquite for protesting": Be Serious, Be Unified of Purpose, Good Protesting is Good PR, etc.

I was at the protest in Washington on Saturday, for about an hour and a half in between sessions at the Conservative Summit. I was wearing a suit, mainly because I had to wear a suit to the summit, but I was glad to turn up at the demonstration that way, too.

Those of us who agree about the importance of the kinds of "rules" Maha lists have to be careful not to condescend, or to play into right-wing stereotypes of demonstrators. The overwhelming majority of people at antiwar protests are ordinary people, dressed in an ordinary way, showing up because they understand the moral importance of opposition to the war, not because they intend to make a spectacle.

And a lot of the "clever" signs the more theatrical protestors bring are genuinely funny.

That said, the wacky "look at me" element is strong, and it does, I think, often work at cross-purposes from the intent of the march. Saturday's march was no different. Maha's right: a lot of politics is about PR. If we disregard that fact, we will lose at politics because our PR will be disastrous.

The basic problem is this: it makes no sense for a movement that seeks to sway mainstream opinion to present itself as a counterculture. It contradicts the entire purpose of the exercise. Using antiwar protests as an opportunity to get publicly freaky means showing the public that opposition to the war is for freaks. It's as simple as that.

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Comments:
I agree. I try to wear my work clothes, and to reflect the person I am in my daily life. If everyone just dresses in their old 60's tie dye, it's harder for the mainstream folks to feel safe joining our cause. And we need the mainstream folks to reach the tipping point.
 
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Critical analysis of the American conservative movement from a progressive perspective. Also some stuff about the Mets.


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