Marching Toward Obsolescence

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Get thee to Washington D.C. January 27, 2007 for the Peace March. It’s a worthy and timely topic, and it would be an interesting opportunity for you to demonstrate your chops in the field. Why not bring Norman Mailer with you, have him compare and contrast the occasion with the March on the Pentagon he wrote about so beautifully in The Armies of the Night…

Hurley, from Pitch a Show January 5, 2007
people protesting

It takes at least a village [Schizoform / Flickr]

Hurley, since the Open Source budget can’t even cover a one-way ticket to DC on the notorious Chinatown Bus, we’ll do the next best thing: explore the question “What’s happened to the art of protesting?”

In a time when at least 60% of the populace opposes the war in Iraq and disapproves of the response to Katrina, who is speaking out — or acting out? Where is the spirit that launched the Boston Tea Party or teetotaling Carrie Nation; that ignited the draft cards, the flags, and the bras? Are we burned out — or have we just Move(d)On?

Are our demonstrations less effective or simply evolving? Has the collective expression of disappointment disappeared or become displaced? Have the protestors vacated the public square to reconvene in cyberspace?

What will it take to bring you to the barricades? When was the last time you hit the steets or hit the “send” key? How are you registering your complaints in this winter of discontent?

James Campbell

Associate ProfessorAmerican Civilization, Africana Studies and History, Brown

Student, King Saud University, Riyadh

Zephyr Teachout

Former Dean Blogger, National Director for the Sunlight Foundation

Joseph Boskin

Professor, Social History and African-American Studies, Boston University

Alexander Arredondo

Father of a 20-year-old Marine killed in action in Iraq.

Extra Credit Reading

Matt Taibbi, A March to Irrelevance, New York Press, September 11, 2004: “Protests can now be ignored because our media has learned how to dismiss them, because our police know how to contain them, and because our leaders now know that once a protest is peacefully held and concluded, the protesters simply go home and sit on their asses until the next protest or the next election. They are not going to go home and bomb draft offices, take over campuses, riot in the streets.”

Fran Shor, The Crisis of Dissent, counterpunch, September 9, 2004: “While mass mobilizations and demonstrations may only convey symbolic power, they do represent an important dissenting moment of expressive solidarity.”

James Bovard, Free-Speech Zone, The American Conservative, December 15, 2003: “When Bush travels around the United States, the Secret Service visits the location ahead of time and orders local police to set up “free speech zones” or “protest zones” where people opposed to Bush policies (and sometimes sign-carrying supporters) are quarantined. These zones routinely succeed in keeping protesters out of presidential sight and outside the view of media covering the event.”

David Greenberg, Advise and Dissent: How Anti-War Protest Movements Have Made the U.S. Stronger, Slate, March 26, 2003: “The humiliating defeats of the War of 1812 made that fight so unpopular that the states of New England considered seceding from the Union.”

Clive Thompson, 6 Ways to Reboot the System, Wired, September 2004: “Protests, once a mainstay of political activity, have lost their mojo. What’s needed is a new generation of tech-savvy hell-raisers to create new styles of dissent.”

Li C. Kuo, A New Kind of Art Form Leads to a New Kind of Protest, GameSpy, May 23, 2006: “Why not use an online deathmatch as a pedestal for speaking out against a war?”

Related Content


  • I’m reading Andrew Wilson’s Orange Revolution, about the mass protests that overturned an election in the Ukraine in 2004. Two things struck me early in the book. Despite broad acceptance that the political culture in the country is corrupt, more people vote there (over 75 percent turnout) than in the US.

    Also, that when faced with a stolen election, the people went to the streets. There is the argument that the protests were well planned before the election, but people still saw the point of getting out in the street.

    As much as I don’t like the art of protest (I live in a particularly protest happy town of Olympia, Washington), I have to think that the lost art of protest in the United States has to do with our lack of social capital. You could say that public acts matter less, so people see the need to protest less. The reasons for declining protest in the US may be the same reasons for declining meeting attendance and participation in public space.

    Or it might be a boomer thing. Those old fogies protest about just everything. I bet the youngest person in that picture up there is about 40 and that he’s really sad he missed the 60s. Who wants to be like our parents? Much better to be active in finding a solution to a problem, not just participating in a two-dimensional wag of the finger.

  • joshua hendrickson

    The last protest I joined was in March 2003. At the time I was living in protest-friendly Eugene, Oregon. I carried a sign that read WAR IS NATURE’S WAY OF TEACHING AMERICANS GEOGRAPHY –AMBROSE BIERCE. I got a lot of considered comments and a lot of frowns for carrying that sign. Even in a like-minded group, I wanted to shake things up a bit. I knew full well that the media would largely ignore us, that the war-lovers among the American populace would ignore us or revile us, and that no matter what we did the government would not change its policies one iota. (Even an election has no effect, as we have most recently seen.) In short, our efforts were futile … and my effort, to shake things up within the protest movement, was equally futile, I believe.

    Sometimes I think that a country that allows freedom of speech is the smartest social system for a tyranny to operate in. After all, if everyone is allowed to speak their mind, the government is free to ignore those comments and go on doing whatever they wish. They needn’t even waste time and energy on punishing dissent (though in this country they still do just that, from time to time) because they know that dissenting voices will be lost in the cacophony.

    As long as our democracy is oriented towards people with money and influence having the only say in the government, politicians will be sufficiently insulated from all manner of dissenting voices–from all voices, period. If you require money and influence to even be in the game, you are already separated from the masses–by definition, not “one of us.”

  • nother

    A convenient apathy. With no draft, 99% of people are not making any sacrifice in this war. If gas prices rose to $10.00 a gallon because of this war people would be spilling out into the streets.

    Something like 70 young woman were blown up at an Iraqi college yesterday and the leading story on CNN today is a YouTube video of some 14 year old girls slapping around a 13 year old girl.

    The most powerful protest I marched in was when NYC officers shot Amadou Diallo 41 times as he pulled out his wallet on his front porch. Thousands marched through NYC walking by police officers with our wallets held up in the air. That image must be ingrained in every one of those officers’ heads.

    Last year I was at the immigration rally/protest in Boston Common. It might have been the most proud I’ve ever been to be an American. I was marching with courageous people, many of whom were undocumented, in the birthplace of America. These people were not marching in angry protest of the current administration; they were showing their solidarity for the idea of America. Sadly there was a dearth of Anglo faces in the crowd but I will always remember the tangible feeling of pride walking through the upscale Back bay of Boston. A plethora of white stony faces peering down on us from indiscriminate office windows above as our chorus of chants and songs and smiles flowed through the city. It felt like we were a small body of water streaming through a newly formed hole in a decaying dam of intolerance.

  • RobertPeel

    Where is William Sloan Coffin when we need him. His former student Tom Gerety of NYU Law school is writing a book on his 1968 Yale Class which was motivated by their official class chaplain, William Slaon Coffin.

  • plnelson

    Are our demonstrations less effective

    Have they EVER been effective?

    Voting is effective. Boycotts can be effective. Violence or threats of violence can be effective, but not necessarily with the intended effect. But is there any good evidence that demonstrations are actually effective? I think most demonstrations are people preaching to the converted; they’re feel-good exercises designed to give the participants the FEELING that they are “doing something”.

  • joshua hendrickson

    plnelson,

    I agree. Protests, demonstrations, yes, they are “people preaching to the converted.” Which was why I tried to shake things up a little with my sign. Maybe it was futile. But the frowns I received told me otherwise: some people were upset by my (and Ambrose Bierce’s) cynicism. Good! Even in a crowd of like-minded people, there is always room for differences. As for these protests being “feel-good exercises”, well, yes, but where is the harm in that? After all, there is so little that can be done to affect this government; maybe the best we can do is join hands and feel good as we sing kumbayah and give-peace-a-chance as we sink into the abyss. But then, I’m a cynic; I think the abyss is all there is, so we might as well feel good while we can. Of course, in addition to being a cynic, I’m a socialist who believes that people can restructure society to the benefit of all. I just don’t believe that most people really want to do so.

    I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large; I contain multitudes.

    Thank you, Walt.

  • katemcshane

    I checked this site late today at work to see what was being discussed and the title, alone, upset me. I don’t know how to argue that marches are important. Besides, I think nother did a wonderful job already. If this show turns out to be about the futility of marching, I’m never listening again.

    I remember, back before Iraq, when the word was that no one protested anymore, I began to get a newsletter from the War Resisters League in NYC and I felt so heartened to see coverage of demonstrations all over the country. I remember how surprised people at my job were when I showed it to them. I remember how great I felt about the NYC march just before we invaded Iraq. I remember other more depressing anti-war marches in Boston after that, because people seemed beaten down. As we are. I remember a cop coming up behind me on a motorcycle and saying, Move out of the way you stupid cunt. I remember wishing that people in this country were like the French. I heard a wonderful speech by Bill Moyers the other day about corporate control of media and the effect on the people. It was one of the best speeches I’ve heard in decades. It addressed this problem very well, why people in this country don’t stand up to narcissistic sons of bitches like Bush and Cheney. Marches make a difference, not because Bush sees them or doesn’t see them. He doesn’t give a shit about us. They make a difference because of how WE feel when we march, because we’re not alone, shut up in our rooms, silenced. They make a difference because people have the experience nother had in the immigration rally. I had to work that day. Yes we have to do other things, but sometimes, when you don’t have any good ideas, you can show up at a march and not be alone.

  • Peggy Sue @ work

    Our little town was coated with a layer of solid ice but we still had our annual Martin Luther King candelight Peace March on Monday. We considered not marching this year because of the ice and just going directly from our gathering place on the Courthouse lawn to the Grange Hall for the traditional hot chocolate and readings/singing but people really wanted to march through town so march we did!

  • as a child of the civilrights movement and the counte-culture I am wondering why arent there more internet protests ie email virus and flodding servers of targeted companies and government orgs to shut down there capacity to funtions on a web level which seems to be an essential element to any organazations today

  • Peggy Sue @ work

    I havn’t heard the show yet being a west coaster but I was one of the Sea Turtles at the “Battle in Seattle” WTO protest. Was it a march? a riot? an expresion of ecstatic tribal community? Whatever that was… it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I’m not sure the full effects are even yet realized.

  • Listeners to this excellent show should know that a new, inspiring movement is brewing in the US: the climate movement, being led by youth on our nation’s campuses. Check out http://climatechallenge.org/ to bear witness to this new social movement. And here’s the good news – these youth are doing all the right things, following the lessons from social movements of the past: framing their message, mobilizing their resources, and taking advantage of political opportunities. As a professor at Middelbury College, I see this every day: today’s youth are building the climate movement, one person at a time. (To learn more — OK, this is a plug — see this book: Ignition: What YOu can Do to Fight Global Warming and Spark a Movement. http://www.islandpress.org/books/detail.html/SKU/1-59726-156-4

  • OliverCranglesParrot

    I too have wondered about the efficacy of demonstration or civil disobedience. Perhaps I am an outlier, but I do some things in life that don’t measure well against a cost/benefit calculation…you know, like make comments on ROS…stuff like that. I think criteria for measuring efficacy are many and varied, which means measuring their effectiveness nearly impossible? Not sure. I think there are aspects of reality that evade a convenient reductionism or CB analysis.

    Regarding civil issues and peace, there is a line of thought that suggests peace is not an end-point, but a process. One example: Salt Satyagraha Regardless, I can understand the resentment, especially from younger people towards idealized nostalgia. Also, there is a spectacle aspect to some protests that can grind against some people’s sensibilities.

    I am interested in the ritualistic aspect of demonstrations. Ritual can be used to remind one of the ineffable nature of existence, in this case connecting with other human beings directly. Ritual can also become a hollow gesture that at best bores the observer and at worst becomes extremely dangerous; bonfire of the vanities types of exercises, or something along the lines of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” Usually it’s somewhere between.

  • I know you may get to this with Zephyr, but I just heard Chris say “and still no protest” in context to Katrina.

    Is “getting into the streets” the only kind of protest?

    Every part of my political life is a form of protest. I’m not marching, but I’m blogging, writing, voting and organizing. Why I’m not in the streets is because I feel all of the above is more effective than holding a sign on a street corner.

  • Sarah

    I think there are a confluence of issues that make protesting less imperative to people to day: 1) pessimism, 2) economics, and 3) loss of radical thinking. Pessimism about life and the future can make people less energized about working towards change. Add that to the economic situation of the middle-class, and people might be less inclined to spend their hard-earned money on protest that doesn’t seem to effect change. And finally, without radical thought, with new views and calls for change, the same ole, same ole has less appeal.

  • Steve Heffner

    Don’t forget Cindy Sheehan and Camp Crawford. Seems to me that the media attention she got was one of the early turning points in changing folks minds on the war in Iraq. So, even though there weren’t a lot of them, Sheehan and her small group made a big difference.

  • Here’s my column about politics in the flesh versus politics online:

    It’s from Seven Days, the VT weekly. Judith Levine

    Body Politic

    (published 10.12.05)

    Call me a meat puppet, but I like my politics corporeal. Before the Internet, activism meant bodies in a room, arguing, scheming, flirting, drinking. Taking on a task, you made a commitment to people who could hold you accountable. The “movement” was a network of thousands of rooms, thousands of relationships.

    One commitment you made was, literally, to move your body out of the room and into the street, voices and fists poised for raising.

    It still thrills me to be on the barricades, inside a beast of many bodies. So I signed up to join United for Peace & Justice’s September 24 march on Washington to end the Iraq war. The papers might report a crowd a tenth its real size, the TV news give equal time to the 39 counter-demonstrators. The government would likely ignore us. (Leaving town, Dubya averred that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.) But we would have an effect — a crucial one, now that fear and disaffection are the Bushies’ best weapons.

    If nothing else, a demonstration tells its participants they are not alone. The people united shall never be defeated. Solidarity forever. This knowledge enables them to make those slogans true.

    It can’t happen online. Howard Dean and MoveOn’s Eli Pariser claimed during the 2004 elections that they’d invented a virtual political community unlike any in history. When it came to mustering the teams and tabulating the canvassing sheets, though, live kids and union members did it the old-fashioned way.

    After the elections, I attended a MoveOn “meetup,” where little groups across the country watched a computer map light up with other meetups, then watched Eli talk, then voted on what to do next (repair voting machines? save the environment?). There was no way to discuss how to accomplish anything. Eli would get back to us.

    And from time to time, he drops me an email, to which I respond, or not. MoveOn turns out to be a communications tool, not a community. And in what community it does create, activism is like online dating. No hard feelings.

    As for the former cyber-candidate, he can still be found on the web, making wishy-washy statements for the Democratic Party.

    On September 24, I didn’t make it to Washington. My group, Take Back the Future — about 40 writers and artists from New York, my part-time home — boarded a reserved Amtrak car in Penn Station at 6 a.m., alongside a clutch of Queerleaders from Burlington.

    At 6:15 we budged — 10 yards — then backed up. Every half-hour after that, a conductor offered information, much of it contradictory, about faulty wires in the tunnel, repairs, consolidation of trains. Each dispatch ended with the assurance that we’d be on our way in 20 minutes.

    The Queerleaders took out their garbage-bag-plastic pom-poms and cheered (“U-G-L-I! They ugly. Uhn-uhn, they ugly! G-R-E-D! They greedy. . .”). Someone called Amtrak on her cell and learned that a power line was down in New Jersey, halting all southbound travel. This was news to the conductor.

    A rumble was rising among us. Factions were arranging car rentals. Our affinity group, which in various incarnations had marched together for 30 years, needed to act.

    At 9, I stood on a seat and tried to quell rumors of a conspiracy any more sinister than the Repub-lican Party’s to overthrow the U.S. government by privatizing it out of existence. By 9:10, we had consensus. The Amtrak people, through no fault of their own, couldn’t be trusted. More delays were inevitable. We’d reach D.C. in time to catch our train home.

    By 9:30, with our bagels wrapped and signs in English, Spanish and Arabic retrieved from the overhead racks, we had disembarked and started organizing. Some of us talked up the would-be protesters in the terminal. Others called the press. The Queerleaders ducked into phone booths and emerged with pink hair and pleated skirts.

    By 10, 60 marchers were on Seventh Avenue and 34th Street, chanting, “Money for trains, not for war!” Shoppers stopped, drivers honked. The New York Times sent its guy, NBC its gal. Writers for The New Yorker and London’s TLS were on our train; they took out their notepads.

    That night, NBC gave us equal time with the 300,000 anti- and 39 pro-war marchers in Washington. Next day, the Times ran a photo of our signs and a quote to the effect of “Money for trains, not for war.”

    “Joining” MoveOn or another online activist group is like using an Apple computer or wearing Nike shoes — what brand manager Douglas Atkins calls “joining a brand.” The brand sends an email promo, you type in your name, press Send and, presto, you’ve fulfilled your civic duty. An auto-reply arrives, thanking you for your opinion — a receipt. The “community” is as big as a consumer demographic, and no bigger than an email box.

    Hannah Arendt wrote about the oikos, the forum in which speech becomes “deeds.” The web, we are told, is the forum of the future. But too often, online speech swallows itself; it can’t emerge as deed. In a train, a terminal or on the street, bodies meet to act. This form may seem to take us back from the future. But, on the ground, we can seize the day — to take back the future.

  • samrmadden

    I question that I have is; why do we never see people out in the streets protesting, and why have we almost never heard about street protesting since around the time of the Vietnam?

  • RobertPeel

    Joing the militare can be a ritual too:the rites of passage.

  • ngolden

    Protesting is one of the very few ways we have of expressing our opinions. I have been wondering for six years why there were no protests at the 2000 elections. I happened to have been in Miami while the vote was supposedly undecided. Every single person I met — D and R alike — felt total outrage: “They’re stealling my election.” But nobody did a thing. I suspect people would have hit the streets in almost any other country.

  • AlexanderBArredondo

    Good evening – This is both Alexander Brian Arredondo and wife, Melida Arredondo. We live in Roslindale, MA, so, yes we are local. Alexander Brian just recently became a US citizen on 12/12/06 in Lowell, MA. When son Alexander and the fire occurred on Alexander Brian’s birthday on 08/25/04, it led to a lot of media. At that time, AB Arredondo was known as Carlos Luis Arredondo. Only recently has he been using the new name. The media led to a great deal of public response and that led to charges being dropped against him for burning the US Marine van. We had only moved to Florida three months earlier and that occured in Hollywood, FL. Alexander Brian’s protesting has not been covered despite being active since 08/25/05….On tour with Cindy Sheehan and others after Crawford.

    Home # is 617-323-5623 if you would like to connect to us.

  • RobertPeel

    I liked the picture of George Bush in VietNam under the image of HoChiMihn is was like Spike Lee speak at the Harvard podium with the image of VERITAS!

  • Melida

    Many protests ARE occurring. However, they are not being reported. I am someone who has marched in anti-war events under the first and now second Georgies. Anytime there are 500,000 plus, the channels report a few thousand and focus on the counter protesters. Last week in Massachusetts after Georgie’s latest speech re: the “troop surge”, there were 17+ protests throughout Massachusetts. A total of 15 seconds were dedicated to one protest at Park Street on Fox 25. I had organized one in JP with over 100+ people in one day. The public is yearning to be mobilized. Thank God that there are drivers who are supportive honking for peace and in opposition to current policy. If we all waited for media to show up, we’d be waiting until the next millenium Then of course that is what happens with so few true media outlets since they are all owned by a few large corporations….

  • Cathy Dellinger

    Perhaps it’s best that my comment comes at the end of your program. I grew up in the “60’s.” More importantly David Dellinger was an amazing part of my life. I suppose he would be laughing along with Colbert and Stewart, but I also believe he would define political action as a connection of and for the people. The virtual communities makes total sense to me as a means of organizing. However, we need to connect as a much larger community to motivate, activate and reconnecting. Let’s not forgot what he accomplished. Let the demonstrations begin!

    Cathy

  • RobertPeel

    Viva,Dave Dellinger! I spent a whole day in Western MA with Dave Dellinger with his “from Yale to Jail”Book Tour and saw him making donnections to students almost 60 years younger them them. They were captivated by him and he brought them into community and connection! Bravo! Long Live the memories of Dave Dellinger.

  • Peggy Sue @ work

    Barbara Ehrenreich has some interesting ideas about protest in her new book Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy

  • Peggy Sue @ work

    I went to one of the big Washington DC protests during the build up to the war. We were on the scene early getting ready. There was a reggae band playing and a few hippies hanging around. Then buses started pouring in and 100 thousand people marched around the White House. That night on the news they showed footage of the reggae band and a few hippies hanging around and said that the march was poorly attended. People who’d been there were so outraged by the coverage NPR and the New York Times actually ended up apologising for their misrepresentation of the event. You can not trust corporate media regarding protests

  • mulp

    Great discussion to listen to as I recover from 48 hours with no power….

    I number of thoughts come to mind.

    As you were talking about humor, etc., I immediately think of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late 60s, which had shows pulled or censored because the political satire struck too close to home. To go along with the “I wish Nixon were President” bumper sticker, I remember the skit with the sword in the stone with all the contenders trying to pull it out, or not trying, and on the end of the party, Nixon, the street sweeper goes over to the sword, pulls it out, looks at it, then tosses it into his trash barrel. To me, that shows was a more widely broadcast comment on the politics of war than the well reported demostrations.

    But on the reason demonstrations were widely attended in the 60s, the people were being presented with a cost of the war. The deaths of unwilling draftees. Today we have a volunteer military, so the response to the deaths of the unwilling is “well, they knew what could happen when they signed on for all those military benefits” coupled with a change in tactics that emphasizes distant killing, the cruise missiles from afar, the rockets launched from fighters, and now the rockets launched from UAVs flown from afar.

    To me, the compelling argument against the war that crosses the political spectrum is the cost of the war in terms that the unwilling must bear. And the most cruel means that the Republicans have developed for paying for the war from a distance is to drop it on the unborn in the form of war debt. Bush et al have found a way to fight a war without cost to the unwilling voters. By definition, anyone who dies in the war is willing to die. And no one alive today is forced to bear the cost of the war either. And we don’t even need to see the cruelty of war because there is no battlefield with dead bodies of either Americans or the enemy, and the victorious battles are less bloody than the games that 9 year old kids play: they are images from the missiles camera as hits the target followed by the image from the camera of the targeter showing the building blowup.

    The civil rights movement did have the moral issue that was hard to deny. When the news started reporting the rallies more widely, the politicians that spoke to the group of segrationists ne slavers, could no longer speak with such racist hate without coming to the attention of the nation as a whole. Certainly those who won local elections with such speech found they had a real problem on the national stage.

    But when it comes to this war, the morality is not as hard to pin down. Those fighting us are evil so killing them is a moral good. And if innocents are killed by our bombs, it isn’t our fault but the fault of the evil enemy that doesn’t stand out in the open field with a sign saying “here I am, kill me.”

    But if we say to America, “the war is costing billions of dollars and is supposedly to protect us today, but we aren’t paying for the war ourselves, but instead are placing the taxes for the war on your unborn grandchildren because we want both guns and butter, or in the modern era, no taxes, cheap gasoline, and massive SUVs all afforded by fighting a war over oil and charging it to future generations.” Ok, that isn’t a bumber sticker, but the morality of leaving your grandchildren an inheritance of debt is something that conservatives and liberals alike see as immoral. I hope that it is seen as immoral.

    The same is true for the environmental damage and for consuming oil with the hand wave, “we won’t run out of cheap oil before 2050 and the unborn are smarter than we are and will figure out how to solve the problem.”

    Thinking back to the show on economics a few days ago, where are the economists telling us of the failure of our current economic policies to enrich the world by taking the limited resource of oil capital and replacing it with capital of even greater value? Can we illustrate that broken system and demonstrate over the way that we are tearing our house apart board by board to provide heat because we are too lazy to find an alternative source of fuel?

  • moseyg

    As nother pointed out earlier, this war is terrible but does not hit close enough to home to get people out on the streets. No draft, the distance and exoticness of Iraq, and of course the growing apathy of our nation all lead to less of a physical presence in protest.

    It is only through the few films like The War Tapes http://thewartapes.com/trailer/ that have captured the real person aspects of the war that we in the US get a glimpse of what is going on.

  • Peggy Sue @ work

    Sorry, I think all those italics are my fault. hope this stops it.

  • Peggy Sue @ work

    dang, this?

  • Potter

    Bravo Alexander! Good wishes to you and congratulations.

    Sarah- i agree about ‘radical thinking”.

    Emmett- We hung together, lived together, talked it all out, went to “Love-in”‘s and “Be-in’s” which were to counteract or make up for the war-making. We did together what we would not have done alone. We separated ourselves from, “the establisment” and talked of revolution. It was a revolution that turned inward. I can tell those who never went through that change, who fought it. About half of our generation. That’s the split in this country.

  • Peggy Sue @ work

    I no longer take responsibility for these italics…

  • Peggy Sue @ work

    Right before Bush invaded Iraq I went to a huge march in Seattle. We had to leave home before daylight to get there and I had the news on. All around the world as the sun came up in city after city people were marching for peace. That event still gives me hope because it was global and I could feel it. It was like a prayer for peace illuminating the entire planet as the earth turned. I felt connected to all of the people around the world who marched for peace on that day.

  • plnelson

    katemcshane says “They make a difference because of how WE feel when we march, because we’re not alone, shut up in our rooms, silenced.

    I’m sorry but that’s not the conventional meaning of “make a difference”. The only useful sense of “make a difference” is whether it materially affects policy. All those protest marches at the start of the Iraq war did DIDDLY to prevent it. Likewise with Darfur, etc. Protests marches are a sort of political masturbation – they create a brief pleasant glow or feeling for those who do it but don’t actually accomplish anything.

  • plnelson

    seanodgen asks as a child of the civilrights movement and the counte-culture I am wondering why arent there more internet protests ie email virus and flodding servers of targeted companies and government orgs to shut down there capacity to funtions on a web level which seems to be an essential element to any organazations today

    Uhhh . . . because that would be a criminal act? You could be charged with vandalism, criminal trespass, theft of services, or even terrorism. And it would stick and if I were on the jury I would vote to convict.

  • plnelson

    Notice that I accomplished getting rid of the italics. Which is more than the protests described here accomplished . . . .

    Right before Bush invaded Iraq I went to a huge march in Seattle. We had to leave home before daylight to get there and I had the news on. All around the world as the sun came up in city after city people were marching for peace. That event still gives me hope because it was global and I could feel it. It was like a prayer for peace illuminating the entire planet as the earth turned. I felt connected to all of the people around the world who marched for peace on that day.

    So name one concrete result that resulted from all those protests.

  • pegasus

    The media has absorbed traditional marches and demos (which predate the 60s, by the way), and it is the responsibility of people wanting change to develop new ways of protesting, of showing opposition.

  • Intrigued by “symbolic” vs. “symbolism.” I recall the AIDS Quilt — a company i worked with donated the truss that was used to hang it in the Boston Armory. A bunch of us also volunteered to build the portable booths that went down to DC when it was on the green….

    The symbolism of the quilt became the protesters…

    And, to a degree, I think the AIDS Walks I participated — as well as the three Boston/NY AIds ride I rode — were a form of protest, to….

    guess it’s a question of how we see protest..

  • LarryMLawrence

    “Are we burned out — or have we just Move(d)On?”

    Couldn’t have been a better question for me. My last anti-govt demo was at the Nixon inaugural in 1969. I – almost instinctively – responded to the call, by MoveOn as it happened, to be part of a candlelight vigil in Lafayette Park, opposite the White House, last Wednesday. In between, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, I *WAS* burned out: I didn’t believe popular, public action was any use. But reflecting on how public opinion turned, very gradually but massively, against the Vietnam war, I felt that demonstrations did have a part in that.

    After Pres Bush’s escalation speech on the ‘surge,’ I was disgusted, and the call for a dignified, visible street demonstration last week was just right for me. My outrage peaked at this (as opposed to my earlier rational “I’m against”) . On the street, it was moving to stand a few hundred feet from the White House and shout, “No!” and to think, not that we would change Bush’s mind, but that we were heard, as Johnson and Nixon viewed and heard crowds more than 30 years ago and recorded that fact.

    MoveOn claimed that there were 1,000 simultaneous demonstrations across the country Wednesday. It was good to feel part of a crowd again.

  • Pinesol said: “So name one concrete result that resulted from all those protests”.

    There is a worldwide awareness that this war is globally unpopular. Bush of course will not even take advice from his own advisors but the fact that democrats are now in the house and senate has much to do with the evidence that this war is so widely unpopular. Not that I agree with Pinesol that the sole purpose of protest is to make results out of concrete. One often overlooked aspect of civil disobedience and protest is that it is FUN! (Well, at least until the rubber bullets and tear gas come out). You meet hopeful, intelligent, inspiring people at a Peace March. The music, the theater, the cultural enrichment are vital. Freedom of speech is a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly. Protest is good for you and its good for the country. When it is required you just have to do it, not worry about the outcome and don’t give up.

    Here is a link to the A.N.S.W.E.R. site about the upcoming March in Washington DC.

    http://www.pephost.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ANS_homepage

  • fishy

    I still want to know why nobody (nationally) covered the death of Malachai Ritscher.

    I think it is a sad statement on society that a man set himself on fire and died to protest the war and the rest of us (for the most part) can’t get off our Blackberrys and actually do anything but sign online petitions.

  • Tim Determan

    I am constantly frustrated when I hear the media lump a people who are opposed to abortion (i.e. “pro-life”) with the “right wing”. Can’t the media (or even your guests) concieve of the possibility that a person may be opposed to abortion and at the same time be opposed to war, believe that capital punishment is immoral, and are convinced that social justice and environmental issues must be addressed.

  • babu

    Excellent show!!

    Public awareness of current right-wing co-option (ownership) of media explains, to me, the so-called ‘sullen calmness’ Chris observes. I believe that people understand that the gesture of mass demonstrating will not galvanize the media now as it did forty years ago.

    Therefore, although protest still absolutely relevant, I understand the current moment as one in which people are trying to understand how to change the political weather by seeding the political clouds, one local polititian at a time.

    In Seattle, as elsewhere, I’m sure, the Democratci Precinct peop[le are doing grass-roots organizing

  • babu

    cont’d

    around very humble, no rills egalitarian issues to try to build new membership. Seeding the clouds, I think.

  • babu

    sorry, that should be ‘no frills’ above.

  • Tim,

    No, When abortion is illeagal women die.

  • I may be a citizen of Woodstock Nation but in the 1990s I had a Redwood Summer poster on my refrigerator that said: “The 90s will make the 60s look like the 50s”. Throughout the 90s I kept waiting for that to happen. Then just as the 90s were coming to an end November 99 I found myself in downtown Seattle in every direction as far as the eye could see were protesters; Sea Turtles, Steel Workers, Japanese Farmers, Gay Rights Advocates, Indigenous Rights groups, Anarchists, No Nukes people, anti-GMO advocates. Cops lined the sidewalks in riot gear fondling their billy clubs. It had happened! The WTO protest in Seattle made the 60s look like the 50s.

    I can’t believe ROS had a show about the state of protesting in the streets in America with no mention of this seminal event?

  • babu

    Peggy Sue, you right-on Sea-Turtle

    I think the Seattle WTO demonstratiopn is a GREAT example of a savvy recent mass action; it knowingly circumvented the usual expectation that the US press would ignore a mass protest by addressing itself to a news worthy event where foreign press was sure to be in attendance.

    In this sense it was both cogniscent and unusuallky eective. But institutional backlash quickly set in around the planning of next WTOI meetings. It tells me that mass protest is a card which for sadder but wiser, plays dierently today.

  • babu

    shee-eesh, sorry for all the typos – my keyboard has just become demented.

  • nother

    Great point peggysue, I remember the shock waves that event sent. I had never even heard of the WTO before that.

    I remember getting into a heated discussion with a friend about the merits of breaking a McDonalds window during that event. They said it was someone’s window and that is was vandalism, I said that the cost of some broken glass is worth alerting the world that there is an organization out there making crucial decisions. You and I both know that every one of the members of the WTO had and have you protesters in mind when they make those life changing decisions.

    What does Pinelson think about that? I can’t tell you a “concrete” example of how it affected a decision, but I can tell you they had a new appreciation of the impact of their decisions from then on.

    peggysue, thanks for your posts tonight and thanks for the link about the NYC march.

    I would love to know how you found out about that Seattle event and the WTO and any more details you remember.

  • darwhin

    there is no righteousness. both the left and the right are irresponsible. they no longer care about the consequences whether intentional or not. the example of the right is clear, but for this discussion its applied to the left. the left that is so anti war that they do not consider when they give moral support to the enemy. and frankly this enemy is the enemy of liberal values, it is the enemy that kills and oppresses civilians in its fight for power. the left has basically been so rabidly anti war and anti bush that they have given moral legitimacy to the insurgents and terrorists, and they do not acknowledge this. it is the result of their simplistic uncomplete message that gives this moral legitimacy to the enemy. they ..around the world basically have said yes, you should attack american troops and cause trouble in iraq and other places. causing massive death and suffering, and this is all so one can be “right” about your side. neither the right or the left really want to do the right thing, neither really cares if civilians die, they care to be right. and thats why there is no moral righteousness for the left these days. they have silly and frankly irresponsible positions like pulling all the troops from iraq regardless of consequence, as if our responsibility for this tragedy is not a factor that demands that we do right by the iraqi’s and fix this. there is no morality in such positions.

    anyways, just look at the music. i find it odd that not one good song has come from this anti war movement. not one!! there were plenty of attempts, even a concert i think i remember. all garbage. there is some strange nostolgia for the far left that seems to want to go back to relive their glory days of the 60’s, they are trying to distort and recast today to match the times when they felt they mattered.

  • sbroner

    The protest marches of the 60s were different in a couple ways that seem significant. We sang as we marched, and that unified us. Now we have drummers…it seems sort of military…where is theme? The other difference is that in the past, the speakers addressed the subject of the march. Now marches are dominated by a myriad of single-issue groups who turn up and speak each time. The objective gets lost and we learn nothing new. There is power in bringing people together for a larger purpose, but today, there isn’t real perspective. I went to one march in San Francisco after Bush v. Gore was decided. Not one speaker that i heard addressed the election, what had happened, and what we should do about it. Why? The march’s sponsor probably didn’t really support Gore in that election; he wasn’t radical enough for them. So why pretend to protest the election? It isn’t direct or clear, so there can’t be any clear outcome.

  • darwhin

    ” The WTO protest in Seattle made the 60s look like the 50s.

    I can’t believe ROS had a show about the state of protesting in the streets in America with no mention of this seminal event? ”

    it wasn’t mentioned because it was truely irrelevant. the message and image that those protests put out were that those fringe protesters were just simply nuts that most people should ignore them. and thats about as unsuccessful as it gets.

  • Mary Ann Moy

    I went to Washington with a friend for a very large anti-war march before we invaded Iraq, and I was impressed with what a large gathering it was and how peaceful and calm everybody was.

    I was also impressed by the demographic, which consisted of not only the young,but the very

    old, and middle aged as well, it was heartening. I was disappointed it didn’t have more or an effect on the policy, and I also was surprised by the lack of reportage, almost as if the media had blocked it out of their agendas (I’ve heard stories about how we don’t get accurate news, but this was very illustrative!) Last Thursday, the day after Bush’s announcement, I became aware of a call to gather in Times Square at the recruiting station to protest the surge – I went and was really saddened that not more than 300 people were there! I think this was due to poor advertising outreach from the group United for Peace and Justice; I will say though that the protesters were equally age distributed, with the most striking being a very old blind woman! If she can do it, so can I, and I intend to go to Washington on the 27th for a march, so that when I have to see all these dead young soldiers faces on TV at least I can feel like I tried to stop this misguided situation!

  • jordon

    how about bill maher?

    i prefer his show to stewart or colbert for two reasons:

    1) being on HBO, he appears to have more reign to voice controversial, if funny, positions.

    2) his show is not all parody, but a combination of satire and a forum for intelligent discussion.

  • Thanks nother, I was just in the grocery store here in Friday Harbor (where lots of important business takes place) when the guy who organized the whole Sea Turtle action (there were 250 “Sea Turtles” at the WTO event) asked me if I wanted to be a Sea Turtle and I said, “Yeah!”. I’d been hearing about the upcoming WTO protests for a while through other activist communities. My Earth First! friends were there too but I never even saw them. There were so many thousands of people there. A woman named Janet Thomas wrote a book ‘The Battle in Seattle’ that I think does a great job of weaving all the inter-connected issues together in a readable digestible way. They are also making a movie now by the same title, ‘Battle in Seattle’. I don’t know what that will be like. It isn’t related to Janet Thomas’s book. I was standing in the mob in my Turtle suit near the downtown MacDonald’s when the radical cheesemaker from France was stirring up the crowd and I heard the glass break. The police were still being very restrained at that point. Later all hell broke loose. When the cops started hucking tear gas into the crowd I hopped on a bus and went to my sister’s house to watch the rest of the revolution be televised. TV news did no justice to the event. The scope was so broad it included labor union gatherings and teach ins in churches. Saint James church in downtown Seattle was Sea Turtle headquarters. There were lots of Seattle clergy involved. The T.V. news lady just called all of us “mauraders”.

  • Stewart and Colbert are funny but for righteousness I love Howard Zinn. Zinn does speak at peace gatherings. But, what do I know? I’m just an old foggie boomer who’ll ptotest anything.

  • plnelson

    but the fact that democrats are now in the house and senate has much to do with the evidence that this war is so widely unpopular.

    But there’s no evidence that this had anything whatsoever to do with the demonstrations and protest marches. The Democrats are in power now because every morning for years people see in the news all the violence and chaos in Iraq and it’s clear the Prez & Co. have no clue what to do about it. Street domonstrations had nothing to do with it.

  • plnelson

    What does Pinelson think about that? I can’t tell you a “concrete” example of how it affected a decision, but I can tell you they had a new appreciation of the impact of their decisions from then on.

    I said, above, that violence sometimes works. The WTO demonstrations are not just peaceful demonstrations, they are organized vandalism, destroying property and preventing ordinary people from getting to work and costing the taxpayers of the cities where they are held huge amounts of money for added security – money that COULD have been used for schools and other public services for the people.

    I’m still waiting for someone here to “demonstrate” how peaceful demonstrations actually fix anything. I contend thatb they do more harm than good because they create the ILLUSION among their participants of “doing something”. If they devoted the same amount of time, energy, money, and planning to organizing a boycott or getting a congressman elected THEN they might accomplish something concrete.

    Say you have a protest with 100,000 people. If, instead of going to the demonstration everybody donated the bus or gas money they would have spent to some Congressman’s election campaign, maybe they could get him elected and that WOULD be a concrete result. If they spent the time they would have spent at the demonstration ( a few hours) stuffing envelopes or gathering petitions to get a referendum item on a state ballot, THAT would be concrete.

  • plnelson

    darwhin Says:

    it wasn’t mentioned because it was truely irrelevant. the message and image that those protests put out were that those fringe protesters were just simply nuts that most people should ignore them. and thats about as unsuccessful as it gets.

    I agree. All the WTO protests have accomplished is to convince the general public that the protestors are a loose coaltion of fringe elements and nutcases. There was no unifying theme or cause being represented; the protestors were a cross section of all sorts of elements on the political and social edge. It all makes for good entertainment but it doesn’t advance a cause.

  • plnelson

    Mary Ann Moy says “If she can do it, so can I, and I intend to go to Washington on the 27th for a march, so that when I have to see all these dead young soldiers faces on TV at least I can feel like I tried to stop this misguided situation!

    This exactly illustrated my point. As a result of going to the demonstration she feels like “she tried to stop” the situation.

    How exactly would this contribute to stopping it? If I’m a linebacker in a football game and I’m rushing the passer I can put up my hand and TRY to deflect the pass. Most likely I won’t succeed, but I MIGHT, because sometimes it works. So I can legitimately say I “tried”. But in what legitimate sense can you say you “tried to stop the war” by attending a demonstration?

  • nother

    Pinelson, if you know football than you know that “deflecting the pass” is not the only objective. They actually have a “concrete” statistic in football that describes, “pressuring the quarterback.”

    They do not judge success by only a “deflection” as you imply. Success can be making the quarterback think about you as he makes his decision.

    So thank you for that analogy it helped make my point. 🙂

  • OliverCranglesParrot

    “I’m still waiting for someone here to “demonstrate” how peaceful demonstrations actually fix anything.”

    Why? What’s in it for us? What are you willing to do if you’re convinced? What do you want us to do if you’re unconvinced?

    I’m using ‘us’ loosely to be those who have some feeling/thought that demonstration/protest provide a constructive means of engagement.

    “I contend thatb they do more harm than good because they create the ILLUSION among their participants of “doing something”.”

    How are you suffering under our illusion?

  • OliverCranglesParrot

    I will add to my last set of inquiries: If you want someone to see something, one way not to achieve the goal is to hold their head under water. You won’t get them to see much from this vantage point.

  • babu

    plnelson:

    Demonstrations, whether mass, fringe, passive, theatrical, organized, impromptu – or any of the myriad variations – are symbolic acts intended to get people’s attention and prompt THEM to take an unknown action of their own choosing. Every demonstration has an intended audience and unintended subtext. That’s part of public life.

    Public demonstration, by its own nature, produces a very diffused result, sometimes measurable quickly, sometimes only in hindsight decades later. Requiring concrete results for justification seems like a tricky – and negative – yardstick to apply.

  • pinesol,

    You can’t give “us” any concrete proof marches and demonstrations are not effective. I think Martin Luther King Jr. and Lech Welesa (to name just a few) would disagree with you.

  • Pingback: Pie and Coffee » Items()

  • Cacophonic crowds

    Marching minstrels messengers

    Trace songlines for peace

  • Again,

    Cacophonic crowds

    Marching minstrel messengers

    Trace songlines for peace

  • jazzman

    Peggysue I believe that your constant referrals to plnelson as pinesol is disrespectful and are a violation of the spirit of ROS not to mention steps 2,3 and possibly 7 of the eightfold path. Please refrain from using this sobriquet in future. Even if plnelson isn’t bothered by the proximate anagram it lowers the tenor (to a baritone?) of the conversation. Thanks in advance. – Jazzman

  • tbrucia

    Hmmm…. Bush makes a good point when he claims to be The Decider. Embarrassing and ineffectually chanting weird takeoffs on ‘El pueblo unido nunca sera vencido’ (which actually RHYMES in Spanish!) simply serve to make him look LESS bizarre than he would otherwise…. If you take undecided folks, and persuade them that you are even goofier than the Pres, what have you acheived? Answer: zip. The decisions are made in GW’s head, and no off-key singing or badly painted banners change that. IMHO, the only thing protest does is make folks in the middle hug ever more closely to their isolation in mid-stream, since they fear looking like monsters on one hand and like total morons on the other. The die was cast in the 2004 presidential elections, and it came up snake eyes. (Sorry for being so direct, but I feel very strongly about this!) Good news: You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. And that’s without protestors standing about in the snow.

  • jazzman, OK

  • jazzman

    Thanks Peggysue – Peace

  • plnelson

    They do not judge success by only a “deflection” as you imply. Success can be making the quarterback think about you as he makes his decision.

    Only if you can show that “making him think” resulted in some concrete result like throwing the ball away or being forced out of the pocket, etc. The bottom line is still the bottom line – winning games, stopping wars, etc.

  • plnelson

    “I contend thatb they do more harm than good because they create the ILLUSION among their participants of “doing something”.”

    How are you suffering under our illusion?

    I already answered that question – if the energy and money and planning and organizing skills and creativity in designing placards and slogans and street theater were systematically used and focussed in a politically effective way, it could make a REAL difference. It might not be as much FUN, but it could help win close elections, get referendum issues on ballots, etc.

    I’ve been involved in some political campaigns where we actually WON, mostly on environmental issues, and it was always through doing hard, boring WORK – getting petitions signed, raising money, stuffing envelopes etc.

  • plnelson

    Public demonstration, by its own nature, produces a very diffused result, sometimes measurable quickly, sometimes only in hindsight decades later. Requiring concrete results for justification seems like a tricky – and negative – yardstick to apply.

    No, you SAY it produces a result. What is your evidence of this?

  • plnelson

    You can’t give “us” any concrete proof marches and demonstrations are not effective. I think Martin Luther King Jr. and Lech Welesa (to name just a few) would disagree with you.

    WRT MLK, as I said, boycotts sometimes work. I also said that violence sometimes works even if it doesn’t produce the intended results. The Civil Rights movement demonstrated both of these principles. African Americans created very effective boycotts in their struggle, And the violence AGAINST them and the freedom riders by southern whites was very effective in gaining sympathy and support in the rest of the country.

    WRT Lech Walesa, it was effective use of labor action (strikes) that was Solidarity’s most effective weapon. In addition there was the same factor I mentioned above – violence by their opponents (e.g., 80 workers killed in suppressing the fuirst Gdansk strike) that cemented their support.

  • darwhin

    and well clearly in those cases they did have the moral high ground, it was undeniable. it wasn’t a complex issue at all. nothing good could have come from continuing racism for instance. but if the power of the world demonstrations/rage against the the “war” had been used to give the iraqi civilians a real chance at finally living in a peaceful and free country there could have been something great. even if the eu had to send in their own contingent of forces completely separate from us control and frankly force a change in ways are done. but the anti war movement wasn’t really for that, they wanted vindication through failure, even if it was helped along by their actions. a self fulfilling prophecy of sorts. not responsible frankly, and not righteous in the slightest. the well being of those people in iraq trumps your need for moral vindication. and so this great opportunity for change for squandered, and instead we have this mess. the price for being right and playing politics against bush..who may or may not deserve such opposition in ways, but still, was it really worth it in the end?

    so yes, current demonstrations are mostly bullsh*t. mostly about making the protesters feel righteous and noble, a bit of masturbation, not really about anything of substance.

  • OliverCranglesParrot

    me, the parrot: How are you suffering under our illusion?

    plnelson: I already answered that question

    I’m afraid I fail to see how you are suffering due to our illusion. I also don’t see the connection between demonstrations/protests/civil disobedience and your ability to perform your functions regarding political campaigns. Can you explain to me “designing placards and slogans and street theater” has prevented your ability to “win close elections, get referendum issues on ballots, etc.” or fulfill your obligations or desire in “getting petitions signed, raising money, stuffing envelopes etc”

  • nother

    “The bottom line is still the bottom line – winning games, stopping wars, etc.”

    Wow, pretty high benchmarks your setting there, pinelson. So a linebacker deflecting a pass has to win the game and a protest has to stop the war, for either to be successful.

    My benchmarks are slightly more nuanced, but that’s just me. Thanks for the discussion though, see ya on some future threads.

  • jboylan

    I just listened to the show online. The account of the bereaved father and his truck and trailer was indeed an intensely moving story. Chris and his guest wondered about the effectiveness of the man’s protest. That question is absurd, as much so as wondering about the effectiveness of a poem or a drawing. Street theater has become the father’s art, borne of devastating pain and loss and anger. As such, it has little in common with the convulsive mass street actions for which Chris seemed nostalgic.

    But those big actions themselves have little to do with effective political action. I’ve been in many demonstrations. They were fun and exhilarating, but I think that any political effectiveness they had was usually accidental. Their political value was much more in bringing together people on the bus down the demo, as Zephyr Teachout mentioned. That’s where people can do the real work of politics: talking, planning, taking responsibility.

    Mass demonstrations are but one tactic in a huge toolkit of political action. Because they are big and showy and are relatively straightforward to organize, they are too often a first option, when they should be seen as just one option, and then only within the context of other political action: mailing campaigns (e- or snail), phone campaigns, blogging, canvassing, face-to-face lobbying, street theater, GOTV, shadow governments, and a lot more.

    Mass demonstrations are tactical, but too often have strategic goals. A demonstration is held to “stop the war,” “save the environment,” “end racism” or “abolish nuclear weapons.” These are great goals, but they are too large for most demonstrations. Even when mass demonstrations topple a government, they are applied too generally to ensure that a good, stable government ensues, as the Ukrainians and the Lebanese discovered. To be useful, a mass demonstration usually needs to be keyed to a tactical goal, such as passage of key legislation, blocking funding for a specific project, return of an illegally removed leader, institution of truth and reconciliation hearings, and so forth.

    One key is that the overwhelming majority of participants need to understand that this is why they are there. If they don’t, the demo can easily become a street party. Fun, but not effective.

  • babu

    jboylan:

    The link at the bottom of your ROS bio is inactive, although I did get to LittleCityJournal and Sky Pencil, for a great tour of Seattle 2006 art events and a week on Pender Island.

  • jboylan said: “One key is that the overwhelming majority of participants need to understand that this is why they are there. If they don’t, the demo can easily become a street party. Fun, but not effective.”

    I respectfully disagree. I’ve been thinking about this lately because I recently heard Barbara Ehrenreich speak about her new book, “Dancing in the Streets: a Hitory of Collective Joy” and coincidentaly re-watched the 80s movie ‘Footloose’ about a High School boy who gets a small town in the midwest to repeal their law against dancing so the school can have a prom. The movie is based on a true story (and has incredible footage of Kevin Bacon rocking out). There are still laws on the books in many American towns against public dancing. If dancing in the streets were not powerful why would authority be so threatened by it? From the Reformation to the American Bible belt, dancing in the streets has been seen as such a supream threat to authority that it has been deemed worthy of some very heavy handed crackdowns. Dancing in the streets is powerful.

    I myself agree whole heartedly with Emma Goldman who said: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution”.

  • tbrucia

    The Bush Administration didn’t win power by demonstrating. Lenin didn’t overthrow Kerensky’s government by demonstrating. The Chinese Communist Party didn’t come to power by demonstrating. Tony Blair didn’t become prime minister by demonstrating. The list goes on, and on, and on. If one wishes to seize power, demonstrating is way down the list of effective measures required to grab the organs of control.

  • I believe it was Lenin that Emma Goldman was refering to when she said “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution”. What is wanted is an alternative to Bush, Blair, Lenin ans Mao. All the more reason to demonstrate. Rather than “grab the organs of control” why not liberate the organs of ecstacy!

  • nother

    Wow, peggysue, I love that.

  • houstonDave

    I got a birthday card yesterday* from my wife who, incidentally, does not share my interest in politics that showed W on the front wearing an iPod. Inside it was a close up of the iPod showing the presidential playlist. My favorite was:

    Cheney’s Got a Gun.

    Another one was “Blinded by the Right” which is also the title of a book by David Brock, a former right-wing hit man who came to his senses and straightened out his act.

    *Thank you in advance for the birthday wishes!!! 😉

  • Cranky Boomer

    Hi All:

    This is a perfect example of why the downside of an All-Volunteer Military is worse than the downside of a Conscripted Military. The main reason there are very few public protests is that the pool of those at personal risk for the actions of the powerful is so small — It is just those who know and love those who have volunteered for service. Such a small group cannot mount much of a protest — after all, they “volunteered.” We discount their risk because they “chose it.” How superficial can we be?

    Unless we have a personal risk in a matter, we will generally NOT be responsive. That, my friends, is the huge downside of a “semi-mercenary, all-volunteer” military force. It shrinks the pool of those at personal risk and allows the powerful a more-or-less free ride.

    We should bring the draft back as soon as possible!

    Demonstrating against this war alone, will solve only THAT problem, but does not amount to much of a change in “business as usual.” If you want to demonstrate for something that will have a long-term, positive impact on providing a speed-bump to the powerful in their pathways to war, demonstrate for reinstating the draft.

    The downside of a “people’s” military is preferable by far to the downside of an “elitist’s” military.

    Force rarely solves political problems. I thought the “might makes right” syndrome had died off, but it came back and reinfected a whole new generation.

    The All-Volunteer army idea scared me back when (1973) and still scares me. I prefer the draft. I felt my generation bought into the notion way too easily because of their feelings about the Vietnam war. It scared me because it had the potential for being akin to a mercenary military force… you know, doing the bidding of the “commander” and not the bidding of the people. In a sense, that is what we have.

    I felt the All-Volunteer army would strengthen the military-industrial-political complex, and it has. How has it? It has made it easier to go to war and easier to stay in a war that has dubious justification. It has allowed the elitists, mega-capitalists (those who gain from war) and other powerful people (who gain from war) to lobby and leverage for war more or less “risk free.” That is, their sons, daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters would not be at risk for the actions that they contemplate which more-often-than-not enhance their bottom lines.

    If there is NO RISK to the powerful, there is no disincentive to put other people’s lives at risk for the purpose of the almighty dollar (or some other ideological or political rationalization). The All-Volunteer army allows that exact greased-track and if you don’t think that conflicts of interest about money (or stubbornness) don’t have influences on people’s thinking… think again. Unless there is a risk to the powerful, there is no check on their power.

  • Cranky Boomer

    Hi Again:

    Just an addendum about public protests in general… many people are preoccupied with making a living. Making a living has become a much more daunting process for families since the 60s… so much so, that there is not much time or energy left for taking action on important economic (health care) or political issues. Of course, the “powerful” know this and really would like to keep the “masses” distracted and overwhelmed with economic, health, and other concerns. It makes it easier to “rule.”

    I know I look forword to “old age” so that I can spend a lot of time protesting, getting arrested and letting judges figure out how NOT to look like dirty rotten scoundrals as they sentence a frail, grey, elder to jail for protesting a just cause…. my organization will be called “Grey Rage” and its motto will be “Act Your Rage!”

    My guess is that the only revolution that might occur in the near future will be brought about by greying boomers who will, hopefully, again have the time to “kick some appropriate butt.”

  • Dear Cranky,

    I know of 2 organizations that may interest you (when you get old enough of course): Raging Grannies and the Grey Panthers. Google to find you local chapters.

  • jboylan

    Regarding peggysue’s Emma and her dancing, I also have loved that quote. Dancing in the streets is dear to my heart. But a demonstration that is a street party is only cool until the otherwise wonderful young man in the fatigue jacket with the anarchy patches pinned to it decides that his right of passage to manhood requires that he loudly confront the cops who are stuck with crowd control duty. Or until the car drivers stuck in fifteen blocks of drizzling rush hour traffic begin to wonder who those jerks are blocking off traffic with a street action.

    Dancing and exuberance should by rights be part of any street action, but as with anything else, they should be carefully planned, imaginatively executed, and performed with self awareness and discipline. Most mass demonstrations are not.

    I would love to see all large demos have a service component, maybe completely unrelated to the purpose of the demo: collecting food bank donations from participants and passsers-by, or cleaning or repairing the streets where the demo takes place.

    As fot tbrucia’s seizure of power, revolution can only happen when seizure of power becomes irrelevant. Anything else is just a coup, and we’ve seen too many of those.

  • Cranky Boomer

    Thanks, PeggySue. I haven’t quite crossed into the grey-range yet, but I’m in touch with the Gray Panthers here in the northwest (Seattle), and I am trying to figure out how to get boomers off their butts…

    As for Ragging Grannies…. not many granddaddies there and I haven’t quite crossed the line to grandaddy-hood yet. But, it is something to look forward to.

    Right now, reinstating the draft is a preoccupation of mine. The loss of the draft was the removal of the last speed bump in the way of the military-industrial-political complex. I think we are cowards for not insisting on a draft. Unless the powerful and the privileged risk something by going to war, there are no other real disincentives for them — it’s all somebody else’s kids or grandkids.

    In addition, the All-Volunteer Military gives us the excuse to say it is someone else’s problem and, heck, they chose to be in the military, so, it’s their problem, right? hmmm…

    I think we underestimate the downside of keeping the risk pool so small when it comes to war. Our own self-interest allows the powerful a greased-track to war because we, ourselves, are so afraid of being part of the risk pool.

    They knew it when the all-volunteer force came about in the first place. The point of the all-volunteer force in the first place (1973) was to stifle dissent within ranks and without ranks. The military and the nation had just experienced tons of dissent.

    The best way to “stifle” dissent is to smooth feathers… give them something they want. Well, what we wanted has a higher price than we expected.

  • I will concede one point here, that moving from online to offline is not only a good thing, but an incredibly necessary thing. I’m not really convinced that “protest” matters, but getting together does.

    I’m just now sticking my head up again, I’ve been down in the ditch the last few days digging away from my man in 2008, hopefully getting a bunch of people together on February 6th.

    As Weinberger would say, there is a difference between a houseparty and a meetup, and that difference is something I like.

  • plnelson

    Cranky Boomer says Right now, reinstating the draft is a preoccupation of mine. The loss of the draft was the removal of the last speed bump in the way of the military-industrial-political complex. I think we are cowards for not insisting on a draft. Unless the powerful and the privileged risk something by going to war, there are no other real disincentives for them — it’s all somebody else’s kids or grandkids.

    No, that just turns our kids into human shields.

    You’re basically saying, “I dare you to sacrifice the lives of thousands of involuntarily conscripted young people for your geopolitical plans.”

    What if they accept the dare?

    17,725 of our Vietnam combat deaths were draftees, so don’t think that politicians won’t accept that dare! No American wants their kid to be a speed bump.

    Right now people who join the military are voluntarily accepting the risk that the politicians might send them off to die in a stupid, pointless war. The idea that it wasn’t OUR kids, so we didn’t object is complete nonsense – I objected loudly, publically, and frequently and I had no kids in the military.

  • plnelson

    Cranky Boomer says The main reason there are very few public protests is that the pool of those at personal risk for the actions of the powerful is so small — It is just those who know and love those who have volunteered for service>/i>

    What’s your evidence for this? I have relatives in Fayetteville NC, which is a big Army town and I would say that support for the war is HIGHEST there!

    You haven’t presented a single shred of evidence to support your proposal to turn our young people into cannon fodder on the baseless theory that the politicians won’t fire that cannon.

    Over 17,000 draftees were killed in Vietnam – about 5X as many people as we’ve lost in Iraq, which kinda undermines your whole thesis.

  • plnelson

    good grief!!

    BRENDAN! When are you going to give us an EDITABLE blog interface?

  • plnelson

    OliverCranglesParrot Says:

    January 18th, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    me, the parrot: How are you suffering under our illusion?

    plnelson: I already answered that question

    I’m afraid I fail to see how you are suffering due to our illusion. I also don’t see the connection between demonstrations/protests/civil disobedience and your ability to perform your functions regarding political campaigns.

    Because the energy, time, money, and other force that was wasted in demonstrating, COULD have been used to accomplished something concrete. We are suffering by all the things that WEREN’T accomplished because of that diversion of energy, time, money, and enthusiasm.

  • plnelson

    I believe it was Lenin that Emma Goldman was refering to when she said “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution”.

    But Lenin achieved power and transformed his country (into a hell-hole, but nonetheless he achieved his immediate aims). It’s not clear what Emma Goldman accomplished with her dancing. She was an inspring rabble rouser but in the end Lenin had a bigger impact on the world.

  • She was an inspring rabble rouser but in the end Lenin had a bigger impact on the world.

    That is yet to be seen. I’ve heard Howard Zinn has say he has all of his students read Emma Goldman and many of his students have had and continue to have an impact on our world, Alice Walker for one. It is a little hard to measure.

    I just returned from our local peace march held in conjuntion with the march in Washington DC today. One thing it does is make us a visible entity in our community. Back in the early days of this war it was clear that if a few of us got out there with our signs it gave other people in our community a little more room and courage to question what was happening. Today we were well supported by those we encountered. If it gets people talking and thinking I feel it is of value. Today people from one of the smaller Islands came to join us so the social aspect is enjoyable and information sharing keeps all of our momentum going. How effective any action we take is impossible for us to know at the time we take it. Public gatherings and works of art or liturature may not be initially as effective as marching people around at gunpoint but may have greater effects over time.

  • photos of the multitudes protesting in Washington DC 1/27 posted on Washington DC Indymedia

    http://dc.indymedia.org/media/index.php

  • New York Times article about protesting in Washington DC 1/27 posted on Common Dreams

    http://www.commondreams.org/headlines07/0127-07.htm

  • nother

    When I look around, I’m at a loss to see much Lenin influence in the world. Where exactly is that happening?

  • plnelson

    When I look around, I’m at a loss to see much Lenin influence in the world. Where exactly is that happening?

    The current hell-hole that is Russia and the former USSR is the legacy of Lenin. The 10’s of millions of people who died under the regime that he brought to power can never be brought back, and all the works and creativity that they WOULD have contrinuted to the world if they weren’t starved, worked, or shot to death, are MISSING all around you. The legacy of the communist regime brought forth by Lenin, like the legacy of Hitler, Pol Pot, et al, is measured in the scars they left on civilization.

  • Peggy Sue @ work

    You can not blame every problem in Russia on Lenin. First you have to consider Russia before the revolution, a feudal society where peasants were starving slaves. The power abuses of the church should be figured in and then after the revolution there was Stalin.

  • Molly Ivins final words of wisdom to her adoring readers: “We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush’s proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on January 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, “Stop it, now!”

    “So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”

  • valkyrie607

    So what did the Seattle protests accomplish?

    They radicalized ME.

    I was a teenager at the time, surfing the internet, and lo and behold, here was this enormous THING that was happening that none of the other media I got my news from were talking about.

    I learned that the WTO existed. I learned that the news media cannot be trusted. I learned that there are people who I don’t know, who I never voted for, making decisions that affect my life in profound ways. I learned that there are tons of people out there who are trying to “accomplish something” even though the apparatus of state power is rigged against them, and it’s hard to see if you’re making progress sometimes.

    Pretty insignificant, I suppose, but from my perspective there were huge ramifications.

    Also I believe the Seattle protests inspired the WTO to hold its next meeting in Qatar.