Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why are today's protests so lame?

Earlier I pointed out that the civil rights protests were done by dignified looking people waving signs expressing an agenda advocating specific actions (ending segregated schools, voting rights, equal job opportunities, etc.), backed up by model legislation introduced in Congress and by some of the best legal minds in the country playing the courts like a piano. Then I pointed out that most modern protests look like a friggin' zoo, a buncha slovenly young people dressed like schoolchildren on a daytrip out to the city with no connection to any agenda or strategy whether legislative or legal. Where’s the signs demanding their agenda? Where's their sample legislation? Why are they dressed like slovenly children on a day trip to the city, rather than like dignified grownups? As a dignified grownup, how can I take them seriously?

The question is: Why are modern protests so lame? Personally, I blame the anti-war protesters of the 1960′s who think they ended the Vietnam War with their circus and continue to influence tactics. They didn’t end the Vietnam War. That was Walter Cronkite and large numbers of “serious people” who figured out that the only way to “win” the war was to invade North Vietnam, which had a big chance of inviting both Chinese and Soviet intervention that likely would have escalated to nuclear war (indeed we now know that threats to use nuclear weapons were made by *both* sides, and that the Soviets threatened to invade West Germany if we invaded North Vietnam). All the hippies did was give the right wing a convenient scapegoat so that they wouldn’t have to admit that the U.S. got beat like a drum by a buncha pajama-wearin’ slopes — i.e., it allowed them to maintain their racism against Southeast Asians. Instead, Hanoi Jane and the hippies ended the war.

But y’know, I never seen a dead body come back from Vietnam that had been killed by Jane Fonda. They all got killed by NVA or VC guns or grenades or bombs or booby traps. Funny, that Hanoi Jane gets all the credit for winning the war for North Vietnam, despite the fact that, like, she didn’t kill a single soldier, while the people who did win the war don’t get credit at all from racist America, which *still* refuses to admit that a buncha pajama-wearin’ slopes beat’em like a drum. But the VC and NVA won. They did. But racist lefties and racist righties both refuse to admit that fact and insist that the lefties ended the Vietnam War, not the NVA and VC, because apparently brown people could *never* have, like, actually beat the good ole’ white folk of the U S of A. Funny, huh?

So anyhow, we aren't going to get anywhere with this protest stuff until we tell the boomers and their hippy bullshit to go take a hike and start behaving like Serious People with a clear political agenda and with the legal resources to back up that agenda. That's just the facts. That's how the world works, and no amount of slovenly young people getting beat up by fat middle-aged cops is gonna change that.

-- Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin


  1. Glenn Greenwald doesn't riposte me. He just points out that fat middle-aged cops have gotten very, very good at beating up slovenly young people over the years. He has nothing to say about the effectiveness (or not) of modern protest tactics. Indeed, you might even say he agrees with me that modern protest tactics haven't accomplished anything other than trigger massive police retaliation.

    What I'm saying is that massive police retaliation is a given with *any* protest movement that poses any threat to the status quo -- e.g., Bull Connor siccing the police dogs on the women and children in their starched Sunday best -- and to deal with it you have to use different tactics than what today's protestors are using. It has to be a multi-level strategy occurring at political, judicial, PR, and street levels. Repeating the same old tired tactics of the anti-war movement of the 60's because they "ended the Vietnam War" (the VC/NVA would beg to differ there -- they'll note that *they*, not Jane Fonda, are the ones who created the stream of coffins coming back from Vietnam) is likely to be as effective as the Yippies attempting to levitate the Pentagon -- i.e., not at all.

    - Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin

  2. Modern protests appear lame because you're only seeing what the media wants you to see. Much like how the TV coverage of the Gay Rights parades tend to only show the most flamboyant of people, the footage of the Wall St protests only show the stinking hippies (if anything at all.) I saw this happen first hand with the labor protests in WI...the footage on the news was slanted to only show the weirdos & the hard-core haters, while the vast majority of the "normal folks" was basically overlooked by the cameras.

    That said, I think perhaps you should become the change you want to see in others...make a sign, put on your suit and head to Wall Street (or wherever) to join the crowds.

  3. Germany--I mean America--didn't lose the war, we were stabbed in the back by the Jews--I mean the hippies!

    Damn. Dig into that comparison a little and there are an uncomfortable number of parallels.

  4. News flash: the protesters of the late 60's and on were, overwhelmingly, not hippies or "slovenly young people". This entire post is predicated on a misunderstanding of the distorting and magnifying effect of television news.
    Without an understanding of this effect, there will be no understanding that the issue will not go away with the boomers, because it's a function of television, not the people portrayed on television.
    And television (now cable) isn't going away. Until people, as a whole, come to an understanding of the distorting effects of video presentation (don't hold your breath) and start allowing for them (don't even imagine this is likely, given the cognitive deficits of the human race) -- the phenomenon will not be going away no matter how many generations pass into history.

  5. All protests are useful to some degree or another. Although obviously there were a lot of factors involved in the US's decision to leave Vietnam, one of them was that people at home didn't approve of the war and those protests were very visible expressions of that dissatisfaction. Just like the Wall Street protests of today are a visible expression of the frustration that many people really feel about the current state of affairs.

    Oh you are correct that they would be MORE effective if they dressed and looked more mainstream because they wouldn't quite be as easily dismissed but even then I am not so sure. I mean, a lot of the Tea Party protests I see have participants who dress about as conservatively as is the fashion these days. Maybe not suits and ties but certainly not a bunch of hippies. And I don't find myself taking them more seriously because of how they are dressed although I do take them seriously because they are passionate enough to get up off their butts and protest something. (It scares me really)

  6. As one who not only lived through the sixties, but was an active participant in the Vietnam escapade, I can tell you that there were some genuine assholes amongst the hippie protesters. Nothing like being welcomed home from a war and being cursed and spat upon at the airport. Many of the same hippie protesters are large and in charge of the wall street casino today. They are the fat cats they used to protest. Yogi Berra's quote comes to mind "It's déjà vu all over again"

  7. Purple, I am basing my opinion on the YouTube videos and livestreams put there by the protesters themselves, not on the "news media".

    C2H50H, Abbie Hoffman levitating the Pentagon wasn't exactly a moment of seriousness. Furthermore, while the young people at anti-Vietnam War protests may not have looked slovenly to you, they certainly looked slovenly by comparison to the dignified Civil Rights marchers in their Sunday best.

    Lynne, we have these things called opinion polls nowadays. Most politicians don't take short-lived protest movements very seriously unless said protest movements reflect the general opinion of their base, because they're more interested in getting elected than in seeming the puppet of a small special interest group. Unless said small interest group comes with campaign $$$$$ built-in like the Teabaggers with their Koch moneybags backers (sigh!). In which case they *still* ignore the protest, but gladly take money to do the bidding of the Koch overlords, using the protests as an excuse. Nice scam if you're a politician, not so helpful figuring out how to put together a *real* protest movement, one that is about more than street theater, one that is a Blitzkrieg combined arms extravaganza like the Civil Rights movement of the late 50's / early 60's was.

    I have no problem with street theater. It's just that street theater without anything backing it up is meaningless. That is all.

    - Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin

  8. Badtux,

    And you know how the protesters at these events were dressed from what? I was there. Unless you are significantly older than you appear to be, you are simply relaying second-hand or third-hand reports, or basing your perceptions on television or other sensationalist reporting of the events.

    As for the old lies about "spitting" -- it's so much BS. If someone says they were present when something like that happened, it is all but certain that they are lying.

  9. I told you, I'm looking at the Youtube videos and lives streams placed online BY THE PROTESTERS THEMSELVES. I don't watch television and the local parrot cage liner's coverage of the event has been limited to black and white text on page 5A.

    - Badtux the "I said that!" Penguin

  10. Oops, one last note -- wouldn't suggest calling Dave a liar when he posts his own recollections, regardless of whether you're dubious or not. See posting ground rules. The penguin is the only one allowed to be an ass here.

    - Badtux the Rules Penguin

  11. I can't argue that protests without anything to back them up are not especially meaningful. I am not entirely sure that there isn't anything backing up these Wall Street protests though. Maybe I am too deep into a liberal social group but I see a LOT of buzz going on about these protests. They seem to be touching on a genuine frustration that a lot of people feel. Now, I don't know if enough people are frustrated with our capitalistic system to make a difference but I have to wonder. Can't a protest raise awareness and influence things like opinion polls? Aren't events a good way for like minded people to network in order to work on some sort of more meaningful way to get some kind of change?

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  13. C2H50H, Dave wasn't repeating anything, he was stating what he felt he experienced as a returning Vietnam veteran coming through SFO. I may have my doubts about the accuracy of his recollection but stating that because his recollection doesn't match your recollection in some other place and time altogether that therefore he must be a liar isn't one of the things I would suggest repeating here.

    Regarding the accuracy of YouTube depictions of the protesters POSTED BY THE ACTUAL PROTESTERS, if they want a different impression of themselves, they'll need to provide it, but I doubt they can. The live stream doesn't show anything different from the Youtube videos insofar as the nature of the protesters and isn't particularly exciting most of the time, mostly just a buncha young folk milling around in a park or occasionally talking into the camera.

  14. Back to the original question. Because street protests don't force anyone to do anything. Activists need to find a way to seriously interfere with the actions of oppressive forces, or those forces will just ignore them.

    If the protesters want to make an impact, they'll have to think of something like cutting the ethernet cables at Goldman Sachs.

  15. Guns, need more guns, and bombs.

  16. Thanks Tux, actually I came in through San Diego and then flew out with layover in Dallas where my buddy and I encountered the demonstrators and were treated rather rudely. There was a long haired hippy gal in the group we encountered that laid a big hocker on my buddy, so the a$$hole who's post you deleted don't know $hit from $hinola.

  17. Dave,

    I may be all that you say. On the other hand, reports such as you relate have been investigated at great length, and could never be authenticated.

    I suggest that you write to the person in question with your story, giving dates, times, and the name of the victim. You could thus do a service to the country's history instead of just calling some skeptic a scatological name.

    As for myself, I come from a statistics background, and I have to overcome the following statistical problem before I can accept the story. Specifically, it turns out that, among the hundreds of reports investigated -- and yours shares this property -- each and every one of them happened to someone else, a friend, an uncle, a father.

    My skepticism rests on the statistical fact that the probability of such an occurrence is so low as to be unbelievable.

    On the opposite side of the statistical ledger is the natural human tendency to embellish or invent.

    You do the math. If you can truly document the case, you'll do America a favor.


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