Musings on protests: why they fail, how they might be more effectiveSubmitted by Ron Johnson on Sat, 10/12/2013 - 08:20
There have been protests, some of them quite large, in the past 15 years, yet nothing has changed. The Million Man March. The Million Mom March. Anti-war marches. Marches against abortion, taxes, for and against gay marriage, for and against guns, etc. Nothing changes. It's as if the protests never happened.
I contend that most protests are doomed to fail because they don't achieve the one thing that is absolutely necessary: they don't make The Powers That Be uncomfortable. How so?
The protests are 'scheduled' events, with a defined beginning and end, usually on weekends, when The Powers conveniently leave town or arrange to be otherwise occupied so as not to have to see any of the unpleasantness.
The protesters walk a defined route, carrying signs, singing, chanting, and do nothing that cannot be avoided or ignored. Longtime government workers look upon the continuous stream of protesters as just so much background noise. They are predictable, and therefore they can be permitted, guarded, monitored, avoided, and ignored.
The media ignores covering protests because, well, nothing happens. Nothing is burned, no one is arrested, nobody dies, and there is generally no reaction by The Powers, so there is no real story. If there is a protest against a murdering/lying/abusive/scumbag politician in the middle of an empty wasteland, does it really make a sound?
So much effort, so little results.
I can think of some protests, however, that broke that mold. "Occupy", for as wrong headed as their rhetoric was, at least did not schedule their protest. They made The Powers uncomfortable because they literally would not go away. If their message hadn't been so muddled, they might have actually accomplished something. The 'walking' protest in Poland, when people expressed their dissatisfaction with the controlled news by moving their TVs to face the street, turned on the nightly news, then went out for a walk expressed, wordlessly, what all the verbal protests in the world couldn't express...we won't listen to the lies of The Powers. The tea bag movement in which people from around the country sent their congressmen and senators tea bags to remind them there are consequences to overreaching power. It unnerved DC. The Egyptian girl who, after taking a beat down from the police, put out on social media that she was going to go back to the same place the next day and continue her lonely vigil...sparked a revolution. Then there's Edward Snowden. Enough said.
I fear the truckers protest will be a spectacle without meaning, unless some of the truckers break the mold and make life a bitch for DC for an extended period of time. They could do it, and it wouldn't take thousands of them, just a few hundred, and DC could become a traffic quagmire. If, however, they all go home after today's ride, well, I hope they get some good picture souvenirs of DC's sites because that's all they'll have accomplished. I wonder if they would have done better to have organized a few hundred truckers, in secret, to suddenly show up and freeze the city on a busy weekday... Instead, the story is now (predictably) nobody showed up and nobody was inconvenienced, and nobody in Power cares.
It is unpredictability that is needed. It shouldn't have a defined beginning or end, it shouldn't have a specified attendance, nor a scheduled program. Nothing about it should be predictable, because if The Powers know what's coming, they can take measures to neutralize it.
Rule of thumb: a good protest has to make The Powers mad. Disrupt their travel, their lunches, their entertainment, their peace of mind. Introduce a little worry into their lives. Leave them with the nagging question: what might the People do to me today?
No one knows in advance what form of protest will catch on. Ron Paul came out of nowhere...the Powers didn't see him coming and didn't know what to do about the spontaneous movement he sparked. What this means to me is I need to get creative in my own protests. Make The Powers sit back and say "Oh, crap...." everyday.