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Musings on protests: why they fail, how they might be more effective

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.

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fireant's picture

Protests can be highly effective with pinpoint focus, but it

should be recognized it is ONE strategy among many to impact change.
The goal of protest, despite comments below to the contrary, is to make change.
Protests with vague or general objectives are doomed to fail. You get a smorgasbord of signs and issues; scatter your shots and you won't hit much (ancient redneck proverb).
An effective protest is joined by the many and the objective pinpointed. Moreso, the objective must be to achieve something specific, and NOT a protest against something. What we are against will be revealed while explaining why we want x. In other words, have the solution prior to protesting, and be up front with that objective in selling it.

Undo what Wilson did

ReFocus on the Message, not "the Powers"

Imagine a schoolyard bully -- does CALLING him a bully influence him to change? no.

But if everyone in the school ignored him for it - he would get the message much more quickly, with much less 'struggle' from anyone else.

I've heard it expressed that when you put your attention on something it only grows in influence. For example MLK and Jesus were similar in preaching peace -- and they sparked MASSIVE followings through their example and their KNOWING -- but when they began to push against the establishment of their day - (MLK speaking against government behavior; Jesus against bankers in the churches) well for every action there's an equal and opposite RE-action. The establishment pushed back.

Ron Paul, however, concerns himself with the message -- and doesn't take the rest of them too seriously. He's constantly laughing. He just speaks what he knows and be's the beacon of knowledge and hope in his part of the world.

I don't think protesting is the way.
I think Ron Paul is the way.

Let's just get wrapped up in delivering the message: documentaries, music (not just theme songs - ANY song that gives you that feeling that a Ron Paul speech gives you set to music -- not fighting against TPTB), books -- anything creative.

Who INSPIRED the most HEARTS in human history?
How did they do it?

The purpose of protesting is not to effect change.

Again - protesting isn't meant to change anything.

Its two purposes are to inform the party being protested against that people are aware of the injustice they are committing, and to publicly shame them for it.

That is all, and that is why no protest ever 'fails.'

Chris Indeedski!

Daily Paul cured my abibliophobia.

I disagree with your limited

I disagree with your limited interpretation of protest. To me it is more about the right to assemble freely.

Sorry - that's the third plank...

Use it or lose it. Rights have to be exercised or they go away. It's the same with open-carry, which people do a lot of in Wisconsin.

Chris Indeedski!

Daily Paul cured my abibliophobia.

nah, again I disagree

I'm not familiar with your pirate jargon or whatever and I should have known better than to use the term 'right' as I don't really believe in rights. The will of individuals to assemble freely is what protest is to me and I believe an individuals will can change at any time without being exercised.

Shiver me timbers - there is one foundational right...

the right to be wrong. It is the foundational right, born of free will, upon which all other perceived rights are 'perched.'

Chris Indeedski!

Daily Paul cured my abibliophobia.

The PTB must feel real, palpable fear in order for change

to occur. Or, they must literally be overthrown; they're not likely to be out-voted, step down, etc. (not with rigged electronic "voting"), although recall elections seem to have--for now at least--some good effect (Perhaps this is due to their comparative element of surprise? And the cheaters' infrastructure of vote tampering cannot be set up in time? Dunno.).

I fear nothing is likely to change without bloodshed in a tyranny such as ours... or at least without a serious threat of violence against the oppressors; they must begin to fear for their own lives / the lives of their families in real time. (Most of us don't want to consider this--for all the obvious reasons and beyond, but....)

What would the Founders do?

In order for protests to be more effective

In order for protests to be more effective the event should be used by the protesters as a place to unite and become organized. Organized groups should then move onto private property so they can operate in private and start protesting in a productive manner rather than just being loud angry bodies. A plan should be devised that focuses on the group(s) of people obtaining basic necessities as efficiently as possible. This planning will include deciding what members of the group will continue to go to their jobs and which homes will continue to be used as residential properties. Maximizing efficiency and minimizing waste within organized groups of individuals voluntarily helping each other survive. People will have to learn to work voluntarily together for each other. Basically what I am suggesting is that the most effective thing protesters can do is separate themselves from the current economy and form strong interpersonal relationships among themselves. Obviously the so called protesters will have to be pretty hell bent to take this kind of action of protesting for an indefinite amount of time.



rather, why not become the powers that be?

In 1992 I was informed of a H.E.M.P. rally going on at the West Federal Building in Los Angeles. Jack Herer and Captain Ed started Help End Marijuana Prohibition/H.E.M.P. and invted vendors, most were industrial hemp, booths with clithing, flavored roasted seeds, oils, art, beads, jewlry, books, bands, foods like hemp seed pancakes and falafel.. by 94, we had collected enough signatures to get prop 215 on the ballot, but the SOS said it appears many of the signers were too stoned (we heard this same lame kind of story when collecting signatures for Nader's ballot access).. by 1996, Prop 215 passed 56% of the state.. a lot of books were sold and now marijuana is legal on many levels in many states, hemp is behind, but quickly catching up.

Protests are great for corporatate jobs, that's about it.

Even Ron Paul had Rally for the Republic..

My GOP is now a Liberty committee, and we have the power to end the committee.. wipe out the GOP, or we can grow it. We can have rallys, or we can protest the GOP state, nation..

What would you do on committee?

If you really want to make the powers uncomfortable

then find a good candidate for the state legislature and convince them to get on the ballot as an Independent, then work hard to help them win.

Localism is for people who can still sleep at night even though somebody they don't know in a city they have never been is doing things differently. ("Localism, A Philosophy of Government" on Amazon for Kindle or Barnes and Noble ebook websites)

Protests are a show for protestors to feel useful

Imagine a group of slaves who want freedom writing a letter to the slavemaster asking to gather on the steps of one of the guest houses to express their desire to be free. The slavemaster looks at the letter and sees they want to gather on saturday. "Perfect" he thinks, "we will be out of town all weekend anyway", and he approves the protest.
That saturday the slaves show up with their signs and give speeches to each other from 10am until 3pm and then get back to work as normal on Monday. The slavemaster never saw a single sign or heard a speech but the slaves feel like they really did something useful.
This is EXACTLY what protests are; get your permit to complain to empty buildings and then back to life as normal (only now with a feeling of being "part of the solution")