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SF Officials secretly switch torch path in SF
April 9, 2008 6:29 PM   Subscribe

Sneaky subterfuge! At the "last minute," the torch is re-routed miles away from the tens of thousands of people waiting to see it. Mayor comes 'under fire" for lying to the people.
posted by aacheson (97 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Supervisor Peskin states that "Gavin Newsom runs San Francisco the way the premier of China runs his country - secrecy, lies, misinformation, lack of transparency and manipulating the populace." Newsom is going to be hung by his toenails for this.

Part of me is angered and part of me is amazed at what a great idea it was and that they had the balls to do it. Sneaky bastards!
posted by aacheson at 6:34 PM on April 9, 2008


So they pissed off the protesters AND the people who just wanted to see the torch - great! Job well done, all!
posted by yhbc at 6:35 PM on April 9, 2008


I'm sure wendell was behind this.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:36 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


In San Francisco, if the mayor has sex scandals, no one really cares. Ruining the fun of protesters, on the other hand, is tantamount to treason.
posted by amuseDetachment at 6:37 PM on April 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


The protesting sides need to get one of the runners on their side, to jack the torch, throw it in a river, or something.

In general, every two years, I find myself vaguely reminded of a curious fact: for some reason they keep holding an Olympics.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:37 PM on April 9, 2008


Yeah, I'm wondering if this counts as a "victory" for Gavin. On one hand, they avoided any Paris/London-type embarrassment - the torch didn't get doused or the runners tackled. On the other hand, no one knew where the hell the torch was at any relevant point. It's almost like it wasn't here at all. Interesting strategy.
posted by rkent at 6:39 PM on April 9, 2008


Kind of a Shrödinger's Torch move. The torch was there, but not seen, so was it really there?
posted by papercake at 6:43 PM on April 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Humanity, I love you. You have convoys and motorcades and security details for a frigging flame.

This is one of several reasons why the aliens refuse to contact us.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:45 PM on April 9, 2008 [11 favorites]


It seems like the city really simply dropped the ball and handed the reins over to China to govern for the day. This whole thing was marred not by those who simply wished their voices heard, but by those officials who decided to pretty much say 'screw the people'.

This was terribly shady government practice - especially the thwarting of organized protest by people who have the right to protest and who obtained permits to do so. When I read Newsom's quotes earlier, I pictured the smirk on his face.
posted by cmgonzalez at 6:45 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Old men in smoke-filled offices in Beijing, foolish old apparatchiks, mournfully watching the satellite feed and not knowing what comes next...

This summer will be a humiliation for both the PRC and IOC, but I think everyone else can enjoy some egalitarian schadenfreude.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:47 PM on April 9, 2008


Ha! Media faux pas of the day goes to the Contra Costa Times. Click on the last image in the second half of the slide show: the spectator is identified as holding a "Republic of China" flag. It is, of course, the flag of the People's Republic of China (though there were plenty of Taiwanese flags on display today, too). Heh.
posted by rkent at 6:50 PM on April 9, 2008


For those of you who obviously didn't read the article -

"At least one torchbearer decided to show her support for Tibetan independence during her moment in the spotlight. After being passed the Olympic flame, Majora Carter pulled out a small Tibetan flag that she had hidden in her shirt sleeve.

"The Chinese security and cops were on me like white on rice, it was no joke," said Carter, 41, who runs a nonprofit organization in New York. "They pulled me out of the race, and then San Francisco police officers pushed me back into the crowd on the side of the street.""

posted by cmgonzalez at 6:50 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, stealing it would be difficult, but if the route gave the opportunity you could surely throw it into a river, or maybe even just a trash can, sewer, or something, before the Chinese thugs stop you.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:54 PM on April 9, 2008


The Chinese security and cops were on me...

Chinese cops have jurisdiction in the US? Huh.
posted by DU at 6:55 PM on April 9, 2008


The thuggish Chinese security men in blue and white tracksuits, from the Armed Police Academy, were reported in London as pushing and shoving even policemen out their way.
posted by matthewr at 7:01 PM on April 9, 2008


Er yeah, this probably works conceptually if you are from the PRC, but pretty much destroys the point of having a public ceremony. Massive fail.
posted by Artw at 7:01 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was treated to chants of "Free Tibet!" from street level this morning as I worked out; it seemed really obvious to me that if you were out along the route this morning it was because you wanted to scream and throw things at the people running with the torch, or else it was because you wanted to scream and throw things at the people screaming and throwing things at the people running with the torch. Not only that, but this morning on NPR they quoted Mayor Newsom as saying that he couldn't comment on the idea that they might re-route the torch, which, if you ask me, was a pretty large Hint.

Anyway. Screw everybody who thinks that the Olympics are the right place to air their partisan and/or nationalist opinion.
posted by hob at 7:01 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Kind of a Shrödinger's Torch move. The torch was there, but not seen, so was it really there?

That sounds more like Bishop Berkeley's Torch.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:03 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pure cowardice. And to think, this was the Mayor who stood up to Washington on different occasions. I guess China is more important than the city he governs.
posted by subaruwrx at 7:13 PM on April 9, 2008


Screw everybody who thinks that the Olympics are the right place to air their partisan and/or nationalist opinion.

Yeah, how dare people protest against a brutally oppressive regime when there's running and jumping and skipping to be done!
posted by matthewr at 7:13 PM on April 9, 2008 [20 favorites]


Screw everybody who thinks that the Olympics are the right place to air their partisan and/or nationalist opinion

Really? So screw those guys back in the day who raised their fists for Black Power?
posted by spicynuts at 7:14 PM on April 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Really? So screw those guys back in the day who raised their fists for Black Power?

You go win yourself a medal and I'll applaud with everyone else while you wave your Tibetan flag.
posted by hob at 7:21 PM on April 9, 2008


The overwhelming temptation to bring up the 1936 Games (first use of the torch as Olympic propaganda btw, not to mention the political propaganda) has finally gotten to me. Godwin forever!
posted by nax at 7:23 PM on April 9, 2008


Pure cowardice. And to think, this was the Mayor who stood up to Washington on different occasions. I guess China is more important than the city he governs.

Yes, it's much braver to let opposing protesters wail on each other and the torch bearers, and then have your police tear gas and forcibly arrest them all.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:41 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


God, what a pile of shit this has all turned in to.

a) Yes, you can protest China's policies in Tibet.

b) No, you can't fuck with the Olympic Flame just because you have something to say.

c) Quit ruining everything, assholes.
posted by blacklite at 7:47 PM on April 9, 2008


I guess China is more important than the city he governs.

So true. First Jintao comes to see Schwarzenegger before Bush, now this. For California, Beijing is a more important friend to have right now than DC is.
posted by Skorgu at 7:49 PM on April 9, 2008


This was terribly shady government practice - especially the thwarting of organized protest by people who have the right to protest and who obtained permits to do so.

You're kidding, right? No one stopped them from protesting. Are you seriously suggesting that the city is obligated to hold an event simply because protesters have obtained a permit to protest it? Would you say the same thing if Planned Parenthood decided to move their operation at the last minute because they knew that Operation Rescue had obtained permits to protest?
posted by googly at 7:50 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


the people who just wanted to see the torch

Was that even possible with the protests?
posted by smackfu at 7:51 PM on April 9, 2008


Have you SEEN the route of the Olympic Torch? Jumping from Paris to San Francisco (the ONLY North American city to get visited) to Buenos Aires (the only South American city) to Dar Es Salaam (the only African city)? 500,000 Frequent Flyer miles and about 200 yards on the ground at each stop. That's not a torch RUN, it's a torch HOP. And then about a dozen stops in every Asian political entity except Taiwan? Promoting friendship with every country (touching our border). If all the Olympic Events are run like this, even McDonalds will be ashamed to have anything to do with it.
posted by wendell at 7:54 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, in Tibet: Monks Disrupt Media Tour in China
posted by homunculus at 7:56 PM on April 9, 2008


Chinese cops have jurisdiction in the US? Huh.

Top Chinese Cops Protect Olympic Flame
posted by homunculus at 7:57 PM on April 9, 2008


I'm impressed that our mandarin speaking PM is actually raising human rights issues with the Chinese leadership today.

I know, I know, how dare he.
posted by mattoxic at 8:00 PM on April 9, 2008


For California, Beijing is a more important friend to have right now than DC is.

Most Californians prefer to be where the money is. (I'm not saying I'm one.) Or at least where OUR money is. (Not counting the billions the Federal Government taxed California to pay New Mexico, Alaska and South Dakota.)
posted by wendell at 8:03 PM on April 9, 2008


Screw everybody who thinks that the Olympics are the right place to air their partisan and/or nationalist opinion

For serious?

I mean, the single greatest Olympic moment for the United States of America was a hockey game in 1980 against the Soviet Union!

Oh, sure, you might say, that won them the gold medal.

But, of course, it didn't win them the gold medal. They won that a few days later by beating Finland.

Finland, of course, wasn't the evil empire that stood in opposition to all things American and freedom (TM) loving. The USSR was.

During the entire cold war, the Olympics were totally political. We couldn't fight with bombs, but on U.S. television, every time a good, wholesome American amateur won against an evil, steroid enhanced, athiestic Communist, it was proof that America was superior, while every time a communist beat an American, it was proof that they were cheating.

You can look at nearly any Olympiad in the last century and see how it was used for political propaganda purposes by the IOC and the host country. The most notorious one, of course, was the Berlin Olympics of 1936. However, the famous U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow summer games was largely politically motivated, and the 1984 Moscow boycott of the L.A. olympics was largely politically motivated as well.

The Olympics are, in essence, a world athletic stage used as a sort of modern trial by combat - the relative success of failure of your athletes reflects how mighty, just and awesome your country is.

China - like every country that has hosted the Olympics - is using hosting the Olympics to promote their country. Selecting Beijing as the location of the Olympics was a political decision by the IOC.

Imagining that the Olympics are devoid of political purpose is akin, in my opinion, to imagining that all Major League Baseball is devoid of an economic purpose.

I'm not saying that one should harass the torch runners - because that is boorish, even thugish - but since China is using the Olympics to say "look how great we are," I'm not sure what the problem is with a bunch of folks saying "Yeah, but what about Tibet?"

tl;dr - The Olympics are a political event disguised as an athletic event.

We've been discussing the protests over on Sportsfilter as well.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:15 PM on April 9, 2008 [17 favorites]


However, the famous U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow summer games was largely politically motivated, and the 1984 Moscow boycott of the L.A. olympics was largely politically motivated as well.

Largely?
posted by mattoxic at 8:27 PM on April 9, 2008


The Olympics are, in essence, a world athletic stage used as a sort of modern trial by combat - the relative success of failure of your athletes reflects how mighty, just and awesome your country is.

Sure, of course -- but the really important thing is that we've managed to set aside our guns and bombs long enough to play a game with each other; and sure, we take it seriously and we root for our strong and righteous athletes to cream their weak and conniving little snivelers, but the point is that we're playing a fucking game, not shooting each other. The fact that we can't leave the Tibet thing alone long enough to watch the very symbol of a neutral playing field run past is pathetic.
posted by hob at 8:37 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Free Mumia! Boycott grapes!
posted by Nelson at 8:51 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, Chinas not really setting anything aside.
posted by Artw at 9:03 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


but the really important thing is that we've managed to set aside our guns and bombs long enough to play a game with each other

They are shooting people in Tibet, and we're shooting people in Iraq. No one has put down their guns, and I seriously doubt it will be any different when the games are underway. I'm sorry, but the symbol is a farce.
posted by homunculus at 9:04 PM on April 9, 2008 [6 favorites]


"Witnesses described Falun Gong members staggering across the vast expanse of the square, arms raised in the group's meditative pose and flames streaming from their bodies.... Tiananmen Square, the political epicenter of Beijing, is slated to be the setting for beach volleyball." As reported by the NYT in 2001.
posted by gac at 9:43 PM on April 9, 2008


Anyway. Screw everybody who thinks that the Olympics are the right place to air their partisan and/or nationalist opinion.

Hear, hear! Before you know it, the athletes will take to wearing uniforms decorated with flags and other nationalist symbols and the medal count will be tallied by nationality, and then the true Olympic spirit of friendly amateur competition will be forever lost.

The fact that we can't leave the Tibet thing alone long enough to watch the very symbol of a neutral playing field run past is pathetic.

And again: Hear hear! How dare the brutal repression of a reinvigourated liberation movement in one of the most oppressed occupied countries on earth by a triumphalist dictatorship hoping to use the presumptive neutrality and goodwill of the Olympics to legitimize itself in the eyes of the free world sully the sacrosanct neutral playing field that is the modern Olympics. The craven intrusion of this Tibet thing pushes the Games to the brink of a slippery slope that might even lead to major multinational corporations invading the selfsame playing field with their logos and fat sponsorship cheques.

Keep fighting that good fight, hob, old sport. Keep the Olympics PURE!
posted by gompa at 9:59 PM on April 9, 2008 [16 favorites]


The fact that we can't leave the Tibet thing alone long enough to watch the very symbol of a neutral playing field run past is pathetic.

That little "Tibet thing?"
Since 1950, an estimated 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese. Sorry, that's not a "thing" to me. I'll give up a "symbol" for those people.
posted by cloudgazer at 10:08 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Oh, and by the way...the protests have not been just about Tibet (I can speak about San Francisco because I was there). They are in support of those under direct control by China (Tibet and East Turkistan) as well as those under indirect control (Burma and Darfur). Instead of all this talk about nations and nationalism, how about the idea that protestors are FOR human rights and human decency. And taking a stand against violent imperialism.
posted by cloudgazer at 10:15 PM on April 9, 2008


There wasn't a good answer here, once SF was the site for this event. Hindsight is 20-20, but SF should have refused to be the site back when.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:16 PM on April 9, 2008




I think China is feeling cheated. The US got to have their round of landgrab/genocide, and China has basically underwritten a trillion dollars of US debt in just the past few years. Now China is getting sand kicked in its face at its big coming out party in no small part thanks to the US. Two of the three options for the future US president are pressuring Bush to boycott the opening ceremony and embarass China even more. Meanwhile, right or wrong, the US has been wholesale slaughtering Iraqi civilians on a scale that no first-world nation would tolerate in Tibet.

I bet more than a few people in Beijing are looking at those mountains of T-bills and thinking, "Fire sale."
posted by mullingitover at 10:45 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


No one stopped them from protesting. Are you seriously suggesting that the city is obligated to hold an event simply because protesters have obtained a permit to protest it?

Kindly refrain from putting words in my mouth.

My point, which you've utterly failed to understand, was that there was a time and place for this entire event to take place. The public gathered there to see it. And several groups obtained permits to protest it.

Yes, they were stopped from protesting, because the event at which they applied for a permit to protest was swept from right under them and moved to a secret location. Got it?

The city held the event not for the protesters, who were within their rights, but for those members of the public who wished to show up and see. It is for them the event was meant for, but everyone there lost out in different ways.

And yes, if Planned Parenthood moved a once in a lifetime event they'd set up for the public at the last minute just because a group was going to show up and protest, it would be just as cowardly and shady.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:56 PM on April 9, 2008


Well, I did get to see the torch today, and it was accompanied by protesters of several stripes all along its actual route. I will admit that I spent the whole day refreshing blogs and twitter (and contemplated making a FPP on the use of twitter to inform crowds of demonstrators as well as the rest of us). I work in the Marina, and could not take the day off, so figured I had no chance to be a part of things. When the teamtibet twitter feed informed me that the torch was as Bush and Van Ness (validated by the sound of multiple helicopters ovehead), I decided I might have a chance.

I made up a hand-drawn "FREE TIBET" sign and headed out the door, sign in one hand, blackberry in the other. I stopped at the corner of Bay and Fillmore, eyeing the cop cars on the corner, and got to watch the mayor and the police chief conferring for several minutes. I thought that meant that the torch would come down Bay, until they all jumped in their cars and zipped away. By that point, I had struck up a friendship with a very nice lady named Shirley, and we decided to head closer to the action. Refreshing my twitter feed told me the torch was headed down Laguna. We could see the crowds and police cars further up Bay Street. We walked towards Marina Green, and got there in time to see about 50 motorcycle cops go by. There were scattered protesters, and more and more cops. A very very long line of police cars, police vans, shuttle buses, large buses, motorcycles, and more police cars streamed by. The next set of runners stood in the middle of the street, surrounded by about 10 cops, some on bikes. A group of pro-Tibet folks gathered in front of them with their banners. I held up my ad hoc Free Tibet sign with one hand and snapped photos with the other. Finally, one of those duck boats went by, with a big crowd of police behind it, and in their midst, a couple of people with the torch. The flame itself was clearly visible.

Demonstrators ran along the sidewalks, keeping pace with the torch. Some were on bikes, but most were on foot. It was not a large crowd, but there was absolutely a presence every step of the way. I was sort of surprised that there were pro-China folks, waving Chinese and Olympic flags. I kept up with the crowd for a few blocks, and then had to head back to work.

I was appalled at the number of cops I saw. I haven't seen that many cops in one place since probably the Rodney King actions here (and I've been in a few demos). As someone said, it was a good day to commit crimes in SF. The line of vehicles seemed endless, and nearly all of them had cops in them. There were police on foot, on bike, on motorcycle, in car, in van, in pickup. I really hope that the IOC or the Chinese government is paying for most of this, because for a city cutting essential health services to make up a budget deficit, this kind of expense is outrageous.

The Olympics has been a political tool for the host country for years, and China is using it as exactly that. What China is doing in Tibet, not to mention Darfur, is horrendous. It is not the demonstrators who are making this political. The demonstrators are just calling the world's attention to what is being done in the name of the Olympics. If the US were the host country, I would expect nothing less of the world community. It will be interesting to see it China bows to the pressure and doesn't run the torch through Tibet.

I'm glad I got a chance to see the torch and that I got to express my opinion as well. I am not glad that it even came to San Francisco in the first place, and I'm annoyed at all the machinations and deception that the Mayor went through to keep the torch safe. I'm even more annoyed with how much money was spent on this. Free Tibet indeed.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:02 PM on April 9, 2008 [12 favorites]


you could surely throw it into a river, or maybe even just a trash can, sewer, or something, before the Chinese thugs stop you

Would it matter? The IOC and Chinese would just say that although the torch was again snuffed by craven attention-seekers, the flame itself, that eternal beacon of hope and goodwill, survived, just as the morals it embodied survived the vulgar, terrorist-like attack which tainted the good name of all San Franciscans.

They would move on, you'd be a hero to a handful of grad students and used-bookstore clerks for about three days, and little old ladies would cross the street to spit in your face.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:07 PM on April 9, 2008


There's protest, and then there's protest.

Something has happened over the past 40 years in Western countries. When MLK and his allies led civil rights marches, they were sober, dignified, and orderly. The organizers of those protests understood exactly what they were trying to do, tactically, and how best to present themselves to achieve their goals

Now there is a permanent protest subculture, that seems to view politics primarily as a matter of street theater. They have no tactics, no strategy, and only the vaguest of goals. As with any form of theater, many of the people attracted to it are young, massively narcissistic attention-seekers. They protest because it makes them feel good, but it's largely a form of entertaining, empty spectacle that seems to have little or no impact.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:38 PM on April 9, 2008 [13 favorites]


gingerbeer writes "The demonstrators are just calling the world's attention to what is being done in the name of the Olympics."

What's happening in Tibet isn't being done in the name of the Olympics, it's being done in the name of Progress™, just like every other historical large-scale plundering and pacification of underdeveloped indigenous people who are unfortunate enough to be residing on valuable land or resources. I predict that when it's all said and done, and China has unquestioned control of Tibet's resources, they'll rebuild every temple and turn it into the greatest tribute to Buddhism the world has ever seen. You'll go there on vacation and take wonderful photographs, and the authentic-seeming Tibetans you meet will tell you how much they love being part of China. Or maybe they'll get casinos like America's natives got for the Trail of Tears, etc. Is it horrifying? Of course. Is anything anyone does going to change the macro-scale events that will inevitably unfold? Hell no. Everything boils down to a fight for who will control resources, and history shows us that the people with the purses and the weapons do that.

The epic scale, tens-of-billions-of-dollars-worth-pimping-out-of-Beijing, diverting of rivers, controlling of weather, and construction fever, that's being done in the name of the Olympics.
posted by mullingitover at 12:30 AM on April 10, 2008


Our Tibet
posted by homunculus at 12:36 AM on April 10, 2008


(By the way, don't take what I'm saying to mean that protesting is pointless or not worthwhile. It's a rare thing to be able to speak truth to power, and when the going gets truly rough it'll be one of the first privileges to be lost.)
posted by mullingitover at 12:44 AM on April 10, 2008


Artifice_Eternity, you mean they've taken the pro out of protest? Are these guys just testers then, or maybe amtesters?

(I'm not disagreeing, I think you have a totally valid point. I watched the anti-capitalist protests in London in 2000 trash the street I lived on, smashing up the windows of the local small businesses and causing no end of expense for the local council. One protester struck up a conversation with me, berating the pre-emptive police move of closing local pubs and alcohol vendors, and asking if I knew where I could get any, as he'd travelled some distance to come smash up my neighbourhood and had already run out of his own bulk-purchase booze.)
posted by davemee at 1:38 AM on April 10, 2008




Switch the torch path? Ha! One-upped over 52 years ago when some daring protesters switched the torch.
posted by Sitegeist at 2:05 AM on April 10, 2008


I've grown up with the image of China as an overwhelmingly populated nation. So when I heard about all the protests over the running of the torch, I kinda hoped that China would pull a horde move and bring a billion screaming Chinamen to bear.

Imagine the scene: It is a rainy day in San Francisco. Milling crowds of protesters wait anxiously for the flame to crest one of the city's famous hills and come running towards them. They have their banners, their flags, their puppets, and their slogans all ready. Suddenly, the call begins to ring out, "The Torch is Coming!"

The protesters' excitement rises and they start to chant and wave their banners. Some shout for a Free Tibet, others for a Free Mumia, while still yet more just shout. They are loud, they are young, they are energized. Surely China and the rest of the world will hear them now! The media is on hand, ready to film whatever happens, on scene reporters gushing about the possibility the torch may be hijacked.

Then, the flame crests the hill, held aloft and sputtering. The volume of the protest spikes and those protesters who are planning to swipe or douse the flame tense and make ready. If the runner is aware of all the people shouting and arrayed against him, he doesn't seem to mind.

For a split second after he comes over the hill, another runner carrying another torch appears behind him. And another and another and another. Soon the roar of the protesters is silenced by the footsteps of thousands of jogging torchbearers. The crowd starts to react, to decry what must be a Chinese show of force. After all, there's a billion of'em, right? Phalanxes form to repel the invaders.

But the runners are not invaders. Hell, most of them are not even Chinese. Each runner carries a flag, though, the flag of the nation they are from, the flag of the country their parents came from, or even the flag of a nation they hope to inspire. Somewhere deep in the crowd of jogging Sparticii is the real flame. From a nearby rooftop, Journey starts to play "The Wheel In The Sky."

So now the protesters have a choice, do they stand and oppose the jogging representation of humanity's unity? Do they clash with a bunch of runners who have burning clubs in their hands? Or do they accept the extra torches the runners carry and run with them holding the flags of all nations?

I'd hope they'd do the latter. Nothing would carry on the spirit of the Games like people of all races, nationalities, and opinions united in celebration of their fellow man. That would be an event for the history books, one that would be spoken about for more than one newscycle. Pulitzers and good vibes all around!

I doubt the protesters would do it, though. After all, you can't run with a giant puppet.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:20 AM on April 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Screw everybody who thinks that the Olympics are the right place to air their partisan and/or nationalist opinion.

A particularly American notion, borne from the society where more people can accurately name the manager of the NY Yankees than the Secretary of State, where more people watched some portion of 'roided out baseball players testimony on Capitol Hill than General Patraeus's, where Marian Jones gets more jail time than Scooter Libby, because she has to be made an example of.
posted by Dreama at 6:09 AM on April 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


I was listening to the reports ( on NPR ) about the torch -- and this idea came to mind.

posted by RubberHen at 7:12 AM on April 10, 2008


Oh ...I guess we cannot post images here.... well here is my idea, an illustration showing the torchbearer, on a treadmill, being shielded and transported in a kind of Popemobile.
posted by RubberHen at 7:13 AM on April 10, 2008


Looks like the protesters got RickRolled
posted by Kabanos at 7:41 AM on April 10, 2008


Listening to the news coverage here in SanFran yesterday, and all the personification of the torch ("It won't get to see the Golden Gate Bridge...") I was struck with how empty this all is. It's an f-ing symbol. Period. It's not THE torch it was one of 40 plus torches yesterday, all kept as tokens by the runners. What is important is what is happening in Tibet, Darfur, etc. and not the chance to wave your bloody sign (another symbol) in front of that symbol. If it really was about being on TV to wave your sign, then there are probably other ways to get on TV then follow around an empty symbol. The Olympics have been been both political and commercial for years now. It's like the marriage of Republicans and Walmart and shown on cable TV. There are far more serious things to be thinking about.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:04 AM on April 10, 2008 [2 favorites]




Heh. I beat you on that one.
posted by Artw at 9:26 AM on April 10, 2008


I thought we were handing it off to me, like the torch itself. There's no I in team!
posted by homunculus at 9:39 AM on April 10, 2008




O O O
 O O 

posted by Artw at 9:47 AM on April 10, 2008


Damn you randomly inserted BR tags!
posted by Artw at 9:47 AM on April 10, 2008


Now there is a permanent protest subculture, that seems to view politics primarily as a matter of street theater.

I don't see it this way (at least as one of the many in San Francisco yesterday). This is what you see on the media. Anyone protesting who is dramatic or overdone is shown as an example of all the protestors. But, as someone who was standing with Burmese, Tibetan, and East Turkistan people yesterday I did not see their actions as theatrical. These people have lost friends and family members. They cannot go back to their countries. They have suffered loss and trauma that I cannot even begin to imagine. Yet, so many of them were not protesting with anger but were protesting with hope and non-violence. What you don't see on the media are the thousands of peaceful people in support of the cause.

A permanent protest subculture is ok with me because isn't it part of an active democracy? The alternative is complacency. Of course, protesting is not the only thing to do...but there is power in numbers.
posted by hazel at 10:32 AM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Munich, 1972.
posted by kjs3 at 10:39 AM on April 10, 2008


Torchbearer gets kicked out of relay

"At first I was like look, yes I'm carrying a flag, that is my right, as an American citizen," said Majora Carter.

Evidently the Chinese and San Francisco police disagreed.

More on Carter in this post.
posted by homunculus at 11:49 AM on April 10, 2008


You go win yourself a medal and I'll applaud with everyone else while you wave your Tibetan flag.

This is not what you said, tough guy. You said screw EVERYBODY. You did not say screw every NON ATHLETE. So, screw you.

And how do you know I haven't won a medal?
posted by spicynuts at 12:24 PM on April 10, 2008


Does this medal count?
posted by homunculus at 12:39 PM on April 10, 2008


Although it's obvious both sides are using the Olympics for publicity purposes, it still strikes me as hypocritical that there was barely any mention of Tibet for a long time in the media before the protests broke out in March. Feh.

Wait and see, the Olympics this summer's going to implode in one big gooey mess, and I won't be there to see it.
posted by monocot at 1:20 PM on April 10, 2008


This is a very interesting column in the SF Chron that really went a long way in making me think....how moving it really removed the punch for China...as they bused thousands upon thousands of pro-chinese supporters in from all over California and Nevada to all stand there and be good Chinese supporters and wave flags and drown out the protestors by sheer numbers and overwhemling them. Very very interesting.
posted by aacheson at 2:03 PM on April 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


hazel: No disrespect intended to the types of protesters you refer to. I wasn't condemning anyone and everyone who attends a protest.

What I object to specifically are the people who see a protest as an opportunity to put on freaky face and/or body paint, walk on stilts, take off their clothes in public, build giant puppets, and shoehorn in their unrelated pet causes (Mumia, marijuana, Palestine, transsexual rights, etc.). They discredit the causes they claim to support by creating a circus atmosphere.

The people you refer to are not part of the "permanent protest subculture" I'm talking about -- rather, their protests against the Chinese government flow from their own experiences.

I myself took part in some anti-war demonstrations in early 2003 (just marching/standing and carrying signs). And I did experience the media's desire to focus on the most over-the-top protesters -- the kids with colored mohawks and face piercings, rather than the hundreds of thousands of ordinary-looking people who were also on the streets.

Let me also note that I respect people like the Yes Men and the Billboard Liberation Front, who do traffic in spectacle, but do it in clever, non-cliché ways. These groups' meticulous planning, skillful execution, and near-anonymity put the focus more on their messages than on themselves.

Of course, this is America. If you want to walk down Broadway wearing a clown wig, pasties and a thong, screaming something moronic about Mumia, I support your right to do so. I'll still think you're a moron.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:19 PM on April 10, 2008




That was interesting, aacheson. Thanks.
posted by homunculus at 6:29 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


A permanent protest subculture is ok with me because isn't it part of an active democracy? The alternative is complacency. Of course, protesting is not the only thing to do...but there is power in numbers.

Democracy should be about working through the political process and voting. Protest should be reserved for exceptional issues.

I see three major problems with a culture of permanent protest. First, constant protest cheapens the concept of protesting. Overuse of protest drives its uniqueness and value down. Second, permanent protest risks building an entrenched protest management culture. If there is any benefit to protest it is that it is an escape mechanism beyond the normal organized government channels. Normalizing and formalizing protest effectively destroys its ability to speak from outside the system. Finally, permanent protest risks building a complacent community of protesters. These would be people who just show up for the party, but have little connection to the actual issues. These people are easy to manipulate and will ultimately destroy the authenticity of the protest.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:51 PM on April 10, 2008


Artifice_Eternity: They discredit the causes they claim to support by creating a circus atmosphere. I agree.

b1tr0t: I think we have different definitions of a "permanent protest culture." I wasn't thinking of it as a machine that constantly protests every little thing. And, yes, it absolutely should be reserved for exceptional issues, like those that are more immediate/timely than the political process or voting will allow.

(just wanted to follow up..i appreciate the discussion)
posted by hazel at 11:09 PM on April 10, 2008


b1tr0t: Those are excellent observations. The protest subculture has essentially been integrated into capitalist/consumerist society, as another set of lifestyle choices that can be managed with minimal threat to the status quo. Its overuse, and its emphasis on theater over real action, have helped to make this possible.

Calling your Congressperson, writing letters to the editor, working on political campaigns, and making donations to candidates and political groups is less exciting. But it actually (sometimes) makes things happen.

I think the permaprotesters started out as a boomer phenomenon. Boomer college students were impressed by the moral force and political effectiveness of the civil rights marches -- as well they should have been -- but some then decided that street protest was the proper political response to anything.

This mentality has continued to flourish in the hothouse of university campuses. But it has an adolescent quality, a flavor of angry teens shouting at their parents. There is no recognition by these people that they can actually get inside the System and change it -- only an instinctive tendency to rail against it from outside, which actually means consigning themselves to perpetual powerlessness.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 12:00 AM on April 11, 2008


But isn't it so perfectly Newsomy? Well-executed cowardice + minor treachery.

Mayor Newsom asks for across-the-board resignations
In all, he requested resignation letters from 22 senior staffers, 53 department heads and more than 300 board members and commissioners whom he has appointed since taking office in 2004.
Newsom's request for resignations meets resistance
Although he refused to say how many resignation letters he plans to accept, City Hall observers say the mayor is probably targeting a handful of individuals he wants to remove from their posts, but doesn't want to have to publicly fire.
Aide quits as Newsom's affair with his wife is revealed
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's re-election campaign manager resigned Wednesday after confronting the mayor about an affair Newsom had with his wife while she worked in the mayor's office, City Hall sources said.

So the Mayor's a douche. It's not as exciting as a conspiracy, but it's more likely.
posted by ryanrs at 6:36 AM on April 11, 2008




And, yes, it absolutely should be reserved for exceptional issues, like those that are more immediate/timely than the political process or voting will allow.

I disagree - that is exactly the sort of thinking that produces a protest machine. Instead, you want to protest the really big issues that the political process repeatedly fails to address.

For timely issues, go get a group of people, then meet with your local representative(s). Only resort to protest when you have repeatedly (over a decade or so) demonstrated that the system is unable to deal with necessary change.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:21 PM on April 11, 2008




Burning Out
posted by homunculus at 11:21 PM on April 11, 2008




Newsom and Police Chief Fong argue with China over paramilitary torch attendants:

"After the London torch run also was plagued by protesters, Fong called her counterparts in Britain to get the lowdown on just how the attendants worked. She was not happy with what she heard.

According to London police, the Chinese attendants did not appear to speak English, so it was impossible for the cops to talk to them.

Instead, the attendants, who all wore earpieces, took their orders from Zhang Ming, a Chinese Olympic official who accompanied the run in a car. She would order changes in the speed of the relay or bring it to a halt, even when London police wanted to move.

The mayor and Fong decided to draw the line back to two attendants."
posted by oneirodynia at 9:51 AM on April 13, 2008




China’s Loyal Youth
posted by homunculus at 2:01 PM on April 13, 2008










Smell the Harmony
posted by homunculus at 2:41 PM on April 17, 2008






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