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Is violence necessary to fight The Man?
April 30, 2001 4:07 PM   Subscribe

Is violence necessary to fight The Man? Hey, ya can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs. This essay makes some compelling points on the violence in Seattle and at the FTAA protests.
posted by snakey (21 comments total)

 
Yes, don't like capitalism -- wanton destruction of property is ok! This essay makes no compelling point (even though I like some of what Rall draws/writes at times)...
posted by owillis at 4:28 PM on April 30, 2001


Breaking windows, spraying graffitti, and even lighting dumpster fires doesn't constitute violence.
Delegates in Seattle couldn't get to meetings because of the number of protesters peacefully blocking their paths and clogging the streets. While the BlackBloc and the riot police got the media spotlight, nonviolent protesters got the job done.
If protests have become more sabots and torches than King and Gandhi, then we have the media to thank. Oh yeah, Mayor Schell SUCKS!
posted by roboto at 5:22 PM on April 30, 2001


But the Quebec protesters gave notice to leaders of other cities that they'll pay a high cost for hosting such gatherings in the future.

Obviously, (the diplomats must be thinking by now) the only safe way to discuss free trade policies is not to have the gathering locations announced publicly at all. Idiotic acts of violence serve no purpose other than to drive the talks even further into secrecy and inaccesibility than they are now.
But that's okay, because you're STICKING IT TO THE MAN!
posted by darukaru at 5:28 PM on April 30, 2001


I love this hopeless confusion of correlation with causality:

Mahatma Gandhi helped get the British out, but India remains as desperately poor and burdened by caste issues as ever.

Therefore (!), nonviolence is ineffective.

Suffrin Jaysus.
posted by argybarg at 5:46 PM on April 30, 2001


Funny, when I was little, I learned that what happened here was patriotic and effective.
posted by Doug at 6:36 PM on April 30, 2001


Oh the ends definately justify the means, right?
posted by darren at 7:31 PM on April 30, 2001


Doug, when I was little, I learned that the Native Americans were bloodthirsty savages who raped and pillaged American Pioneers. The truth was rather different. If the American Revolution had been squashed by the British (and it's a miracle it wasn't), George Washington would be seen as a traitor to the crown, and Benedict Arnold would be on our money.
posted by jpoulos at 8:00 PM on April 30, 2001


Darren, if you are asking if the destruction of tea was justified by its role in the freeing of a people from imperialist rule, I'm going to have to say yes. That's me, though.
posted by Doug at 8:44 PM on April 30, 2001


This is the silliest thing I've ever read (ever). Even more than that NKOTB novel (even).
posted by holloway at 9:11 PM on April 30, 2001


in the april 15 new york times magazine (sorry, it's not part of the free online archives), there's an article that describes the modern way that an umbrella quebec protest group organized its efforts-- the types of protests were divided into three: those protesting completely legally, those who would be peaceful, but might find themselves technically breaking an obscure law, but not overtly so, and finally the "special tactics (or something like that)" group that would be doing things what Rall characterizes as the "violent" way. the article ended on an "i wonder how this combination will work in practice, and whether the violent protests will undermine the peaceful ones' legitimacy?" note.

purely violent protests get absolutely nowhere (just look at the rodney king riots). i think the quebec combination was quite effective at garnering attention.
posted by benjamin at 10:26 PM on April 30, 2001


I love how rightwingers suddenly turn pacifist whenever the cause is not officially government-sanctioned. For them, Bob Kerrey's mass murder of innocent civilians is just peachy -- after all, "war is hell dude"; whereas, an activist who breaks a few windows is thought to be worthy of a infinite castigation.

Surveys indicate that vanishingly few Americans are trully pacifists. Most believe that there are circumstances under which violence can be morally justified. Although I haven't yet answered the question conclusively for myself, I think strict pacificism has a lot going for it. But it should aways be remembered that reasonable minds can differ on the subject.

"Property destruction", though, is another topic entirely. There, the question is wholly tactical. I can see both sides of the argument, but either way, it would be counterproductive to denounce fellow activists because of a small difference over tactics.

The goal should always be minimizing global suffering per capita, through whatever morally acceptable methods are available. There may be several disparate -- yet equally "correct" -- ways of pursuing that goal.
posted by johnb at 11:52 PM on April 30, 2001


In a nutshell: if you don't support the movement (that's any movement under discussion) then you sure ain't going to support its tactics, peaceful or otherwise.
posted by lagado at 1:46 AM on May 1, 2001


lagado - not true. trying to start a revolution with violence does nothing but turn the gun over to the new rulers. it certainly doesn't solve the problems. the communist revolutions of china and the ussr are perfect examples. what began as a "revolution for the people" ended up becoming two of the most oppressive regimes in our time.
posted by bliss322 at 4:38 AM on May 1, 2001


I love how rightwingers suddenly turn pacifist whenever the cause is not officially government-sanctioned.

What I love is ridiculous across-the-board statements.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:30 AM on May 1, 2001


Most ridiculous across-the-board statements are lovable; I wouldn't go so far as to say all of them are.
posted by johnb at 9:49 AM on May 1, 2001


Breaking windows, spraying graffitti, and even lighting dumpster fires doesn't constitute violence.

According to the dictionary definition it does.

Let the people by kids.

Hey JohnB! You graduate yet?
posted by thirteen at 9:58 AM on May 1, 2001


Hey how's it going 13?

I got out of graduate school a few years ago. When are you going to get out of Chicago? (although I hear the weather's nice today)
posted by johnb at 10:18 AM on May 1, 2001


I'm on the 5 year plan. Sorry about the mix-up, I always thought you were working on your thesis when you would disapear for short periods.

Look me up for all you future clean power needs.

I am already working on bumper stickers (ironic isn't it) "Wind farmers do it by enslaving the air". I know it sucks, but I have time.
posted by thirteen at 10:34 AM on May 1, 2001


Whether you agree with the purpose of the anti-corporate-globalisation protests or not, the author of this essay makes some good points about their tactics.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:33 PM on May 1, 2001


www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/july00barsamian.htm has an interview with Chomsky that might provide backround for those interested. FYI
posted by jifjohnson at 11:01 AM on May 2, 2001


lagado - not true. trying to start a revolution with violence does nothing but turn the gun over to the new rulers. it certainly doesn't solve the problems. the communist revolutions of china and the ussr are perfect examples. what began as a "revolution for the people" ended up becoming two of the most oppressive regimes in our time.

bliss322, my point is that most of the comdemnation of the tactics has come from people who don't support the movement anyway (i.e. they will condemn anyway regardless of the tactics). It's like that miami "mob" disrupting the election counting process (well, I call them mob, others will disagree). If you support the principles of a movement but disagree with its tactics then that's an entirely different matter.

If taken to its logical conclusion your argument means that violence is never acceptable under any circumstance. That seems to me to be going a bit far. That would also kinda rule out the American Revolution, wouldn't it? There are plenty of other examples.

It depends largely on time and place. I believe that pacifism is a tactic, just like (the controlled use of) violence. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I would go as far as to say that no movement has ever succeeded through strict pacifism alone. Not even India's struggle for independence.
posted by lagado at 6:53 PM on May 2, 2001


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