Protest Warriors
January 20, 2005 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Protest Warriors Clash • Gil Kobrin of the Protest Warriors went down "under a hail of black boots" belonging to anti-Bush peace activists. "It wasn't much of a contest. ProtestWarrior's contingent numbered 13, the other side in the hundreds. If they won any hearts and minds, no one said so." Meanwhile, DC activist group Anarchist Resistance issued their call to action: "There's nothing left to salvage in this empire that is the U.S. government. It's time to bring it down." AR is listed as a resouce by the Internet Liberation Front who Kos reported "hacked and defaced six Republican websites" yesterday. Some commentary on civil disobedience by Thoreau & ActUp.
posted by dhoyt (88 comments total)
 
ok, dhoyt. what we'ev got here is a biased newspaper and a biased activist group reporting a violent incident. And some fringe yahoos calling for the violent overthrow of everything that's not nailed down. Kinda sounds like politics as usual. I''m not sure what kind of point you're trying to make, my freind.

If there's some corroboration on the attack on Protest Warriors, then that's fucked up and wrong, but I'm gonna need more than this to go on.
posted by jonmc at 7:18 PM on January 20, 2005


You go to the inauguration with the protesters you have, not the protesters you want.
posted by mullingitover at 7:19 PM on January 20, 2005


Gil Kobrin of the Protest Warriors went down "under a hail of black boots" belonging to anti-Bush peace activists.

That sentence made me laugh out loud.

Posting links to registration-required articles is poor form. Perhaps a Google NEws link?
posted by nixerman at 7:19 PM on January 20, 2005


I wouldn't put Henry David Thoreau and today's protesters in the same sentence.

It's gotten so hackneyed - ANSWER's protest was full of "hey hey ho ho" crap - that I find I can't take the protestors seriously, even when I agree with much of what they're saying.

Real organized protest takes intelligence, focus, civility and resolve. It's no accident that we celebrated Martin Luther King Day this week. These guys could learn from him.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:21 PM on January 20, 2005


You go to the inauguration with the protesters you have, not the protesters you want.

That's awful close to "the ends justify the means." I've seen the Protest Warriors website and I've seen them in action when I marched on the RNC, and while I don't much care for them, I don't think they should be stomped for speaking their minds.

But like I said, I'm not ready to believe this one yet.
posted by jonmc at 7:23 PM on January 20, 2005


"hacked and defaced six Republican websites"

Therein lies the essence.
Useless destruction which achieves nothing.
Well, at least they've accomplished their life objectives.
posted by HTuttle at 7:28 PM on January 20, 2005


Wow ... straight from Little Green Footballs. Good work dhoyt.
posted by rks404 at 7:32 PM on January 20, 2005


Huh?
posted by dhoyt at 7:34 PM on January 20, 2005


Clearly you and the LGF crew are tapping into the same zeitgeist
posted by rks404 at 7:37 PM on January 20, 2005


Real organized protest takes intelligence, focus, civility and resolve.

Organized protest is only as useful as the action it signifies. Civil Rights-era marching and mass events were only as powerful as the actual civil disobedience it represented. I say actual because sitting in a segregated diner or waging a legal battle against Jim Crow is, like Thoreau refusing to pay his war tax, directly opposed to the evil it struggles against.

ANSWER is, IMO, a simulacrum resembling civil disobedience. Its referent is nonexistent; it points to nothing, only the alienated and atomic plea to not wage war "in our name." This is what makes it sad, and this is what makes it a giant waste of time. It doesn't represent an actual struggle for power.

This is what an incomplete knowledge of the Civil Rights movement has produced in modern activists.

sigh
posted by Coda at 7:39 PM on January 20, 2005


Clearly you and the LGF crew are tapping into the same zeitgeist

You mean--we read the same WaPo article?
posted by dhoyt at 7:41 PM on January 20, 2005


rks404: cut it out with the conflation. Questioning the alleged actions of a select group of militant leftists does not make dhoyt a LGF reading neocon. It's that kind of lazy thinking that's destroying modern political discourse.
posted by jonmc at 7:42 PM on January 20, 2005


Nice point, Coda . . . contemporary street protests, in and of themselves, are a like a vaccine, inoculating society against truly revolutionary ideas. And the infatuation of certain protesters with violence and the imagery of violence -- the romantic, pathetic images of the masked guerilla -- does nothing but provide a blank face upon which the powerful can project the fears of of the people.
posted by Coherence Panda at 7:43 PM on January 20, 2005


That's awful close to "the ends justify the means."

jonmc, mullingitover was referring to a comment Rumsfeld made when questioned by a soldier about armored vehicles. He responded that you "go to war with the army you have, not the army you want," obviously side-stepping the actual issue. I don't think mullingitover was saying anything tangible about the protesters.
posted by odinsdream at 7:44 PM on January 20, 2005


I''m not sure what kind of point you're trying to make, my freind.

I'da thought that was evident from the links provided in the post. The point was that there are a lot of different stripe of protester descending on DC today in a tradition of civil disobedience, with varying degrees of loyalty to that concept (see Thoreau). I'd rather not play nanny to the thread, so I'll stop commenting...
posted by dhoyt at 7:46 PM on January 20, 2005


And the infatuation of certain protesters with violence and the imagery of violence -- the romantic, pathetic images of the masked guerilla -- does nothing but provide a blank face upon which the powerful can project the fears of of the people.

Bingo. I remember in Union Dues, John Sayles wrote about a fictionalized 60's street action:

A glowing strain of pure joy. It was real. They were fighting. Fighting. Eyes glowed, speed-rapping at total strangers, parting their hair to show off each red badge of commitment, all the Dr. Spock babies who had never hit or been hit in anger, riding their violence high, juiced on action.

Some things never change.
posted by jonmc at 7:49 PM on January 20, 2005


So peace activists violently attacked someone for their ideas?

Glad to see they are for Free Speech!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 7:51 PM on January 20, 2005


Coda, Coherence

You both make excellent points.
But could you explain what you think effective, modern descension should look like? Or give a living example.
posted by recurve at 7:55 PM on January 20, 2005


So peace activists violently attacked someone for their ideas?

no, peace activists violently attacked someone for being a prick and intentionally baiting them.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:56 PM on January 20, 2005


Anarchsits /= peace activists.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 8:02 PM on January 20, 2005


recruve, you might find this article interesting:

Back in the '60s, dressing crazy and letting your hair down really was a form of defiance. It was a giant, raised middle finger to a ruling class that until that point had insisted on a kind of suffocating, static conformity in all things – in sexual mores, in professional ambitions, in
life goals and expectations, and even in dress and speech. Publicly refusing to wear your hair like an Omega house towel boy wasn't just a meaningless gesture then. It was an important step in refusing later to go to war, join the corporate workforce and commit yourself to the long, soulless life of political amnesia and periodic consumer drama that was the inflexible expectation of the time.

That conformist expectation still exists, and the same corporate class still imposes it. But conformity looks a lot different now than it did then. Outlandish dress is now for sale in a thousand flavors, and absolutely no one is threatened by it: not your parents, not the government, not even our most prehistoric brand of fundamentalist Christianity. The vision of hundreds of thousands of people dressed in every color of the rainbow and marching their diverse selves past Madison Square Garden is, on the contrary, a great relief to the other side – because it means that the opposition is composed of individuals, not a Force In Concert.

In the conformist atmosphere of the late '50s and early '60s, the individual was a threat. Like communist Russia, the system then was so weak that it was actually threatened by a single person standing up and saying, "This is bullshit!" That is not the case anymore. This current American juggernaut is the mightiest empire the world has ever seen, and it is absolutely immune to the individual. Short of violent crime, it has assimilated the individual's every conceivable political action into mainstream commercial activity. It fears only one thing: organization.

That's why the one thing that would have really shaken Middle America last week wasn't "creativity." It was something else: uniforms. Three hundred thousand people banging bongos and dressed like extras in an Oliver Stone movie scares no one in America. But 300,000 people in slacks and white button-down shirts, marching mute and angry in the direction of Your Town, would have instantly necessitated a new cabinet-level domestic security agency.Why? Because 300,000 people who are capable of showing the unity and discipline to dress alike are also capable of doing more than just march. Which is important, because marching, as we have seen in the last few years, has been rendered basically useless. Before the war, Washington and New York saw the largest protests this country has seen since the '60s – and this not only did not stop the war, it didn't even motivate the opposition political party to nominate an anti-war candidate.

posted by Yelling At Nothing at 8:09 PM on January 20, 2005


The presence of people actually using soap or deodorant probably threw them into a rage.
posted by TetrisKid at 8:10 PM on January 20, 2005


Yesterday, there was this one guy. He was wearing an anti-war t-shirt and cut right in front of me at the check out.

As I'm sure you'll understand Steve, this was a total mind fuck.

Should I switch teams and support the war now or stick to forming my own opinions based on how I interpretate information?
posted by Tuatara at 8:13 PM on January 20, 2005


interpret

butchered that...
posted by Tuatara at 8:16 PM on January 20, 2005


The presence of people actually using soap or deodorant probably threw them into a rage.

Are you often the dullest person at a party?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:17 PM on January 20, 2005


I kept feeling sorry for that poor little Bush supporter until I read this paragraph in the WaPo article.
It was modeled on ProtestWarrior's primary M.O.: mingle with protesters, mix, await angry abuse and epithets and then label the peaceniks as aggressive hypocrites. Meanwhile, a ProtestWarrior videographer records the whole affair to post on the Web site later. Videos already on the site show off ProtestWarrior counter-protests in places such as San Francisco and in New York during the Republican National Convention last August.
Besides, these anarchists are lightweights. Once they kill a few tens of thousands of people, then they'll be ready to play with the big boys. Kicking around a Protest Warrior doesn't really count ...
posted by rks404 at 8:19 PM on January 20, 2005


The presence of people actually using soap or deodorant probably threw them into a rage.

OH BURN YOU SHOWED THOSE LIBURLS
posted by cmonkey at 8:20 PM on January 20, 2005


It was modeled on ProtestWarrior's primary M.O.: mingle with protesters, mix, await angry abuse and epithets and then label the peaceniks as aggressive hypocrites. Meanwhile, a ProtestWarrior videographer records the whole affair to post on the Web site later.

Sounds like they got exactly the response they were looking for. The anarchist idiots took the bait and finished up the work for them, but let's not pretend the "warriors'" message -- "Those peaceniks are violent! Conservatives are victims!" -- has any connection to events in the real world
posted by PlusDistance at 8:21 PM on January 20, 2005


The article Yelling At Nothing posted was really interesting, as well as frightening. The only other party in the US can't even organize itself well enough to mount any opposition that isn't laughable, so how in the hell are a bunch of young, dissatisfied liberals going to fight anything?
posted by borkingchikapa at 8:26 PM on January 20, 2005


OH BURN YOU SHOWED THOSE LIBURLS

Ummm I'm pretty sure that anarchists aren't liberals... Anarchists sort of opposed to any power structure... and of course soap. Nice of you to make the assumption though.
posted by TetrisKid at 8:33 PM on January 20, 2005


I know a lot of "black clad anarchists". The same kind that they're talking about in the article. And none of them would be stupid enough to assault someone at a protest, regardless of how badly that person pissed them off. Why? Because undercover police are mingling in the protest crowd, uniformed police are videotaping everything, and everyone knows that.

I think this story is a load of made up horseshit.
posted by cmonkey at 8:34 PM on January 20, 2005


OH BURN YOU SHOWED THOSE LIBURLS

Ummm I'm pretty sure that anarchists aren't liberals... Anarchists sort of opposed to any power structure... and of course soap. Nice of you to make the assumption though.

Yeah, I know that, I was making fun of your bafflingly ignorant generalizations, chief.
posted by cmonkey at 8:37 PM on January 20, 2005


sigh. this sign has gotten pretty old. War has not solved Nazism or Communism.. They both have active parties here in the U.S. and well slavery still exists.. Ideologies don't disappear because a war was lost.
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:55 PM on January 20, 2005


recurve: But could you explain what you think effective, modern descension should look like? Or give a living example.

Not at the national level in this country, no. But I'm always given hope when I read about union activity in the service sector: hotel workers, etc. The thing about nonviolent social change is that one should never dissent. Talking about the things which shouldn't happen, while sometimes necessary, is not a substitute for the creation of a new world.

Most of the functional, successful examples of this are at the local level - community gardens, resistance to corporate development, etc. That's the way it has to be, since the farther up the pyramid of political power in the US you go, the more you have to compromise your purpose, until you're at the top of the heap and totally empty of truth.

Also, most of the interesting local developments are in the Global South. The US, I'm fairly convinced, is an empire in decline, and probably shouldn't be considered the bellweather for progressive social change. The peace communities in Colombia are very interesting as a "third side" to the usual binary constructions of the conflict there. Zapatistas are fun, if misunderstood and misemulated by tourist-activists.

One of the problems with trying to influence the federal government with traditional power politics is that America isn't a democracy anymore. I'm not sure what it is (and I'm fairly certain it's not Soviet Russia), but the circles of power are so very insulated from public opinion that the usual call-your-congresscritter-style campaigns are just sound and fury. That's the other part of the equation - that not only have activists adopted the simulacrum of social action but that the status quo has incorporated the feedback of the 50s/60s/70s disruption.

Take, for example, the modern war. It is, as many have noted (Baudrillard for one), placeless. Orbiting satellites send data to Australian-based US military bases which relay it to Florida-based US military bases which interpret it, which send it to Saudia Arabia-based military bases which process that, and send instructions to Gulf-stationed warships which fire missiles which kill a family in Falluja. It's easy to find the dead bodies, but the attacker - the focus of an anti-war movement - is disembodied and global.

The second Gulf War (the third by local counting) is not a war to us (the American public); it's an image. Accordingly, those of us opposed to it have no handle on it. The most we can do is weakly complain; it was never ours to contest, regardless of the "register your dissent" rhetoric (which I've always found distasteful - registering implies a bureaucratic interaction with the proper authorities; I want to bypass authority).

I wish I had a better kind of hopeful example, recurve. As it is I think we're better off trying to make sure there's something to live in when this all comes crashing down. Empire will runs its course, and won't be stopped by much else besides its impossibility. Once that's done, what then?
posted by Coda at 9:20 PM on January 20, 2005


While it is true that anarchist are not peace activists and that we have no obligation to be nonviolent, if this report is true I must go on record as saying that I disapprove of beating Republican provocateurs on the street. It's probably a good idea to differentiate ourselves by our conduct from fagbashers and kluxers.
posted by davy at 9:20 PM on January 20, 2005


This story is horseshit. There was so much security around. Everybody there was filmed from every angle. If anybody got beaten down like that, it was probably an anti-Bush protester. Although if it is true, ProtestWarrior should probably have the footage.

...and the Vietnam War sure stopped all that communism, that is, if you really care that much about stopping communism by killing people.
posted by destro at 9:25 PM on January 20, 2005


Sounds like they got exactly the response they were looking for.

You know, if what they want is to get beat up, I know a few clubs they could visit. Or I can set them up with some friends who would do it for free.


In other irony, the Right Wing Extremists t-shirt... I made a t-shirt last year with the faces of G. Washington, T. Jefferson, B. Franklin and J. Adams, under which it said, "Great Men, Liberals, Terrorists". Hardly right wing..
posted by MrBobaFett at 9:26 PM on January 20, 2005


ProtestCrybabies.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:38 PM on January 20, 2005


The ideologically pure peace protestors would never bring harm against another human. This story is just another fantasy from the WAPO elite. *looks around*
posted by drscroogemcduck at 9:54 PM on January 20, 2005


Fett points out something that seems lost in this liberal-conservative us v. them madness, liberalism, as it used to be understood, was the foundational ideology of America.

The founding fathers were undoubtedly liberal, plain and simple. During his inauguration today, Bush couldn't shut up about freedom and liberty, what could that mean?

Liberal shouldn't be a term of abuse, why has it become so? In Europe, liberal is a pejorative used to malign the other side. Liberals there are lassiez-faire capitalists and greedy corporatist free-marketeers. On this side of the Atlantic, they are whining commie pinko faggot-loving atheists.

Have freedom and liberty simply become happy sounding words that politicians use to pacify us?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:56 PM on January 20, 2005


Props to Coda for giving detailed & informed responses.

peace activists violently attacked someone for being a prick and intentionally baiting them.

ProtestCrybabies.

From your comments, I presume the next time a bandanna'd trustafarian acts like a prick and baits a cop that it's justifiable when he's kicked in the head. He got what's coming to him, after all. Would seeking police brutality charges make him a 'crybaby'? The double standards are coming fast and furious. What a puzzling response.

I think this story is a load of made up horseshit.

Question: why would a WaPo writer fabricate a story about a guy who's all over the web, and who could be easily reached to confirm or deny such a thing? If the writer was going to lie, wouldn't it be easier to just make up a name?

The ideologically pure peace protestors would never bring harm against another human. This story is just another fantasy from the WAPO elite.

I know, right? Clearly this story is another bit of propaganda from the ultraconservative WaPo machine ;)
posted by jenleigh at 10:01 PM on January 20, 2005


You know, I could quite happily kick your ass ('you' being, well, whoever) and still be wholeheartedly and wholemindedly against the war in Iraq or any war for that matter while I'm doing it, all without the tiniest smidgeon of cognitive dissonance.

Picking what amounts to an extreme, exaggerated endpoint of a spectrum of beliefs to stand in the full range of those beliefs (ie 'all violence is bad I'm a pacifist' to represent 'the war in Iraq is illegal') is what's called around these parts a straw-man argument, is it not?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:06 PM on January 20, 2005


...stand in for...
...illegal and wrong...

whoops.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:07 PM on January 20, 2005


The point was that there are a lot of different stripe of protester descending on DC today in a tradition of civil disobedience, with varying degrees of loyalty to that concept

Cool. A lot. So...you gave us examples of a grand total of...two.

Yeah. I'd always heard there was this *special* tribe that counted that exact same way: "zero, one....lots."

'Course, even non-special-tribe members may not have yet heard of this brand spanking new technology that searches the web and stuff and actually gives a couple more than, say, two or three examples of protesters on inaugural day:

http://news.google.com/news?num=100&hl=en&lr=&c2coff=1&tab=wn&ie=UTF-8&q=protests+OR+protesters+AND+inauguration+OR+inaugural&scoring=d
Results 1 - 100 of about 4,620 (ie lots) for protests | protesters AND inauguration | inaugural. (0.35 seconds)

e.g.

Protesters around the United States marched, waved banners and chanted the names of the country's war dead today as George W Bush was sworn in for a second term as president. "We want to spend today reminding this country, this administration, that people are dying," said veteran Steve Morse of Oakland, California, standing by a poster in front of San Francisco City Hall that read: "To Party Big While Our Troops Die Is Obscene."

Goddamned unwashed, undeodorized black booted peace-activist thugs.

rks404: cut it out with the conflation.

Yeah. Shit. Conflation sucks. Or maybe it blows - it's got that "-flation" suffix thing there tacked on, you know. It's like, say, when the black boots of "anarchists" in the linked article magically-meld-transform into the black boots of "anti-bush peace activists" in a MetaFilter front page post. It's like when a couple of groups transmogrify, um, into a representation of a lot of different stripe of protesters. Why, it approaches confellation! in its blow-suckness.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 10:10 PM on January 20, 2005


If you go to the Protest Warriors website, you can choose a Tom Clancy-style mission to defend the president. It is complete with a map of downtown DC and a timetable and some useful tips. Your "Operation Leader" is Gil, presumably the same Gil who succeeded in getting his own ass kicked. There is a web page to get in touch with them and join their mailing lists.

Are there any anarchists on MetaFilter? Surely someone is trying to get on the inside of one of these counter-events to disrupt it from within? Or is that hoping for too much organization from an anarchist?
posted by rks404 at 10:10 PM on January 20, 2005


Confellation sounds like it might be fun, you know, if I swung that way.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:14 PM on January 20, 2005



Question: why would a WaPo writer fabricate a story about a guy who's all over the web, and who could be easily reached to confirm or deny such a thing? If the writer was going to lie, wouldn't it be easier to just make up a name?


You are ignoring the vast right wing conspiracy. When a fellow traveller from the war party asks you to lie, you don't think twice about it. Half the time they don't even need to be asked to lie. They just know when a lie is needed to help with the war against the libruls.
posted by drscroogemcduck at 10:14 PM on January 20, 2005


Well said, Coda.

Protest - not just in the US but just about everywhere in the West - is a pageant of dissent to accompany the pageant of democracy. It's a colourful sideshow along the way to the main tent, where a handful of factions (in the US, only two; in some places a couple more) within a single power structure argue more and more vehemently about less and less divergent points of view, and no one who actually disagrees with the fundamentals of the imperial/corporatist program is even allowed inside the tent.

This is why - and I say this as a participant - the global protests against the most recent Iraq war ultimately felt so hollow and almost pointless. Though in sheer numbers they dwarfed the protests of the 1960s, there was never for a moment the slightest possibility that they would actually change anything. Not only did the actual decision-makers in the conflict not feel threatened, they felt (quite correctly, as it turned out) that there was no need for them even to pay attention.

I'm inclined to agree with the essay Yelling linked to - unless and until the opposition to the current system is capable of abandoning the politics of identity for the politics of collective action (and uniforms might in fact be an interesting and symbolically impressive first step), that opposition will remain a pantomime of dissent.

I wish I knew what sort of dissent would actually work (short of Coda's suggestion of bunkering down and waiting for the machine to implode). I can only hope in the face of very little evidence that it's the main topic of conversation at every anarchist rally, union meeting and global social forum these days.
posted by gompa at 10:16 PM on January 20, 2005


Definitely just read Thoreau & ActUp as Act & ThoreauUp. Heh.

Shouldn't the Protest Warriors have been out freely spending money all day?
posted by sellout at 10:38 PM on January 20, 2005


I think, there's a lot of good ideas starting to emerge in discussions like this. You don't deal with bullies by impotent complaining. Bullies love that shit. It just eggs them on.

The remaining usefulness of chanting and marching in circles is going to be community building and feeling good about yourself. The latter, though, I think is a little underrated. You can't build a community if everybody therein thinks they're powerless and I know traditional and nontraditional protest has helped me through some of my depression about the state of the world. Protest can maybe be a petrie dish for the uninitiated to grow until something better comes along.

If you're going to work from within the system, then you need to do it on a humongous, organized scale. To start, you'd have to somehow overhaul the mass media in a major way and hope people aren't just too desensitized already. To paraphrase McLuhan, desensitization to and dehumanization of violence fosters a police state because people want to feel safe. People are more afraid of terrorism and getting mugged and shot than they are of statistically more relevant deaths like slipping in your bathtub or dying in a car accident.

I'm starting to worry that even the most radical and laser focused civil disobedience is going to fall flat in the face of the modern jaded consumer. Rachel Corrie was little more than a blip in the media. Would a modern Gandhi's hunger strike even amount to a hill of beans in a nation that callously ignores its own child hunger problem? Would this administration and their supporters even notice if a group of protesters (1? 2? A dozen? A thousand?) walked to the capitol mall and doused themselves in gasoline for a self-conflagration protest or would it just end up as a nasty joke on the next morning's drivetime Clear Channel talk radio?

Exactly how many more times do we have to find, document and footnote the administration being caught in a direct lie for their supporters to begin to distrust them? If flip flops on WMDs and blatant Napoleonic rhetoric on spreading democracy don't set off the common people's red flags, then what will?

Organization is good. Getting off the grid sounds intriguing. It's starting to look like peak oil and environmental decay are going to start to hit hard in our lifetimes anyway. Let the fundies fight it out while culture is hoarded away by Survivors, like Isaac Asimov's Foundation or the medieval monks waiting for the end of the dark age.

Either we need to organize and fight in real, tangible ways or we need to build something new. As a nonviolent person who's decided martyrdom isn't for me, I'm leaning towards the life of building something good instead of the life of tearing the evil down.
posted by Skwirl at 11:14 PM on January 20, 2005


I presume the next time a bandanna'd trustafarian acts like a prick and baits a cop that it's justifiable when he's kicked in the head

Kicking trustafarians in the head is always justified.
posted by fullerine at 12:10 AM on January 21, 2005


Building something? But that takes work... :(
posted by Down10 at 12:20 AM on January 21, 2005


Three hundred thousand people banging bongos and dressed like extras in an Oliver Stone movie scares no one in America. But 300,000 people in slacks and white button-down shirts, marching mute and angry in the direction of Your Town, would have instantly necessitated a new cabinet-level domestic security agency.

spot on. the laughable attempts at change by shrill voiced look-at-me-i'm-fucking-progressive types on the left are nothing but a disservice to their cause despite their heart maybe being in the right place. this is the only effective means of protest. it's scary, it's visible, the government will pay attention to it giving it more legitimacy than it could ever pay for with ad money.
posted by rocket_skates at 12:20 AM on January 21, 2005


Freedom is good, as our President reminded us today. Certainly that includes freedom of speech, but what could be more American than being a dick for something you kinda believe in? So take faith in knowing that the mall-punk anarchists and reactionary fetishists are out there actually fighting each other for the right to shout louder than the other guy.

As Toby Keith sang, "We'll put a boot up your ass, it's the American way."
posted by eatitlive at 12:29 AM on January 21, 2005


Skwirl: The remaining usefulness of chanting and marching in circles is going to be community building and feeling good about yourself. The latter, though, I think is a little underrated.

The danger, of course, is that protest is reduced to catharsis. I marched as well, and 20+ of my friends were arrested in San Francisco on March 20th, 2003. I noticed two things. First, that such "civil disobedience" was exhausting. Some of the best and brightest people I knew spent a week organizing a meticulously planned and executed plan which required time, effort, and courage. Second, that it was cathartic. Everyone, following the marches, got together for a bit of mutual back-slapping and promptly dispersed to go watch the TV coverage of what they had just done. They felt they had accomplished something, and it even had overtones of the revolutionary aesthetic for which Che is the patron saint. We did something. And in the morning, things were exactly as we had left them. The war went on. Community building is only useful as far as it advances actual work.

Skwirl: Either we need to organize and fight in real, tangible ways or we need to build something new. As a nonviolent person who's decided martyrdom isn't for me, I'm leaning towards the life of building something good instead of the life of tearing the evil down.

See, this is one of the fundamental misunderstandings of nonviolence, as laid out by the main man, Gandhi. Gandhi's focus was not his hunger strikes and his marches and his time spent in jail. The most powerful act against British occupation, according to Gandhi, was that of khadi: the personal manufacture of cotton cloth to replace the British imports (which were themselves made with Indian cotton). This is why the spinning wheel is on India's flag, and why Gandhi's birthday is also called Spinning Wheel Day.

See, the Salt Satyagraha and the hunger strikes weren't the big deal. They were precise acts, designed to effect specific actions (having clear demands is one of Gandhi's five rules of a hunger fast). The big deal was Constructive Programme, Gandhi's plan to nonviolently revamp Indian society, thereby removing the weaknesses which had let the British in to begin with.

Constructive Programme consisted of:
  1. Communal Unity
  2. Removal of Untouchability
  3. Prohibition
  4. Khadi
  5. Other Village Industries
  6. Village Sanitation
  7. New or Basic Education
  8. Adult Education
  9. Women [i.e., improvement of the status of]
  10. Education in Health and Hygine
  11. Provincial Languages [i.e., preservation of]
  12. National Languages [i.e., the adoption of Hindi]
  13. Economic Equality
  14. Kisans [Peasants]
  15. Labor [i.e., unions]
  16. Adivasis [an ethnic minority]
  17. Lepers
  18. Students
Now, these are all particular to India circa 1941, when M.K. Gandhi wrote Constructive Programme, but as you can see, its scope is vast and focused on local actions. It was never thought that Gandhi would, on the basis of his saintly nature, starve his way to freedom. Instead, the plan was to build a better India which didn't need the British while offering the British an honorable way out. Likewise, the idea that we will all march our way to freedom, or, alternatively, wrest control of the federal government from the grip of the neocons is ludicrous. If we want to live in a different world, we have to start building it right now, by ourselves in isolation if need be. Gandhi's idea of swadeshi - literally "from one's own country" - is implicit in its fixation of local action. There's obviously more here than I can mention, considering how prolific and multilayed an author Gandhi was, but you get the gist of it - the important part is Constructive Programme, not civil disobedience. As the FBI realized when they were surveilling the Black Panthers, sometimes the most radical act one can do is to feed a hungry child.

gompa: I wish I knew what sort of dissent would actually work (short of Coda's suggestion of bunkering down and waiting for the machine to implode). I can only hope in the face of very little evidence that it's the main topic of conversation at every anarchist rally, union meeting and global social forum these days.

Well, now, I tried not to give the impression that we should simply "bunker down." There is no place which is not part of the Empire at this point, so simply waiting the fall out isn't an option. What I'm saying is that our actions should be undertaken with the idea that our way of life, as it exists now, cannot continue, and something must radically change in order for us to survive the inevitable change. In other words, we have the possibility to direct the Change, but avoiding the Change isn't possible.

And, if it makes you feel any better, my knowledge and ideas are a product of my interaction with establishment: in May [knock on wood] I'll receive my BA in Peace and Conflict Studies, with a concentration in Nonviolence. Sure, it's only UC Berkeley, but my point is that they teach classes about Gandhi's nonviolence, and that I'm not alone in learning about this.

rocket_skates: this is the only effective means of protest. it's scary, it's visible, the government will pay attention to it giving it more legitimacy than it could ever pay for with ad money.

See, it's still a signifier of the actual power which would effect change, and the change doesn't happen without the actual power; signs alone will not cut it. The impact of three hundred thousand people dressed in business attire marching on Washington is the impact of its referent: the idea that the foot-soldiers and buyers-in of the established order are rebelling, but without the actual mercenaries' revolt that such an act would signify, all you'd have would be hippies in drag. Showing up to a demonstration in a polo shirt only means two things: 1) you don't hook up with anyone, and 2) the cops hesitate before beating you up. What you need are the actual stock brokers marching on Washington, not people dressed as them; it's not the tye-dyed t-shirts which make them ridiculous, it's the fact that they have no political power.

(I apologize for the length of this post. I realize I'm posting manifestos, and I really don't want to drown out the conversation here, but it's my area of expertise and I've had a bottle of wine, so yeah. Plus, people are cheering me on [or at least tipping their hats, which is all the same to me], and I've got some shitty comments in my past to make up for.)
posted by Coda at 1:10 AM on January 21, 2005


Toby Keith has sand up his cunt.
posted by trondant at 1:13 AM on January 21, 2005


I agree with Coda that the idea of being on a protest march where all the participants wore office clothes would not work for me. Dressing up in a uniform has militaristic overtones for many people.
Everyone in similarly coloured clothes would work though, and would look effective from a distance, like a Brasilian samba bateria.
posted by asok at 3:16 AM on January 21, 2005


Dressing up in a uniform has militaristic overtones for many people.

People with a distaste for militaristic overtones should get used to losing whatever conflict they happen to be in. Even if they are on the right side.

There is a war going on for the heart and soul of America, and I can't get over the fact that it will most likely be won by the Christian right because the side that is interested in things like freedom and equality runs shrieking from 'militaristic overtones.'

Conflict and aggression are sometimes necessary for the defense of freedom. Did the founding fathers play with bongos and puppets, or did they kill British soldiers and sabotage commercial activities?

The 5 or 6 self-styled anarchists that break windows at a Starbucks have a greater (although still infinitesimal) effect on the status quo than 1,000,000 peaceful marchers at a rally. At least they cost someone in the ruling class a few hundred dollars.
posted by bashos_frog at 4:10 AM on January 21, 2005


Coda makes some thoughtful points -- I'm glad to see that PACS has maintained the rigor which always impressed me when I was at Cal in the early 90s.

(As an aside, I'd be totally fascinated to see a "ten years later" report of the PACS class of 1994 ... I can only imagine how rich I'd be if I'd paid any attention when the PACS guys I knew in 1992 were going on and on about organic agriculture...)

However, I think both Coda and Asok miss the point of the uniform idea. The referent is neither militarism nor membership in the economic elite. The uniform is a straightforward signal that the movement is capable of disciplined action under organized leadership.

If the left really perceived disciplined action under organized leadership as "militaristic" that would truly show how far they have to go to be players. Symphonies, football teams, consumer goods companies, restaurants -- all institutions which function best if they are flawlessly coordinated under strict command. Not a military unit among 'em.
posted by MattD at 5:02 AM on January 21, 2005


But 300,000 people in slacks and white button-down shirts, marching mute and angry in the direction of Your Town, would have instantly necessitated a new cabinet-level domestic security agency. Why? Because 300,000 people who are capable of showing the unity and discipline to dress alike are also capable of doing more than just march.

This is a great idea. The uniform doesn't have to be slacks and shirts and it doesn't have to be militaristic-- it could be something as simple as a color, as Yushchenko's Orange Revolution showed us. That might be easier to co-ordinate with protestors-- instead of saying 'wear shirts and slacks," you could just say "wear blue!" Then you could have volunteers passing out blue bandanas for those who forgot to wear blue for use as armbands, facemasks, hats, etc.

300,000 people all in the same color. Now that'll demonstrate some solidarity.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 5:45 AM on January 21, 2005


Thank you coda.
Perhaps you should drink wine more often. :-)
(And practice acts of penitence)

Lessen your dependence upon corporate entities.
Reduce energy consumption.
Grow a garden.
Don't patronize red businesses.
Anyone got ideas for a new Constructive Programme?
posted by nofundy at 5:48 AM on January 21, 2005


That's a nice division of the world into right assholes and left assholes, dhoyt. What a shame you weren't between them.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:11 AM on January 21, 2005


I presume the next time a bandanna'd trustafarian acts like a prick and baits a cop that it's justifiable when he's kicked in the head. He got what's coming to him, after all. Would seeking police brutality charges make him a 'crybaby'? The double standards are coming fast and furious.

Although I tend to agree with fullerine, I don't see a double standard here. Police are armed, (hopefully) trained representatives of the government, sent (hopefully) to protect civic order. The bar is set higher for them, for a reason.

Getting stomped to the ground by police is government-sanctioned repression, or at least brutality. Getting stomped to the ground by "anarchist" jackasses is called "losing a fight."
posted by PlusDistance at 6:37 AM on January 21, 2005


The presence of people actually using soap or deodorant probably threw them into a rage.
posted by TetrisKid at 8:10 PM PST on January 20


And I bet you are a big boy and use BOTH soap and deodorant.

Be sure it uses Dibutyl Phthalate and methylisothiazoline - aka MIT. Because you are an important, fragrant person with shiny hair.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:42 AM on January 21, 2005


Real organized protest takes intelligence, focus, civility and resolve. It's no accident that we celebrated Martin Luther King Day this week. These guys could learn from him.

Indeed. MLK understood that it is fruitless to use violence directly; you need to persuade the government to do it for you, in the form of getting laws passed that compell people to behave as you wish.
posted by Ayn Marx at 7:25 AM on January 21, 2005


Are these guys really Protest Warriors if they got their asses so readily kicked?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:44 AM on January 21, 2005


Are these guys really Protest Warriors if they got their asses so readily kicked?

They're warriors the way Grand Wizards actually know magic.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:13 AM on January 21, 2005


I was at the Protest Warrior beatdown, taking photos. And I'll tell you, their beatdown may not have been legal or constitutionally appropriate, but it was pretty much to be expected. These people are the ideological brethren of Fred Phelps and it's pretty easy to lok the other way when they catch a stomping--which totally validates them.

Once the cops showed up and got the story, they were like, "ah, MAN I hate having to care about these dipshits..." And as soon as the march started, nobody cared about those booboos at all.

I have a picture of one of their signs on my blog...seventh picture down.

These people won the country, and get to surf the wave of Bush's "mandate from the people" to do any old fcked up thing he wants for the next four years. Showing up to hassle a protest is really, really graceless winning.
posted by chinese_fashion at 8:35 AM on January 21, 2005


Fuzzy Monster- exactly.

I wouldn't much care for the office attire myself, I think it's kind of silly. The point is to unite. This has been a major problem with the left since it's so splintered. Dressing in kind, I think, would give them a taste of where they can go if they would keep quiet about NO-GMOs! or Ban Animal Testing! or No Space Pollution! for awhile and get in lock-step like the right has so effectively done.
posted by rocket_skates at 9:32 AM on January 21, 2005


I have a picture of one of their signs on my blog.

Hey, his list doesn't sound like too bad a life to me! Y'know, for someone who thinks he's on the winning side, Sign Guy doesn't look very happy--maybe he should give it a try.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:49 AM on January 21, 2005


chinese_fashion: good photos. The guy who wrote the 'day in the life of a leftist' sign forgot the last one: Profit!

But seriously-- if people saw each other as people and not as crazy cartoon stereotypes there'd be a lot less hatred, on the "right" or the "left." And then maybe people could learn to work together for the common good.

CUT TO: ParisParamus and Nofundy holding hands, skipping through a field of sunflowers in slow motion while "Get Together" by The Youngbloods booms out from the soundtrack...

Or not.

On Preview: I agree with you, rocket_skates, that The Left needs more focus. Abraham Lincoln said it best: "A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand."
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:52 AM on January 21, 2005


Coda,

so many good things said there, thanks for drinking and sharing.

"Community building is only useful as far as it advances actual work."

Exactly, one is worthless without the other. If you build a really strong community, where there is plenty of mutual aid and support but don't effectively challenge the powers that be, the powers that be will slowly poison the community no matter how strong it is.

And on the other hand, focusing only on work, without having a strong community, will make people burn out really fast and start dropping out like flies or simply drop dead.

These inauguration protests were unfortunately all pretty much about the former. Mostly because there were really no obtainable goals for the protest other than the self satisfaction Coda mentioned during the SF protests. There was no round of WTO negotiations to disrupt, there was no war to stop from starting. There is no election a couple months down the road to influence. No matter how effective the protests were, Bush is still going to be our president for the foreseeable future.

I'm still glad they happened though, because the amount of work that goes into organizing these protests is such a tremendous learning experience for those involved. Especially those of the anti-authoritarian bent, (i.e. non ANSWER.) Organizing non-hierarchically for such high intensity events really forces people to put their politics into real practice. It's one thing to say you want the world to be a better place. But to try to make it happen and live up to your ideal while doing it is a completely different story. But what excites me though, is the hope that those people will apply that learning in the future to get real stuff done, even if it is something like 10 people reclaiming a community garden.


I'm going to stop with that except for a quick comment about the protest warriors and the incident. First off, if the guy did get beat up there is no need to feel sorry, it is exactly what he wanted. They live for making protestors look like rabid animals.

During the RNC i had many interactions with these folks. I was handing out I Am New York City papers (self link) in Union Square at the same time the Protest Warriors were doing their Commies For Kerry shtick. I ended up talking to them for a while (we had a kind of Looney Tunes Sheep Dog/Wolf blue collar relationship going.) Mostly about how both of us were upset at both sides trying to hack each other's websites (whole other long story for another day,) and both agreed that no matter our differences, each side was entitled to their free speech.

But then later, i got to see them first hand in their bait and switch techniques. I was walking back to my friends in the lower part of Union Square when I saw my friend being interviewed by a couple 20 somethings on video camera. As i got closer i realized things were quite animated. Then i realized these guys were protest warriors in disguise, and were doing there best to try to get my friend to act like an asshole for their camera. I stepped in and ended up going at it with them for about 15 minutes. And whoo boy did i have to exert plenty of self control to prevent myself from socking the guy. Which is saying a lot for me because while I'm not a pacifist, I absolutely abhor violence in any form. It's not their ideas that pissed me off, it's just the smarmy attitude is just so damned effective of making you want to squash the guy.

But still, it doesn't excuse it. Because it lets them win, and makes them believe in their cause even more. Nothing strengthens a martyr more than to be beat down for his beliefs. And a martyr who has their choice president in office doesn't need any more strengthening.

Shit, I keep on rambling, one last point I swear. Please be aware, the anarchist label gets thrown around a lot during protests. Especially when the people are young and out of control. Just know that the relationship between some young kid looking for exciting ways to fuck with the establishment and a principled anarchist is the same relationship as a mugger to a capitalist banker. Although i would love to see crime reports titled "Dangerous capitalists strike again. Sixth mugging this week."

So just to make myself clear, small group of people resorting to bar room type brawling at a protest != all anarchists are out of control, anti-peace, violent psychopaths.
posted by lips at 9:58 AM on January 21, 2005


But, but, but, fuzzy monster, I don't hate parisparamus! He might be loads of fun (cough.) But before I hold his hand, does he have cooties and would he respect me in the morning? :-)
posted by nofundy at 10:06 AM on January 21, 2005


Dude wanted to get his ass kicked. He got his ass kicked. Why is anyone surprised?
posted by subgenius at 11:24 AM on January 21, 2005


rom your comments, I presume the next time a bandanna'd trustafarian acts like a prick and baits a cop that it's justifiable when he's kicked in the head. He got what's coming to him, after all. Would seeking police brutality charges make him a 'crybaby'? The double standards are coming fast and furious. What a puzzling response.

Not a double standard at all. Go read the reaction on FreeRepublic or little green footballs to the killing of rachel corrie. If anything, I was using the republican's own standard. You should be happy.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:02 PM on January 21, 2005


Sounds like some of y'all are jealous that you weren't there to put the boot in yourselves.

~guffaw~
posted by darukaru at 3:21 PM on January 21, 2005


Fucking right.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:39 PM on January 21, 2005


Actually, the real fun would be to watch the little snotnosed skinhead act tough and taunt a crowd, then when he gets what he wants and starts to simper and squeal like the little bitch he is in front of his camera. Always fun to see republicans' true nature laid bare.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:56 PM on January 21, 2005


ProtestCrybabies.

Fucking right.

Always fun to see republicans' true nature laid bare.



Sounds like we're seeing a lot of true colors being laid bare here, Mssr. Kettle.
posted by jenleigh at 6:14 PM on January 21, 2005


I live in the area and a friend of mine was at Malcolm X Park (ie Meridian Park) and he said as the group approached they were advised to turn around, they didn't, and they got what they asked for.
posted by stbalbach at 6:46 PM on January 21, 2005


Sounds like we're seeing a lot of true colors being laid bare here, Mssr. Kettle.

You're as subtle as a Protest Warrior.
posted by rks404 at 7:57 PM on January 21, 2005


jenleigh, I'm a leftie and damn proud of it. That being said, how would I feel if the shoe is on the other foot? Depends.

If someone at a pro-war demonstration who is yelling "war is not the answer" and holding a sign that says something to the effect of "Give peace a chance" gets their ass kicked, that's fucked up. Yeah, they put themselves at risk by being there, but they just wanted to express their opinion and were doing it in a peaceful, albeit loud, way.

Now, if someone a a pro-war demonstration were to get their ass kicked because they were taunting people and holding up a sign that said something to the effect of "you are the retarded spawn of satan, you republican piggie and soon I will crush like the wiggling insect that you are, all the while whistling a merry tune", I'd have to say he had it coming to him. I have little patience for people who get a kick out of riling people up and then whine like a bitch when one of the people they were goading gives them a boot party.

Is that bipartisan enough for ya?
posted by echolalia67 at 9:40 PM on January 21, 2005


I have to admit I have always admired the ProtestWarriors. (Disclosure: No, I didn't vote for Bush... and yes, I did cast a vote for President.) I like that they're not afraid to show up at protests and try to hold discussions. I like that (at least on their videos) they refrain from profanity.

Baiting? Maybe. Justifying violence? I should think not. Violence invites violence. I don't think non-threatening words should. I don't think that an insulting, nonprofane sign should justify violence.

My uncle (who is dead now) was a total hippie, but he stopped going to protests in the last years of his life, because he didn't want to be among the undignified protesters. He knew he was a better man than that.

Hell, he'd probably be the one to engage the Protest Warriors in a serious debate. I'd have loved to have seen that.
posted by bugmuncher at 11:08 PM on January 21, 2005


They try to hold discussions? Not from what I've seen, they claim they do. However from the clips I've seen they just bait and taunt people to instigate fights. And make sure it looks like the other people couldn't possibly hold a civil discussion.
posted by MrBobaFett at 12:16 AM on January 22, 2005


Too bad there isn't a large scale silence generator to shut those people up and cancel the sound waves they emit. Unfortunately though the Protest Warriors are trolls and it's best to ignore them completely. Don't shout back as they are bright people and will tear apart whatever weak argument you have.

Coda that was a good post. The point is that you have to articulate a coherent, cohesive argument, something that the protest left isn't doing. I keep going back to the Fire Dreier rallies on the right. They stick clearly to a topic (illegal immigration, the lack of reimbursement from the feds, and how our infrastructure is taxed by illegal immigrants), articulate a solution (militarize the border, pay more for contractors and lettuce) and don't let side issues get into the way (like David Dreier's alleged homosexuality). They work within the system by signing petitions to ban drivers' licenses for illegal alliens and by doing phonebanking and doorknocking for Dreier's challenger. You may not agree with their opinion on the issue but their tactics have forced Bush to de-emphasize his guest worker program.

If I was with the anti-war crowd, I would put more emphasis on the families of soldiers killed or injured in the line of duty. Most are still reluctant to criticize the administration publicly but more and more are doing so. Then take the best ideas of the answers to the inevitable "what will happen when you pull out the troops" and use that as a response. You can't fight the machine all at once, so chop it up into bite size portions that the media and the average public can understand. Targeted direct action, like when the people blocked Bechtel from conducting business, is better than just random people marching into the street which only pisses off the people that you want to convert. Limit the collateral damage.
posted by calwatch at 3:23 AM on January 22, 2005


peace activists violently attacked someone for being a prick and intentionally baiting them.

The next time the cops beat the shit out of some dumbass who was screaming insults at them during a protest ("provoking"), I trust we'll all gather here for the celebration.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:22 AM on January 22, 2005


I must say, though - I haven't seen a thread so thick with hypocrisy here since before the election.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:29 AM on January 22, 2005


Thinking that a government instigating a certain war is wrong doesn't mean one needs to be so much of a total passifist not to smack some annoying wihte-male-persecutoin-complex thug when he deserves it.

But if it was me I wouldn't waste the energy, little pricks like the protestcrybabies aren't even worth shitting on.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:30 PM on January 22, 2005


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