20 August 2007

At Glenn Greenwald's blog today...

in Salon.com, comment section writers have a mini sub-thread going about mass demonstrations. (The actual topic concerns the pro-war bias of foreign policy think-tank analysts.)

Here is my hastily-written contribution (edited - a little - for clarity):

OT: on being in the streets

Diverse Anti-war Protests Largest in DC Since Vietnam
by Benjamin Dangl and Brendan Coyne

Demonstrators from a variety of backgrounds and representing numerous causes came together Saturday by the tens of thousands with a unified message demanding an end to US military involvement in Iraq.

Washington, DC; Sept. 25, 2005 – [...] Estimates of the demonstration’s size ranged from 100,000 to 300,000 protesters. [...]

It's not enough to mass somewhere; something has to happen, a specific, achievable, and measurable goal; otherwise, the resource of a massive presence of souls is squandered. The problem in the example above is that it took place on Saturday, not much different than a picnic family reunion or Independence Day celebration. To be effective today, a disruptive presence mid-week is better. For one hypothetical example, thousands of people assembled peaceably in a way that ties up traffic in a window of time before a major vote in Congress could make the media take notice. The media are much more an integral part of the self-referencing noise machine of political power, industrial, and military interests than they were 40 years ago. That's why it is not enough to just show up en masse. The action has to be planned, timed, and coordinated with the understanding that the target audience is not so much "the American People" as it is the Media and elected/appointed government officials. (Unless I am misreading the poll reporting, "the American People" already want the erosion of Constitutional liberties to abate and already want us out of Iraq.)

I would argue that sustained large scale protests, or even sustained mid-scale protests, especially in DC, would have an effect whether or not they are accurately or extensively covered in the mass media. The simple fact of people assembling again and again -- or staying assembled until their just cause is recognized and public policy action undertaken -- can have a profound effect on those who make public policy.

One off protests almost never work.

But cynical dismissal of Public Protest is even less likely to lead to positive change.

-- Ché Pasa

This rings true.

Repeated actions are another specific tactic that could pierce the wall of obstruction willfully erected by the news media and Congress.

Any successful Direct Actions are components of an organic process which is part of a larger system. The questions we face should not devolve to debates over which tactic is better: blogging or demonstrating. Instead, we ought to deploy all useful tactics simultaneously.

It will probably be most useful to consider a systems approach to asserting the will of We the People as a long-term strategic value (several years), as opposed to thinking in terms of the end of the current Bush Regime as the over-arching time-frame.

If something additional is to happen (other than in the blogosphere, on AirAmerica, in LTEs, via PACs, and in letters to Congress), we really have to start now. A few weeks ago, in response to a similar OT sub-thread about "taking it to the streets" I established a blog site intended to serve as a central communication node (at least as a temporary initial staging area) for brainstorming, planning, and implementing a variety of some additional activist-oriented projects (demonstrations, workshops, boycotts, etc). It's still hovering over there at http://www.AchievingOurCountry.blogspot.com.

I invite anyone inclined to start now. You can't wait for someone else to do it. You have to do it. That is how people power generates.

Gordon Ginsberg


Jim White said...

It looks like a major demonstration is planned for September 15 (I know, another Saturday!). Do you have any links for people to get in touch with groups that may be helping various cities to organize group transportation and the like? If not, I'll see what I can find tomorrow.

Jim White said...

The September 15 demonstration is sponsored by both ImpeachBush.org and ANSWER. There is a listing of charter buses on the ANSWER site:http://answer.pephost.org/site/PageServer?pagename=S15_transportation.
MoveOn.org is also organizing vigils on August 28 to prepare people for the Petraeus-Crocker report. To find an event in your area check out http://pol.moveon.org/event/events/index.html?action_id=92.