Go to previous post:
Okay, good point.

Go to Electrolite's front page.

Go to next post:
I pledge allegiance to the State.

Our Admirable Sponsors

March 21, 2003

The people, united, deserve a better slogan: From the New York Times:
In Chicago, protesters shut down Lake Shore Drive during the evening rush hour. Protesters in Atlanta and Boston also shut down major streets. About 100 protesters were arrested in Philadelphia, 8 were arrested in Los Angeles, and in New York, 21 people were charged with disorderly conduct after a crowd of several thousand lay down in Times Square.

Protesters in San Francisco, Boston, Washington and elsewhere shouted the same slogan, “This is what democracy looks like!”

No, that’s not what democracy looks like.

It’s what protest looks like, and it’s often the right thing to do. And of course “democracy” had better entail significant tolerance of unruly protest, or it’s not very democratic.

But that slogan is stupid, even by the standards of slogans. Long and often boring meetings are what democracy looks like. Tiresome horse-trading is what democracy looks like. Talking to your neighbors is what democracy looks like.

Democracy can function perfectly well without people painting their faces and blocking streets. It can’t function at all without that other stuff. [09:25 AM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on The people, united, deserve a better slogan::

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 09:51 AM:

Then again, there this important concept of "getting the message out." Most progressives feel like the are small islands of sanity in a sea of hostile "conservatives".

Suddenly, you see on the news that they've blocked Lake Shore Drive.

It takes a bunch of people to block the Drive. I've driven many miles on the Drive. I wouldn't walk onto it, alone, or in a small group -- it's a fast way to get hit by a very fast moving car (most likely, a taxicab.)

So, they are out there doing. *Other progressives are out there.* *They are doing something tangible.* *They are doing so mere hours after the start of this insane war.* I can see that there are allies. That they are as livid as I am. That they are *out there*. I am not alone. I may well be in the majority.

Better yet, this isn't your typical scripted political rally with red-white-blue bunting everywhere and those damnned styrofoam hats. These are basically *just happening.* People are dropping parts of thier lives, going out, and saying "No. Not in my name, not in my countries name. We, assembled, do protest. We, assemebled, will remember."

I refuse to belive that this is bad, that this is wrong, or that this is not part of Democracy. The Founding Fathers certainly considered it such. Please note the text of the 1st Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I keep hearing this. 'No, no, don't protest. Go out and do all that ward stuff, like good Democrats.' In many ways, it reminds me of the DLC "plank" during the 2002 elections. "You can't criticize the war against terror."

Frankly, that's bull. A big part of a democracy is getting the vote out. One of the best ways to do that is to show that there are other people out there, just like you, as angry as you, and that you can do something -- even if it's only blocking the Drive for a hour. Part of being a party is feeling like being a party member accomplished something -- even if only for an hour.

That's more that you'd done yesterday. That's a first step. That's a first good step. It's a far better use of our anger than what our enemies would do.

Is protesting all we should do? Is blocking the Drive enough? Of course not. But blocking the Drive is a start. It shows the country we, assembled, are angry. It shows that we, assembled, have fought this, are fighting this, and *will* fight this. It shows that this isn't over.

The more protests I see, the more hope I have.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 10:05 AM:

Do people actually decide in significant numbers "Hey, I'm going to see if I can block traffic on a major street"? And if so, why?

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 10:21 AM:

I don't mean to be flippant with the above, by the way. I'm just realizing once again how different my upbringing and my adult interior life are from others of folks I have some things in common with. For me, "What happens if I do this?" is a basic question to ask about any action, nurtured both by parents whose families have a history of engagement on social matters and, really, growing up watching a lot of nature and cience documentaries, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, and the like. "If I do this, then...something happens. Is it something I want to happen?"

Say that I am angry at the administration and its ability to persist in a course of action I feel pretty sure the public at large doesn't want much more than I do. I am, so this is an easy bit of speculation. I want to get together with like-minded folks and maybe stir up some enthusiasm for continuing the good fight. So I go out and interfere with traffic? What do randomly selected drivers, whose business I know nothing about, have to do with the administration?

I admit to a personal grudge against this particular tactic, of course. A friend of mine some years ago was having a severe reaction to mis-prescribed medication and being rushed by friends at hand to the hospital when they ran into traffic slowed down by a publicity stunt. A leader of the stunt heckled them as drunken frat boys for some time before realizing that this was something more, and quite grudgingly let them through. In the end, the delay imposed no lasting consequences...but it could have.

I have never seen anyone in favor of traffic blocking address this kind of situation. In any city, there are people there with serious time-dependent medical needs, worries about friends and loved ones, and a lot else. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett have a good bit in Good Omens about the cascading harm a blockage in traffic can cause. If traffic blockers acknowledged that they are making people's lives worse off and might be doing very grave damage indeed, based purely on the luck of the draw, and showed some sign of thinking about how to deal with that, I'd respect the activity a lot more. As it is, it looks to me like treating other people's lives as a canvas without considering the consequences, and part of my grievance with the administration is precisely its treating people as commodities, means rather than ends. But my life is no more available for use as your protest than it is for their balance sheet.

Ray Ciscon ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 11:12 AM:

Is this type of protest counter productive?

Peaceful, non-violent protest was a hallmark of the civil rights movement, and was a huge part of changing the hearts and minds of the average American. But does disruptive protest help or hurt?

On the radio yesterday, Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley (D) supported the right of the anti-war demonstrators to protest, but stated that he was concerned about the cost involved in policing the protest, especially if the demonstrators became surly, or violent.

This very situation happened yesterday, and according to the Chicago Sun-Times, more than 500 people were arrested for reckless conduct and/or mob action.

The costs to an already budget strapped city are large, so Mayor Daley has talked about trying to recoup some of the expenses from the arrested demonstrators, not a development I care to think about.

IMO rowdy demonstrations are counter-productive to the anti-war cause. If the demonstrators would abide by the laws, focus on the peace/anti-war side of the issue and stay away from aggressive anti-Bush arguments, I think it would play a lot better to those who lean towards regime change in Iraq (myself included), and to the general citizens of flyover country as well.



"The police aren't here to cause disorder, the police are here to preserve disorder." - Mayor Richard M. Daley (D-Chicago)

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 11:15 AM:

I would have no problem with protestors breaking the law, either, as long as there was some clear connection between the people who are subject to inconvenience (or worse) and the cause being promoted.

Timothy Burke ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 12:16 PM:

You know something? Here's an incomplete list of groups and causes that I'm guessing could get 500-1000 people out to block traffic on Lake Shore Drive if they felt sufficiently aggrieved about some public policy or even were just in a really bad mood and wanted people to know they were pissed off:

Dog breeders who compete in shows
Dungeons and Dragons players
The Rotary Club
Any union
The Libertarian Party
Fans of "Frenchie" from American Idol

I could go on. What would it show if they did? Nothing except that a particular group was unhappy about some particular sectarian interest. 500 to 1000 people are easy to come by in a democracy of 200+ million people, and even easier in the age of special interest politics.

Opposition to the war has to look different than that in its presence in order to begin to command the attention and political loyalty of the "silent plurality" of decent people who want to do the right thing but who aren't yet sure what the right thing is. When you block traffic and inconvenience people driving on Lake Shore Drive on the logic that they *deserve* to be inconvenienced because there's a war on, you're making the "silent plurality" the target of your rage rather than the goal of your mobilization.

And you end up just looking like a bunch of dog breeders or media fans self-indulgently pissed off about some highly private and inward-looking sense of moral superiority they have that derives from their particular interests and activities. Public protest of the showy and theatrical kind is not novel, nor confers upon the protester any kind of distinctively urgent right to public attention. Everybody does marches and protests now, from the Klan to PETA. It's become as banal a political tactic as campaign commercials and $1500/plate fundraising dinners.

Which is why I also simply do not understand this proposition that the left, feeling defeated, needs marches to make itself feel energized and alive again. There have been a LOT of "marches on Washington" in the last 15 years, some of which I've attended. It's not like we've all been hiding under a rock all this time, and now at last in one great march we screw up the courage to appear in public.

Alex Steffen ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 12:18 PM:

Patrick: the first time I heard the "this is what democracy looks like" chant was Seattle WTO. It made more sense then, as the protests were directly in front of (and in opposition to) an highly un-democratic body.

I suspect it's just protest legacy code now.

d ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 01:00 PM:

perhaps those inconvenienced by the street blockages should keep in mind that the people of iraq are being most sorely inconvenienced by our bombs dropping on them.

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 01:22 PM:

d - so does that make more inconvenience somehow right?

Seems to me that part of our grievance against Bush (and I entirely share this grievance with the protesters) is that he should be taking out his anger on bin Laden; but since he cannot reach bin Laden, he's taking it out instead on the nearest convenient target, which is Iraq.

Similarly, protesters who ought to be taking their anger out on Bush, being unable to reach him, are taking it out on innocent commuters instead.

They're as bad as he is.

Two wrongs don't make a right, d. And three rights don't make a left, either, not if the road is being blocked.

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 01:30 PM:

Erik Olson sees people blocking Lake Shore Drive and thinks, "Other progressives are out there. They are doing something tangible. I can see that there are allies."

I see them and think, "Oh no, my allies are a bunch of wackos."

Timothy Burke says that the number of protesters it takes to block Lake Shore Drive could be matched by the number of followers of many an insignificant movement. True, but surely he knows that only a small percentage of the supporters of a cause can be moved to get off their duffs and do anything about it. Sure, if all the D&D players in Chicago went out there, they could block the road. But the point is, they wouldn't.

Look at me: I entirely support what the protesters are trying, in their inept manner, to say. But I wouldn't be in a sit-in under any circumstances. I don't think I'm the only one.

BArry ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 01:39 PM:

I look at this debate, and I understand well the need to think about the effects these actions will have on others.

But I also note that Democrats are being called traitor for speaking, or not speaking, simply for being Democrats.

I note that 'standing with our President in time of war' didn't offer one whit of protection from GOP attacks in 2002.

I also note that protests were the *only* reason why many Americans realized that they were not in a tiny minority, in opposing Bush.

It wasn't Democratic politicians.

It wasn't the Democratic Party.

It wasn't our so-called liberal media.

It was people going out in large numbers, in events which had to be noticed. Events about which many worried, about who was in them, who organizing them, what sort of message did this send to other countries, and yadda, yadda, yadda.

aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 01:57 PM:

Erik, I agree that it's important to "get the message out", and that coverage of anti-war opposition gives heart to people who are anti-war and who, because of the communities in which they live, erroneously believe themselves to be alone. You are correct that that is part of the point of protesting.

However, not all protests have the same effects. Violent protests give people like Eugene Volokh's new blogging partner Clayton Cramer the ability to decry protestors as "terrorists" in a way which is credible to moderates at home; surely only terrorists throw rocks in the windows of innocent storekeepers. Similarly, protests which block the exits from the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, as the New York Times was reporting yesterday, tie up commuters in traffic for hours. Those commuters aren't thinking "no war in my name". Even if they agree with the protestors, they're thinking things like "God I wish i'd taken BART" and "Why don't the police clear the offramp" and "Eek! I'm late! I could get fired for this!". And those are the stories they tell their families and friends; and even people who weren't tied up in the traffic jam, but who hear about it while listening to commuter radio on their way to work, or on the evening news, can empathize with those positions - and the message of the protestors gets drowned out.

Such action does more harm than good; for every closeted progressive whose day is brightened by it, half a dozen people are left angry at the anti-war movement, and have become almost impossible to convince via reasoned debate.

Protests are good. Assembling before the white house, or city hall, or at the clock tower, or whatever, is helpful. Blocking freeway exits and throwing rocks in storefronts are not.

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 02:14 PM:

That's true.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 02:52 PM:

Such action does more harm than good; for every closeted progressive whose day is brightened by it, half a dozen people are left angry at the anti-war movement, and have become almost impossible to convince via reasoned debate.

Protests are good. Assembling before the white house, or city hall, or at the clock tower, or whatever, is helpful. Blocking freeway exits and throwing rocks in storefronts are not.

But, you know, I don't live in the UK. I live in the US. I live in a state where opposition to my position is very carefully coreographed -- where political commentators and media publishers stand ready to push the Government's line, where media conglomerates pay for rallies in support of thier ends, and where, for *merely thinking* that what the Administration does wrong, I'm a traitor. These people think that I should die, preferably painfully. How many of them rejected the statement that "The only thing McVeigh did wrong was to not park that truck in front of the New York Times?"

We gave to the opposition. We worked for them. We walked the streets. We *VOTED THE OTHER GUY INTO OFFICE*.

None of it worked. Our side of the debate barely ticks over, in a couple of blogs. Out there, in the real world, if you walk alone, with any symbol implying that you aren't completely and utterly for the administration, you are harrased and attacked. (Try it.)

And, now we have something that's saying to the World -- and to us, that there is an opposition in the US. That we are disgusted by these acts.

And, of course, our so call "spokesman" say "Well, no, children, that's not how you do it."

Fine. How do we do it? Give us a tactic, a tool -- that works. We've tried the press. We've tried the vote. We keep getting creamed. Now, some are trying something else. At least, they are getting noticed. That may not be much better. But it's a step better than before.

Give us a tool. Failing that, get out of the way. Telling angry people that anger doesn't help is counterproductive -- esp. when the counsel you are giving is one we've been given for the last decade.

We saw how well that counsel did us.

Jennie ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 04:03 PM:

I don't think anyone here is saying "don't be angry". I think they're saying "Don't be silly." It's a different thing.

Patrick explicitly did not say that protest is a bad thing.

Neither is anger is a bad thing. It's an incredibly powerful motivating force. Anger is also a hopeful sign: it means you haven't succumbed to despair. I'll take an angry team over an apathetic or a defeated one, any day. It's not known for leading to sensible behaviour, though, and if not carefully channeled can be counterproductive. It can also be hijacked.

What I've been hearing are a number of calls to make your anger darned well count, to use it in a way that doesn't make things worse for people who share your goals, and who might be your allies.

That's a far cry from telling people not to be angry.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 04:21 PM:

Erik: Anger is one of the best motivators, really. What I'm saying is that anger does not excuse you from the kind of accountability we should all practice all the time, just as your enemies being scumwads is not license for you to abandon morals or ethics. So you're angry. So'm I. Does subjecting random people to harassment, intervening with their unknown lives without concern for the consequences to them and the good they may do, help? Does it win allies? Does it build unity of purpose and action among those who already agree on the problem? Does it increase the chances for peace, security, liberty, prosperity, or wisdom?

And yes, even angry people ought to ask themselves questions like this.

aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 04:46 PM:

Eric - I'm not sure who the "so-called spokesmen" of whom you speak ar, and I haven't heard anyone telling angry people that anger is counterproductive; nor have I said that myself. What I have said, and what I have heard people say, is that it is important to not be controlled by our anger, and to not let our anger lead us to do stupid things.

I would give you a tool if I had one. I don't. Just an observation: if you look at a lot of the significant grassroots political movements in this country - abolition, say, or prohibition, or giving women the right to vote, or the civil rights movement - they all took decades to be successful. Decades of hard work by dedicated people who at times felt so utterly defeated that our despair today pales by comparison. Political change doesn't happen quickly, unless you impose it by force, because political change requires that you win the hearts and minds of the people, and that you convince them to believe what you believe. It can be done. But it isn't going to happen overnight. And violent traffic-blocking protests will make it harder, not easier.

if you walk alone, with any symbol implying that you aren't completely and utterly for the administration, you are harrased and attacked

That hasn't been my experience. But I live in an unusual part of the country; i'll concede that it's possible that in much of the country that's true. But even then, how different is that? Civil Rights activists were murdered. So were union organizers in the 20s and 30s. A little bit of harassment isn't good, but it's a small price to pay, historically speaking, for standing up for your beliefs.

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 04:54 PM:

Erik: Use your anger! Don't just lash out and do stupid things. You can't actually shut the country down and stop the war that way, as some of the street-blockers have said they intend; you must know that. And you're playing into your enemies' hands by trying.

Follow the lessons of the Civil Rights movement and be dignified. Let your opponents become the sweaty, angry ones. Continual pickets at the White House and other sites of war support; peaceful, non-obstructive marches everywhere -- these will achieve the goal of showing how strong the movement is. If there is to be conflict, let the other side do it: pure martyrdom, even if it's only by firehoses, is a great tool to let your opponent's strength defeat himself.

Roz Kaveney ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 06:15 PM:

It is only worthwhile to block the streets as a piece of direct action when blocking the streets has some sort of match with the cause you are promoting. A protest against traffic, say, or an attempt to jam up a financial district.

However, many demonstrations will block the street as a by-product because roads are not big enough to carry them conveniently. If roads were, we would not have traffic-jams.

The demonstration is the intended effect, and the jamming the roads is simply a by-product.

On Tuesday, I spent the afternoon lobbying my MP and I was part of a very long queue which waited to get into the House by dribs and drabs in order to do so. There was a demonstration on the other side of the road chanting slogans, but we stayed quiet because we were in a queue to lobby. After we had done that bit of our democratic duty, many of us came out of the House and crossed the road and chanted slogans. Both of these actions were appropriate means of democratic protest.

What would have been dumb would have been to chant while we were queueing and risk getting moved on and losing our chance to lobby.

Protest and democratic action both need the application of common sense.

skimble ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 07:37 PM:

Agreed: "This is what democracy looks like" is a stupid slogan.

But so is "United we stand." Stand where? At the World Trade Center? Or in Baghdad?

Big public actions are just letting off steam that cannot be let off any other way. I was at the Chicago protests yesterday, and they're kind of idiotic and important at the same time. Sure, half the kids don't know exactly what they're talking about, but they feel instinctively 97 and I believe in this case, correctly 97 that something is very, very wrong, even if they are too inarticulate to name it in a way that meets the approval of those who agree with their general stance.

There is a very large emotional component involved here. All that pent up energy needs somewhere to go. As far as disruptions are concerned, the annual Chicago Marathon and any of the Bulls championships were far more disruptive to public life than anything that happened here yesterday 97 without hundreds of arrests.

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 07:55 PM:

I'm opposed to closing city streets for marathons too. Marathons should be held out in the Greek countryside.

But at least they're planned way in advance, so you can work around them, and they cooperate with the cops and provide plenty of traffic control.

--k. ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 09:07 PM:

As an historical footnote, This is What Democracy Looks Like was the title of a documentary about the Seattle WTO protests. --There's kind of a chicken-and-egg thing there; for all I know, the documentary title comes from a trend of chanting "This is what democracy looks like" at gatherings such as these. But the phrase and the moment are linked. I think there can be said to be something of a reference to the Seattle protests. Tradition and all, you know.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 09:35 PM:

I would strongly support efforts to reduce the extent to which athletic events and celebrations thereof can interrupt traffic, too. I'm much less supportive of efforts to say "this other thing is a nuisance, so you shouldn't mind mine, either".

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2003, 09:55 PM:

Jim Fiscus has pointed out that if you have a thousand people willing to put a half-day into something, you could do a lot He's right. They could clean a school, perhaps, or do a lot of shelter building, or clean streets made messy by others' carrying on, or deliver many groceries to invalids and shut-ins, or otherwise clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and comfort the afflicted. And such things would leave easy-to-spot monuments to what people who say they care about the citizenry and the republic do when they want to make a point.

andrew b. ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2003, 08:13 AM:

how about a little rogue advertising?
A little spray painted message goes a long way to make one feel that he is not alone.

There is a limited amount of "space" - alongside a road, in the airwaves - for your eyes, ears and mind. It could be argued therefore that some of these limited spaces are a public good. The control of these public spaces is often by less-than-democratic means. Unless democratic means one-dollar/one vote. Maybe some public spaces should be re-appropriated.
There is a certain level of inequality that would be unacceptable, no matter how "naturally" it had evolved. If a George-Bush-led corporate cabal controlled all media, you'd deface a billboard of govt/corporate propaganda - and consider it your right as a human being. Of course, this is nowhere near the reality, but where's the line? Desperate times...
Of course, this is purely hypothetical.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2003, 12:45 PM:

(deleted at Bruce Baugh's request)

charlie b. ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2003, 06:44 PM:

Well, without sympathising for a moment, I would agree the slogan busines is a trifle difficult. There would appear really only to be two possibles: "Victory to the USA" or "Victory to Saddam". Victory to the USA might be expressed as "Saddam Must Go" or "Freedom for Iraq", while Victory to Saddam could also be expressed as "Bring Our Boys Home Now" or "Our Country is Wrong" or words to that effect. That has been the choice of protesters in London (along with a lot of flags and slogans supporting the Palestinians and other Muslim causes). Problematical as it is, protest against war policy while a country is at war inevitably gives succour to the enemy, either as propaganda, or reason for hoping the enemy will collapse because of domestic divisions. In this case it will also demoralise the Iraqi people who will (rightly) fear that if protesters like those in London prevail, they will be left high and dry, with Saddam in power and able to begin a new phase of mass murder. Either way, it will prolong the war, increase the likelihood of US, UK and Iraqi deaths, and demoralise our troops. It is, of course, frustrating if the Bush administration is your real target (the London protesters, who target America and capitalism, and have spent long years in bed with the USSR have no such qualms). But if anyone is serious about not endangering unnecessary death and misery, and reinforcing the fear on which Saddam's regime lives, then leave off the partisan trench warfare for two minutes and think of the Iraqi people (who don't much figure in any of these posts, I note). I think the best slogan would be "Freedom for the Iraqis". But it doesn't mention Bush, or Blair, or focus with self-righteous anger of "Who do they think they are?"

Yehudit ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2003, 08:34 PM:

Even Justin Raimondo is seriously fed up with the antiwar protesters.
""Masked thugs stopped cars, and tried to drag people out. These "peaceful" protesters had quite an array of weapons: stun guns, crowbars, brass knuckles, and other instruments of mayhem were confiscated from arrested demonstrators. They deliberately blocked streets, tied up the entire city for 8 hours, broke windows, threw rocks, and wreaked havoc, acting like the hooligans they are. Some of them wore masks, demonstrating that they are also cowards. News crews were assaulted with spraypaint, rocks, and other objects.

A milder version of these tactics were replicated in Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York City, and elsewhere, but San Francisco was, naturally, the worst. Over 1,000 people were arrested in the City by the Bay, but most were, unfortunately, released. Shouting their defiance 96 "We92ll be back! We92ll be back!" 96 they are still out there, as I write [10:00 PM, March 20], moving in groups from intersection to intersection, creating as much chaos as possible. They are organized, they are violent, and they are nuts."

Stephanie Zvan ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2003, 02:22 PM:

I think the toughest part of using a demonstration to get your message across is the anonymity. People in crowds that large tend to stop being individuals. While that's bad from the inside of the crowd (think mob behavior), it can have even worse consequences from outside.

Who here hasn't passed a group of people with signs and linked arms and loud slogans--supporting whatever cause--and thought, "Oh, those people"? We've seen enough people protesting enough causes, using all the same tactics and theatrics, that we start to lump them together and to be a little fatigued when we see a new protest.

Which is not to say that these protests don't have their place. They can demonstrate numbers and passion to a government that is open to listening. Ours currently is not.

So if you want to reach the people who will be voting in the next election instead, try something a little more risky, something that makes you less anonymous. Unless you've surrounded yourself with a little pink bubble, chances are good you have friends, neighbors and coworkers who support Bush and support the war. Talk to them when the opportunity arises.

Tell them you're afraid. Tell them you're concerned about a president who neglects our economy for a war in which we have nothing to win, who takes away our rights in the name of bringing them to someone else, who dismisses our allies and makes new enemies in order to defeat one "enemy."

Tell them this respectfully. Don't tell them they should be afraid. Don't tell them you hate Dubya or that he was never elected to office. Those are fighting words that make you "Oh, those people."

Then listen to them. They may agree with you on more of those points than you think and feel vindicated by finding someone else who thinks this way. Or they may tell you why they're not afraid of Bush or why they are afraid of voting for a liberal. Listen to them. Don't argue.

If the person you are talking to is reasonable, you will now have established yourself as another reasonable person with whom a safe discussion of differing political opinions is possible. And you will know what motivates this person politically.

Now you will be in a position to be persuasive. I don't mean ranting or preaching. That will shut down this new political relationship as quickly as anything could. But it is amazing how persuasive one can be simply by demonstrating that one is rational and open to discussion and still holds deep political beliefs.

It is risky. It requires you to be diplomatic and vulnerable. But it works remarkably well on all but raving loons.

Sorry for the long post.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2003, 07:49 PM:

Stephanie Zvan:

"People in crowds that large tend to stop being individuals."

This has never happened to me, and I've been in many large crowds.

I think there are mob-based phenomena, but I think they happen under conditions somewhat more specialized that "large crowd" or "demonstration." The last big crowd I was in was the January anti-war demo in DC. Individuality abounded, I assure you.


"San Francisco was, naturally, the worst."

I'm not actually all that fond of San Francisco, but this seems like a cheap-and-easy unearned slur.

Cappy Ahab ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 03:03 PM:

The main reason I go to massive protests is for the adrenaline rush, the confrontation, the conflict, the catharsis. I love it when the cops get antsy, break out the sticks, shields, and gas. It's like recreating a type of war, and it is addictive.

I guess that's why I make so little sense. To be perfectly honest, I'm just a protest junkie. I really don't care if I'm right, as long as I'm heard.