There are so many things wrong with the whole concept of “MASS DISRUPTION to bring about change!” The most zealous protestors and their online supporters will tell you that it worked in the 1960s. Yeah, it did… but that was also a half a century ago. Taking to the streets was one of the few (only) ways to be heard. And the leader back then encouraged peaceful civil disobedience through the intentional violation of unjust laws. Lying in the middle of the street, “shutting down” a city, or doing a “die-in” at a train station or place of business isn’t civil disobedience, it’s being disruptive for the sake of being disruptive. This is 2014, there are now quite a few ways to get your message across to others, or to get loud about an injustice. We no longer have to stop traffic and create chaos to bring about change. What’s more is that, with this particular issue, most people – myself included – are largely in agreement with protestors(!). I don’t know if the cop who strangled Eric Garner should be found guilty of murder– it’s not up to me to decide… but it should have been up to 12 of his peers. As for Ferguson? We’ll never know exactly what happened with Michael Brown, but regardless, the way police treated citizens in the days, weeks and months following the incident was and is an outrage. And those are just two examples of the countless injustices that happen every day. Something does need to be done. The law enforcement establishment does need to better train police officers to deal with the types of situations that led to the deaths of Brown and Garner. They do need to better understand the very members of the communities they’re charged with protecting. The justice system does need more checks and balances to prevent the whitewashing of apparent crimes. But here’s the thing: THE MEDIA AGREES! MOST RATIONAL PEOPLE AGREE! We have momentum here. Let’s do something about it!
Or… we can just be a general nuisance to society while nothing actually gets done.
To protestors and their supporters, marching through the streets is the ONLY way to bring about this change. Clearly there’s no other way. You’re an idiot for wondering in this day an age of mass communication if there’s somehow a better way to bring much needed attention to an issue. God forbid someone asks if effectively using this great thing called the Internet (which, mind you, is the only reason we even know the name Eric Garner) or doing what reader (@Reef215) and his brother are doing…
… are better ways than lying in the middle of the busiest intersection of the city as 70,000 people try to leave an Eagles game. Or better than heckling parents and children at a Christmas tree lighting. Or lying in the middle of an Apple store in New York. Those aren’t first amendment rights. It’s not any right to create havoc for fellow citizens, to endanger police who are now spending their days trying to protect the very people calling them murderers, or to disrupt private business so you can play dead in the middle of their store.
The protesters and supporters act as though standing in front of your car or disrupting your day will, in some way, shape or form, solve this injustice. Bullshit. It’s not solving anything. It is grandstanding. You know what, if blocking traffic, or ruining some kid’s Christmas, or, hell, canceling an entire football season would bring about an end to racism, murder, war, whatever, then as far as I’m concerned, do whatever it takes. But we all know that’s not the case. Though the message varies – some supporters say the protest is to win hearts and minds, other say it’s to bring society to its knees until something changes – the fact remains that protests are designed to change the minds of a certain subsection of the population, whether that’s something as all encompassing as “white people” or as specific as the attorney general. Protesting is, at its core, sales. So here’s a little advice on doing that: know your audience. If you think that the best places to protest are Christmas tree lightings, train stations, busy intersections, football games and Apple stores, then you yourself are identifying your target audience. Know them. Know that one of the things that those people value is their time. Know that, rightly or wrongly, lying in the middle of a train station at 4 p.m. on a weekday says to them: “I don’t have a job and I’m just going to bitch about the way things are instead of doing something to actually change it.” Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not– but that’s how the message is perceived, and when you’re trying to get your message across to people, perception is all that matters. If people are shouting at you, “get a job!” and “get run over by a bus!” it probably means your message isn’t getting through and you should find a new tactic.
I have no doubt that FS09 is well-intentioned here, but his ridiculous example can basically be used the other way: Is your 4-minute traffic delay going to prevent unjust police killing or systematic abuse? NO! Of course not. And that’s my whole point. The protesters act as though there’s a direct correlation between their very specific disruption and bringing about change. I think that’s a wildly over-simplistic, rosy view of a complicated dynamic. There are a myriad ways to make a statement, to garner attention, without being a nuisance. Two wrongs don’t make a right, or lead to a right. All they do is make things worse and erode intelligent discourse. I’ve literally seen some of the protesters on Twitter using the hashtag #SHUTITDOWN. Yeah, that’s a great idea. Stupid battle cries like that are nothing more than extremely liberal opportunists taking a justified protest and turning it into a farce.
I’m all for that right protest, to speak your mind, to bring attention to an issue. But personally I think you’re an asshole if your version of doing that is inconveniencing or endangering decent people who are guilty of nothing other than trying to go about their daily lives. You’re not doing yourself or your cause any favors by annoying them. And I’m speaking generally here. Hell, I hate Comcast and think they, like Initech, represent all that is soulless and wrong with America, but I’m not going to encourage my followers to harass the 99% of the decent people who work there as they enter the Comcast Center each morning. I’d be a hypocrite to do so. There are better ways, just like there are better ways to fight this real injustice.
Protesters and supporters act like this is all a zero-sum game, that if you complain about or disagree with their tactics you somehow willingly stand in the way of justice. They’ll tell you that if you get pissed off because they stand between your long work day and going home, or picking up your kid, or going to your second job, or eating dinner, then you’re a racist who should kill yourself or whose wife should kill herself:
Lil Bro Baggins seems to be big on the suicide thing.
I’m tempted to explain that, say, the people stuck in traffic on a Wednesday night are people who may have worked through four years of expensive college so they could get the job that requires them to wake up at 6 a.m., drive an hour and a half into the city, work 10 hours, and then drive an hour and a half home to spend an hour or two with the very family they are trying to support… but doing so would only be giving in to the tiny fraction of people who think that their right to protest is greater than someone else’s right to move about freely without being harassed or stalled by lunatics. You don’t need a reason to be aggravated by someone who thinks their cares are more important than yours.