Ministry of Silly Protests

Ministry of Silly Walks

Code Pink’s recent “protests” on the 5th anniversary of the war included yoga, organic lunches, movies with popcorn, and, oh yeah, bringing pink berets to Marines shipping out.

At times like this it’s hard not to wonder whether Code Pink and the Berkeley City Council aren’t agents provocateurs, a kind of self-parody strike force sent by Dick Cheney to discredit opposition to the war.

Face it folks, the recent antiwar protests were not only too often pointless, as witness these silly Code Pink actions, but the turnout for mass protests nationwide was dismal. Sure, people are preoccupied by the economy and presidential election, but these kinds of antiwar protests have been done over and over again for five years now, are increasingly ineffective, generally just preach to the already converted, and do little to sway mass opinion (which already opposes the wars anyway.) The groups that organize such protests often use them as a way to build their membership – but that’s hardly going to end the wars. New ideas and approaches are needed.

Technological advancement, particularly the rise of the Internet, is bringing about a renaissance of grassroots activism on the left, yet there are still many people who believe that if there is a problem you want addressed or a policy you want changed, the only thing to do is to gather as many people as you can in a public place to hold signs and perform call-and-response chants. “What do we want? To feel like we’re accomplishing something! When do we want it? Eventually!”

While people in the streets can focus attention on a cause, the cherished leftie belief that masses of people in the streets inexorably leads to mass change appears erroneous.

What worked for the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s is not going to work today.

Especially not when the size of such mass protests are getting smaller, not larger. We need to engage everyone in this, including those who would never go to a mass protest. That means new approaches and strategies are needed. Because what we’re doing now no longer seems effective.

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