Where Is Everyone?

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Bush Administration, Iraq War

[Update: Macranger ought to have read my post all the way through before he linked to it. I don’t say what he seems to think I said.]

My impression is that yesterday’s antiwar protests got more news coverage than the big march around the White House in September 2005. And this is true in spite of the fact that the crowd showing up for the 2005 march was much bigger, estimated — conservatively — as between 100,000 and 200,000. From news stories (which, I realize, always lowball these things) it seems the turnout in Washington yesterday fell short of 100,000. Although nobody really knows.

More news coverage is not necessarily better news coverage. Take a look at the Washington Post story by Michael Ruane and Fredrick Kunkle:

A raucous and colorful multitude of protesters, led by some of the aging activists of the past, staged a series of rallies and a march on the Capitol yesterday to demand that the United States end its war in Iraq.

Under a blue sky with a pale midday moon, tens of thousands of people angry about the war and other policies of the Bush administration danced, sang, shouted and chanted their opposition.

They came from across the country and across the activist spectrum, with a wide array of grievances. Many seemed to be under 30, but there were others who said they had been at the famed war protests of the 1960s and ’70s.

Note especially —

Among the celebrities who appeared was Jane Fonda, the 69-year-old actress and activist who was criticized for sympathizing with the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. She told the crowd that this was the first time she had spoken at an antiwar rally in 34 years.

“I’ve been afraid that because of the lies that have been and continue to be spread about me and that war, that they would be used to hurt this new antiwar movement,” she told the crowd. “But silence is no longer an option.”

Dear Jane: Get a blog.

I didn’t watch television yesterday but I take it the television news was All About Jane. I don’t know that this hurt the cause — people still enflamed about Jane are likely to be Bush supporters, anyway — but I can’t see that it helped, either.

At the Agonist, Sean-Paul Kelly criticized Jane’s attendance and got slammed for it in comments. But I’m with Sean-Paul here. Public protests are about action in service to a cause. Whether Jane Fonda has a right to protest — of course she does — it not the point. Jane Fonda has a right to smear herself with molasses and sit on an anthill, but just because one has a right to do something doesn’t make it smart.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — good public protests are good public relations. Protest movements of the past were effective when they called attention to an issue and gained public sympathy for it. And the secret to doing this is what I call the “bigger asshole” rule — protests work when they make the protestees look like bigger assholes than the protesters. Martin Luther King’s marches made white racists look like assholes. Gandhi made the whole bleeping British Empire look like assholes.

The Vietnam-era antiwar protesters, on the other hand, more often than not shot themselves in the foot by coming across as bigger assholes than Richard Nixon and other Powers That Were. Steve Gilliard has a good post up today reaffirming my opinion that the Vietnam antiwar movement did little or nothing to actually stop the war.

And, m’dears, the point is to stop the war. It is not about expressing yourself, feeling good about yourself, or even “speaking truth to power.” It is about stopping the war. Action that does not advance the cause of stopping the war is not worth doing.

In fact, I wonder if these “raucous and colorful” public displays might be trivializing a deadly serious issue.

I disagree with protest defenders that any street protest is better than no street protest. Believe me; no street protesting is preferable to stupid street protesting. I have seen this with my own eyes. And these days there are plenty of ways to speak out against the war than to carry oversized puppets down a street.

That said, based on this video, the protest in Washington yesterday seemed a perfectly respectable protest, although not notably different from other protests of recent years. Some politicians actually turned out for this one, which was not true in September 2005. This is progress.

IRAQ WAR PROTEST – JAN. 27, 2007

John at AMERICAblog had mostly positive comments, also.

But will public protests like this change any minds that haven’t already been changed by events? I don’t see how.

That said, I want to respond to this post by Rick Moran of Right Wing Nut House:

The May Day protest in Washington, D.C. sought to shut down the government. Some 50,000 hard core demonstrators would block the streets and intersections while putting up human barricades in front of federal offices. How exactly this would stop the war was kind of fuzzy. No matter. Nixon was ready with the army and National Guard and in the largest mass arrest in US history, clogged the jails of Washington with 10,000 kids.

Where are the clogged jails today? As I watch the demonstration on the mall today (much smaller than those in the past) I am thinking of the massive gulf between the self absorbed hodge podge of anti-globalist, pro-feminist, anti-capitalist, pro-abortion anti-war fruitcakes cheering on speakers lobbying for Palestinians, Katrina aid, and other causes not related to the war and the committed, determined bunch of kids who put their hides on the line, filling up the jails of dozens of cities, risking the billy clubs and tear gas of the police to stop what they saw as an unjust war.

The netnuts are fond of calling those of us who support the mission in Iraq chickenhawks. What do you call someone who sits on their ass in front of a keyboard, railing against the President, claiming that the United States is falling into a dictatorship, and writing about how awful this war is and yet refuses to practice the kinds of civil disobedience that their fathers and mothers used to actually bring the Viet Nam war to an end?

I call them what they are; rank cowards. There should be a million people on the mall today. Instead, there might be 50,000. Today’s antiwar left talks big but cowers in the corner. I have often written about how unserious the left is about what they believe. The reason is on the mall today. If they really thought that the United States was on the verge of becoming a dictatorship are you seriously trying to tell me that any patriotic American wouldn’t do everything in their power to prevent it rather than mouth idiotic platitudes and self serving bromides?

He as much as admits of the May Day (1971) protest, “How exactly this would stop the war was kind of fuzzy.” If I actually believed that getting myself arrested by blocking the door to the FBI building would help end the war, then I believe I would do it. But since I don’t see how such an arrest would make a damn bit of difference, except maybe get my glorious little self in the newspapers (and “no fly” lists), why would I do that? And why am I a “coward” for not doing it?

I haven’t yet smeared myself with molasses and sat on an anthill, either. Does that make me a coward? Or not crazy?

The other part of this post I want to respond to is his accusation that the antiwar left is “not serious.” He speaks of “the self absorbed hodge podge of anti-globalist, pro-feminist, anti-capitalist, pro-abortion anti-war fruitcakes cheering on speakers lobbying for Palestinians, Katrina aid, and other causes not related to the war,” and wonders why more of us don’t show up. Well, son, a lot of the reason more people don’t show up is in fact “the self absorbed hodge podge of anti-globalist, pro-feminist, anti-capitalist, pro-abortion anti-war fruitcakes cheering on speakers lobbying for Palestinians, Katrina aid, and other causes not related to the war.” It is damn frustrating for those of us serious about ending the war to spend the time and money to go somewhere for a protest and find our efforts diluted by the vocational protest crowd.

Moran is making the same error that Gary Kamiya made; he assumes that a “real” antiwar movement has to look and act just like the Vietnam-era antiwar movement. I say again, that movement failed. Why should we be emulating it today?

Moreover, claiming the left isn’t “serious” about ending the war because we’re not all engaging in pointless publicity stunts rather ignores what we are doing, and what we have accomplished. Remember the midterm elections?

Please, Rick Moran, get serious.

As for Mr. Moran’s question about people opposed to the war — “Where is everybody?” — I believe they’re here:

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42 Comments

40 Comments

  1. david kincaid  •  Jan 28, 2007 @1:21 pm

    The stopping of the Vietnam debacle occurred when enough senators and congressmen, Repubs and Dems, got worried enough about their lucrative careers in Washington, and took action to quash that worry. Same thing today. Your assertion that the demonstrations did not affect the ending of the war is naive. If you look out the window in your Wash. office and SEE half a million people in the streets it has an effect on you as a politician, especially when your staff reports that their were a lot of middle age and grays around with all the filty hippies. Many kinds of communication affect a greedy politician, and they are the ones who cast the votes. It will be extremely nervous Repubs who enable the Dem majority to bring the wars in Iraq and Afganistan to a halt. Advice from an ardent adversary of mine in the past, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Funky people in the streets are not perfect, but they could have stayed home and watched the game, or just web surfed all day long. Admire your work, always. cdk

  2. Clayton  •  Jan 28, 2007 @1:49 pm

    “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — good public protests are good public relations.”

    Right on Barbara. It was indeed impossible for any of the major media outlets to make mention of yesterday’s protest without leading the story with a reference to Jane Fonda’s appearance.

    I’m young at just twenty-four years old, but even I understand (without remembering) how inflammatory the sight of Ms. Fonda would be. The organizers of this march should have given greater consideration to the weight of her appearance. Many creatures of the Vietnam era are still among us, and if we progressives should have learned anything over the last thirty or forty years, it’s that the Right can hold a grudge for a very, very, very long time.

  3. maha  •  Jan 28, 2007 @1:55 pm

    Your assertion that the demonstrations did not affect the ending of the war is naive.

    No, it’s based on both hard data and personal observation, which are discussed in posts linked here:

    http://www.mahablog.com/2007/01/16/augment-the-objections/

    http://www.thenewsblog.net/2007/01/myth-and-reality.html

    Start clicking.

    I think it’s extraordinarily naive to think the demonstrations DID stop the war, actually.

    I agree with not allowing perfect to be the enemy of good, but stupid is ever the enemy of effectiveness. Or something like that. The 1960s protests often were counterproductive, and I think their chief accomplishment was helping to re-elect Richard Nixon.

    If the protests were just innocuous that would be one thing, but I remain concerned that they could set us back.

  4. whig  •  Jan 28, 2007 @1:55 pm

    As I see it, the purpose of demonstration as anything to bring about peaceful change, is communication of our idea. If demonstration is ineffective, or more to the point less effective than some other ways of communicating our idea, it ought not to be preferred. With that said, it may be the best avenue for some people, but not for others.

    You have a platform here, a place from which to speak and be read by those interested passers-by as well as those who are already committed to your message. You can use as many words and images as you need, you could even incorporate other media, and avoid disruption from opponents.

    Your blog, like mine, is a nearly ideal place from which to stand and proclaim for peace.

  5. Doug Hughes  •  Jan 28, 2007 @1:56 pm

    At this point, blogging and demonstrations are more about convincing Nancy Pelosi to escolate pressure on the White House than it is to convince Bush NOT to escolate. Becuase Bush will continue to send increasing numbers of troops regardless of the results of the ‘surge’. If the government in the Green Zone folds, Bush will claim the new leadership provides us an ‘opportunity’ for progress, etc, etc.

    IF the Democrats think they can get away with a symbolic vote against the war, and move on to a new agenda while Bush pursues Armageddon in the mid-east, they will. Bush failing badly is GOOD for the Democratic agenda, but GIs ought not to die in a pointless war so Dems can score points.

  6. maha  •  Jan 28, 2007 @1:59 pm

    As I see it, the purpose of demonstration as anything to bring about peaceful change, is communication of our idea.

    Street demonstrations NEVER “communicate ideas” to people who don’t already hold those ideas. Their impact is purely emotional. They either gain sympathy for your side or for the other side. The best outcome you can hope for is to demonstrate that you are a serious person worthy of being listened to; THEN you’ll get a chance to “communicate ideas” in ways other than public protest.

  7. maha  •  Jan 28, 2007 @2:16 pm

    At this point, blogging and demonstrations are more about convincing Nancy Pelosi to escolate pressure on the White House than it is to convince Bush NOT to escolate.

    Yes, but public opinion is the leverage.

  8. moonbat  •  Jan 28, 2007 @2:42 pm

    My experience is that street protests, at their very basic level of effectiveness, solidify people, increasing the resolve and commitment of the true believers, and at the best, draw in people who were ambivalent before. Even the goofy protests do this to some degree, as long as the protest isn’t an umbrella for every cause under the sun, many of them trivial. This is the basic level of effectiveness for a protest, it solidifies those who already believe, and draws in the ambivalent. If the protest is repelling the ambivalent, it is doing something wrong, and is actually harming its cause. Protests like these happen all the time, and are almost non events. The ones that are remembered at this point are the ones that draw enormous crowds in multiple cities.

    To get to the next level: If the crowd is big enough, and serious enough and focussed enough (no more carnival atmosphere and 20 different causes), it starts to scare the powers that be, or at least gets their attention. The effect of the protest moves beyond those who were already committed, and beyond those who were formerly ambivalent. Protests like this are rare and are remembered, and can find their way into the history books.

    The next level after this, is deliberate defiance of the status quo, resulting in probable bloodshed and property damage, and strong reaction from the status quo. This is usually the moment of truth for a movement – is it willing to risk life and limb and possible jail or prison time. Up until this point, nobody is seriously getting hurt. I think it was Timothy Leary who said: If you’re not willing to risk jailtime for your beliefs, you’re just an amateur. He was right.

    As for Jane Fonda, it’s about time she stood up for her beliefs and stopped being cowed by the same bullies we’ve been fighting day in and day out. Her presence at this protest of course is a media event, but they’ll get used to her. As long as she doesn’t act like a clown, I see her as an important ally, one who can add a lot of value to what is going on. Some people are just celebrities, or public persons, others write blogs. She shouldn’t hide behind a keyboard.

    Finally, love your term “vocational protestors”. It’s unfortunately apt.

  9. maha  •  Jan 28, 2007 @3:04 pm

    To get to the next level: If the crowd is big enough, and serious enough and focussed enough (no more carnival atmosphere and 20 different causes), it starts to scare the powers that be, or at least gets their attention.

    That would be grand if it would happen, but I am skeptical it would happen.

    I doubt very much the protest yesterday had any impact on the ambivalent. If anything, carnival-celebrity events reinforce the idea that the issue is not serious, and it’s OK to be ambivalent.

  10. Swami  •  Jan 28, 2007 @3:26 pm

    I disagree with you, Maha. You make an excellent and valid point in regard to the war protesters acting as either a neutral or a negative force to bring an end to the situation in Iraq. If the protest is viewed as an entity unto itself, it can be seen as near futile, but if it viewed in a larger spectrum, and credited with the power of exposure and of resistance, it gains a positive nature toward resistance that works collectively in the ethereal with other forms of resistance.
    What was it that brought about the end of the Vietnam war? Surely, it wasn’t the protests, but the protests did contribute to some degree or we wouldn’t be discussing them now…they provided a negative form of visual resistance that had a positive effect in appying a pressure so that America would look at what she was doing in Vietnam.
    I see a similar dynamic, althought more constructive,at work here on your blog. I know that nothing said here is going to effect Bush’s decisions to hide his mistakes by remaining in Iraq, but I believe that this blog contributes in an unmeasureble way to bring an end to the national disgrace called the Bush administration. After all, it contains the two elements that are most effective in combating Bush.. exposure and resistance.

    Was John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry negative or positive for the anti-slavery movement?

  11. Billy  •  Jan 28, 2007 @4:10 pm

    HMMM reading the rantings of the right reminds me that they will never listen to truth and fact, and will go down like the titanic playing the music for the president who reminds them that the sinking boat is not sinking by the question “what iceberg?”

  12. moonbat  •  Jan 28, 2007 @4:34 pm

    …reading the rantings of the right reminds me that they will never listen to truth and fact..

    Do see My Six Months On Right Wing Blogs.

  13. c u n d gulag  •  Jan 28, 2007 @4:56 pm

    I am physicall handicapped and I was there yesterday. I made it the whole way!!!
    I am an experienced protester, and I can honesty say that I have never seen so may people in one place in my life. NIVERE so many signs!!!!!!!!!!
    What a high!!!!!!! Natural, at this age. Sadly….
    What can all of this do? A lot! “Dumbaya” doesn’t care. But those people coming up for re-electiion do.
    Whether they be Democrat’s or Republican (time to give them some of their own medicine), we need to hold their little feet to the fire.
    Match + log’s= fire. Grab feet, and hold. If you fail to do what most of us want, your feet are, of course, out of the fire; but you’re out of the race, too.
    Deal with it!!!

  14. joanr16  •  Jan 28, 2007 @5:32 pm

    I thought Jane Fonda had found Jesus in a bad way and given up protesting much of anything. My sister-in-law’s view of presidential candidate Hillary could also apply to neo-protester Jane: Too. Much. Baggage. When wingnutty whiners like Rick Moran are begging the anti-war movement to be more inflammatory, the return of their favorite old demoness “Hanoi Jane” just gives them what they want.

    I believe change will come through Congress, and we all know Congress pays attention to the polls. I’ve done more to affect change by trying to enlighten my red-state coworkers at coffee break, than I would by standing outside the state capitol and holding up a sign.

  15. Kevin Hayden  •  Jan 28, 2007 @5:37 pm

    As with all reform movements, momentum is only generated when the status quo middle class takes up the cause advanced previously by the marginal (I hesitate to call most of them ‘extreme’).

    The polls demonstrate we’re already there. In Vietnam terms, the Moral Majority of ’72 has been Pentagon-Papered and is watching for the gaps in the tape via the Libby Trial.

    Seriously, can 5 million marchers stop the war escalation? Not at all. So is there any purpose to gather to march at all?

    I believe there still is. To educate and push the debate. But not to push it so much about stopping the war (though that’s a necessary part of the demonstrations, as a common theme), which America already agrees with.

    Push the debate to address the real needs of all the millions of victims: dead and wounded and displaced Iraqis, wounded soldiers & grieving American families.

    Or, equally critical, Let’s Stop the Iran War That Bush Plans Next.

    I think statewide groups around the nation should be bringing a dozen ordinary Iranian citizens to speak in community halls in every state capital, so Americans can hear what the vast majority of Iranians think and believe. Westernized and fairly secular, that can provide a counterpoint to the Bushist use of their visible wackjob leader as a stereotype.

    We were behind the curve on exposing the neocon agenda. And for two years, Seymour Hersh has warned about the next domino. Let’s get out in front of that. There’s carrier groups already underway, and MAYBE, we can at least thwart the potential start of WWIII.

  16. maha  •  Jan 28, 2007 @5:58 pm

    Was John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry negative or positive for the anti-slavery movement?

    By itself, it was a wash. It did help start the Civil War — like tossing a lit match on dry tinder — but that doesn’t exactly make it a model to emulate.

    The protests seen as part of a larger spectrum — one problem with the “antiwar movement,” such as it is, is that there is a near total disconnect between us bloggers and the activists who organize the marches. That’s sad, but it’s the truth. I’ve wasted too much time today in an email discussion about this, and it’s pretty much bloggers on one side, marchers on the other. We’d be more effective working together, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to endorse International ANSWER and the Puppet People. We have the long-term health of progressivism to think about.

  17. Avedon  •  Jan 28, 2007 @6:23 pm

    I keep wanting people to do a really sombre protest – imagine a silent funeral procession a hundred thousand or more strong. No clowns, no fooling around, just mourning. I think it’s called for, in the circumstances.

    Just as an aside, the number of protesters who get arrested mostly has to do with whether the cops have orders to provoke the crowd and arrest a lot of people or to maintain a peaceful demonstration.

  18. erinyes  •  Jan 28, 2007 @6:43 pm

    Great post Maha, and many (as usual) thoughtful comments.
    I agree that MS. Fonda has the right to do as she wishes, but cringed when I heard she was a speaker at the event. Perhaps her antics helped end the war in VietNam, I don’t know. I DO know the right still hates her, but to be frank , I don’t give a rat’s ass what the far right thinks anymore. Nothing but flag worship and hatred of gays, Muslims, and liberals seems to make them happy.I agree with Kevin Haden.They MUST be stopped.

  19. Virginia Dutch  •  Jan 28, 2007 @6:51 pm

    If anyone in Washington on Saturday had any doubt that the right holds grudges for a very, very long time, they only needed to walk to the end of the Reflecting Pool, where the so-called Vietnam Vet booths are still selling anti-Jane Fonda bumper stickers on the grounds of a national monument.

    (Who licenses those booths, anyway, and on what criteria?)

  20. moonbat  •  Jan 28, 2007 @7:09 pm

    #19, I keep wanting people to do a really sombre protest – imagine a silent funeral procession a hundred thousand or more strong. No clowns, no fooling around, just mourning. I think it’s called for, in the circumstances.

    This is what it’s going to take. Especially if Bush widens his war to Iran or Syria. At some point we are going to have to decide whether we’re serious or not about stopping this man. And at some point enough people are going to realize that this is what’s called for. It’s blogs like this that are stirring the pot on this subject, and getting people to think seriously about it.

  21. sachem515  •  Jan 28, 2007 @7:17 pm

    All roads point to removal as the only sure way to stop the present policy and redirect our energies. There are many who hate us and our actions mint more by the thousand. We can debate the War Powers Act until we are blue in the face, but there are so many other crimes which a readily proveable.

    In this very week the revelations of a criminal conspriracy in OVP will be heard in open court, and Mr.Conyers will start looking into signing statements. Gravity has a hold of the situation. Things may look quite different by this Friday. By mid February we should all expect a very different political landscape in DC.

  22. Donna  •  Jan 28, 2007 @7:22 pm

    Gosh, Avedon, [#19] that seems like a good way to protest……a sober, silent, funeral type march.

  23. Swami  •  Jan 28, 2007 @7:22 pm

    Virginia Dutch, The ones who buy the Hanoi Jane bumberstickers buy them because they want to salve their egos with a stabbed in the back myth.

  24. maha  •  Jan 28, 2007 @7:58 pm

    I think Jane’s jaunt to North Vietnam was a damn stupid stunt that hurt the antiwar movement severely, but the Right’s continued hatred of her is just pathological. Swami is right about the stabbed-in-the-back myth.

  25. peon  •  Jan 28, 2007 @8:32 pm

    When no one goes out and protests the war you hear the keyboard kommandos, and the talking heads ask “Where are the protesters”. When we do go out the same groups dismiss us as silly, preaching to the choir, ineffectual. One thing I think public protest does is let the international community know that some of us care enough to leave our fast internet connections behind and drag our butts out in the street.
    I road on a bus for 8 hrs from Michigan with 165 other people who left from the same town. I know of at least 10 other busses that came from Mich each with 55 in it. Many of the people I talked to had never protested before, these were people in their 30’s,40’s,50’s.
    Maha we each make the contribution we think is important. I think it unhelpful for you to make proclamations as to the effectiveness of street protest. It will take multiple efforts from us all to dislodge this caustic element from our republic. Of course the mid-term elections were important, as are the protests, as are the reawakening of the media.
    Presidential historian Michael Bschloss does not agree with your dismissal of the street protests in Vietnam:
    This is from PBS online.

    MARGARET WARNER: Your view about the effectiveness?

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I see it as more positive actually. I think it’s a part of the system, because when a president is making a decision to go to war, the most serious decision he can make, you have to hear both arguments and this is one way of doing it. During the Civil War, Lincoln was opposed by a lot of the copperheads of the North, as Phil mentioned a moment ago, they helped Lincoln to focus his arguments and fight this war in a way that had broader support. Even after 39, 40 and had he not had that opposition, he probably would not have been as good both in terms of devising a strategy to fight World War II and also making the case.

    And I think Vietnam as well. Vietnam, the reason it is more of a tragedy than I think almost anything else is that that movement began in 1965 and had very little effect until we finally ended our active involvement in 1973. That was an absolute rebuke to the way that our system is supposed to operate. When support for a war drops and when there’s a huge movement against it, the government is supposed to respond and it did not under Johnson and Nixon. That was the reason I think for that enormous rage. Nixon gave a press conference at the height of the protest in late ’69 and said, I know about the protests, he said, under no circumstances will I be affected what so ever by it. That led to the kind of polarization that Philip mentioned.

    PHILIP ZELIKOW: But, this can be constructive. A president doesn’t necessarily have to agree where the anti-war protesters to hear them.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Exactly.

  26. MikeShatzkin  •  Jan 28, 2007 @10:13 pm

    The appearance at a rally of Jane Fonda (or Cindy Sheehan, for that matter) would clearly be of less value than an appearance by Barack Obama or Chuck Hagel. But the notion that blogging or demonstrating or working for a candidate is a zero-sum game (we do one or the other) is a false choice. Everybody just does the best they can.

    Ultimately, the only salvation is through Congress: impeachment, cutting off funding, passing instructions by veto-proof majorities, whatever. There’s a level on which the ONLY effort that makes sense is one designed to get 67 Senators and 292 Congressmen to vote for something that will stop the war. If there’s a path to that, show me and it trumps everything else.

    If there is no path to that, I say everybody should do whatever they can or whatever they will that pushes things in the right direction. I personally don’t think Jane does more harm than good, but I agree that it’s a reasonable question and one she should be asking herself. I also agree that piggybacking other causes is distracting, but the reality is that it helps organizers generate the crowd.

    As for the relative size of the demonstrations compared to Vietnam, let’s remember that fewer a fifth the number of US troops are deployed; casualties are more than commensurately lower; and there is no draft. It’s like comparing baseball statistics across 35 years. Hard to do.

    And if Maha is right and the demonstration organizers aren’t getting themselves integrated with the bloggers, then they’re pretty lousy demonstration organizers. I haven’t organized anything for a while, but, isn’t that where you’d START?

  27. maha  •  Jan 28, 2007 @10:59 pm

    peon — I don’t give a crap what Michael Beschloss says. I know what I saw with my own eyes.

    I also am finding it tiresome that you and others continue to whine that I don’t appreciate your efforts. Let me use small words: I have taken part in several anti-Iraq war demonstrations myself. I AM NOT AGAINST DEMONSTRATING. Is that clear? I’m just saying that most of the demonstrations are of limited effectiveness because of the way they’re organized and because of the behavior of a lot of the participants.

    I don’t believe anything has been done so far that’s especially counterproductive, but I don’t think it has been all that productive, either. I think it could be productive if the bloggers and march demonstrators could get together, but we’re living on different planets.

  28. maha  •  Jan 28, 2007 @11:21 pm

    I agree that it’s a reasonable question and one she should be asking herself. I also agree that piggybacking other causes is distracting, but the reality is that it helps organizers generate the crowd.

    But the size means nothing if the message is all over the map. And, in fact, I think if the marches could be more disciplined more people might participate.

    I think it is damn inconsiderate when lots of people take the time to travel and participate in a big demonstration because they feel strongly about issue, and then when they show up they find their participation is being appropriated by advocates of other issues.

    isn’t that where you’d START?

    I hate to say it, but right now there’s close to open antagonism between many bloggers and the march organizers. The bloggers feel we’ve worked our butts off to make substantive and serious arguments against the war, and to influence Congress by becoming a force in elections. When marches consist of carnival clowns and hoards of activism groupies pushing individual agendas — much of which we don’t endorse — we criticize the marches. And then the organizers get all whiny because they feel they’re working hard and we don’t appreciate them.

    But the march organizers don’t ask the bloggers for help or advice; they just charge ahead with their own plans and expect us to endorse them after the fact. And a lot of bloggers just won’t do it, and I don’t blame them. Some of the stuff that showed up on C-Span during the September 2005 march was damn embarrassing. I vowed not to go to another protest again unless I get strong assurances that International ANSWER and whatever relics of the Popular Front are still breathing are kept strictly in the background.

    Some of the attitude I’ve gotten today from emails has persuaded me not to endorse or even publicize any public protest from here on unless the bloggers get a say in how it’s organized.

  29. joe in oklahoma  •  Jan 29, 2007 @1:19 am

    i agree that her being there was bad PR, and piggybacking other issues didn’t help. but i am not as sold on protest marches as i once was.
    the GOP and the WH will just smirk and ignore us.
    the only way to get their attention is to stop buying things…if a couple million people refused to play the consumer game for 3 or 4 days, id there was a work stoppage, if people refused to shop for a week….

    it might get their attention.

  30. erinyes  •  Jan 29, 2007 @5:30 am

    Want an eye-catching ,effective,somber protest?
    Try a procession of 3,020 flag draped cars circling every major city on the next holiday.(NOT rush hour on Friday!)
    But how to organize such an event?

  31. marijam  •  Jan 29, 2007 @5:41 am

    RE:Ultimately, the only salvation is through Congress: impeachment, cutting off funding, passing instructions by veto-proof majorities, whatever. There’s a level on which the ONLY effort that makes sense is one designed to get 67 Senators and 292 Congressmen to vote for something that will stop the war. If there’s a path to that, show me and it trumps everything else.

    ABSOLUTELY! If every person who marched would call, email, write or fax to a representative or a Senator their protest I think it would have more of an effect. Just a paragraph would be enough.

    RE:the GOP and the WH will just smirk and ignore us.
    the only way to get their attention is to stop buying things…if a couple million people refused to play the consumer game for 3 or 4 days, id there was a work stoppage, if people refused to shop for a week….

    it might get their attention.

    Another very good suggestion.

  32. maha  •  Jan 29, 2007 @9:21 am

    Again — and I can’t emphasize this enough — the real purpose of a public demonstration is not to get the attention of the politicians. The purpose is to get the sympathy of the public, and then public sympathy gets the attention of the politicians.

    If politicians do take note that’s grand, of course, but ultimately it’s the public at large you are trying to reach.

    The fact that people who organize and participate in demonstrations don’t understand who their real audience is, is a big reason why demonstrations usually don’t have any impact. If organizers and participants continue to think in terms of getting the attention of politicians, rather than gaining the sympathy of the public, demonstrations will continue to be ineffectual. Fortunately public opinion has turned against the Iraq war anyway.

    Calls, emails, and faxes to senators and congress critters before a crucial vote today have more of an impact than they did in October 2002, when Dianne Feinstein (and others) got truckloads of letters from constituents telling her to vote against the resolution, and she did it anyway. Now, the politicians know they don’t dare ignore a blog-generated storm of calls and letters, because they know we bloggers are not going away. That’s not to say they always vote the way we want them to, but they know they can’t just ignore us. In fact, politicians in Congress and the major advocacy groups are adding staff for the purpose of interfacing with bloggers to get us behind them.

    This is called “clout.” This is what gets their attention.

    And, might I add, bloggers have a proven track record of being able to generate really big call-your-congress-critter storms.

    I’m glad that organizations like United for Peace and Justice — which I respect — are following up demonstrations with visits to congressional offices. But I say again they are not coming to the blogs for assistance or input; they’re off doing this on their own as if we bloggers don’t exist. And this is just plain stupid. We should be forming coalitions and coordinating our efforts. But I’ve come to realize that the march organizers are resentful of the bloggers, so they freeze us out.

  33. joe in oklahoma  •  Jan 29, 2007 @9:29 am

    but maha, i think we have the public’s attention.
    they voted overwhelmingly in our favor in November.
    the population is not nearly the problem that the GOP and the MSM is.

  34. maha  •  Jan 29, 2007 @10:30 am

    but maha, i think we have the public’s attention.
    they voted overwhelmingly in our favor in November.

    Exactly. And let me point out that antiwar marches had absolutely nothing to do with that victory. Bloggers, however, did.

    I also think that antiwar marches had absolutely nothing to do with the public’s seeing the truth. Events — not just in Iraq, but Hurricane Katrina and other events — plus Bush’s piss-poor leadership pulled the rug out from under the Bush administration. The public just plain doesn’t trust Bush any more.

    However, just over a third of the public still supports Bush’s War and approve of the “surge.” If we could get that slice of the pie even smaller, it would go a long way toward forcing congress’s hand.

    Big demonstrations, done well, could have an impact. They could strengthen peoples’ convictions the war is wrong and show the politicians that opposition to the war is deep and intense and likely to have a long-term impact on their careers. Just never forget that public opinion is the leverage, not the demonstration itself.

    Done badly, demonstrations could show the people that being against the war is for kooks and flakes and extremists, and also persuade the politicians that antiwar activists are mostly the same batch of loony lefties they safely ignored for the past thirty years.

    So which way do you want to go?

    Let me repeat for about the 87th time that I am not opposed to demonstrations; I am opposed to stupid and frivolous demonstrations. They can be counterproductive. It’s better not to demonstrate at all than to demonstrate in a way that tells people you’re a flake.

  35. Orley Allen  •  Jan 29, 2007 @2:18 pm

    Without the Vietnam-era anti-war protests we would still be in Vietnam. The protests didn’t make the right wing hate us. They’ll hate us and all social progress no matter our visibility or timidity. The protests ended the war. And will again.

  36. maha  •  Jan 29, 2007 @2:28 pm

    The protests ended the war.

    No, they did not. That is a myth. I was there. See this for further discussion:

    http://www.mahablog.com/2007/01/16/augment-the-objections/

    The net impact of the Vietnam era antiwar movement on public opinion was negligible. What actually turned the public against the war was the war itself, brought into their living rooms every night during the 6 o’clock news. If anything, the antiwar movement prolonged the war by giving Nixon a big fat red herring issue he could exploit.

  37. Orley Allen  •  Jan 29, 2007 @5:53 pm

    I was there, too. News coverage without the antiwar protests couldn’t have stopped the war. It’s easy to avoid news coverage that sells as much as it dispells and without the mass of millions decrying the senseless waste of war, there’s no way to interpret what the coverage means.

  38. Theophrastus Bombastus von Hoehenheim den Sidste  •  Jan 29, 2007 @6:03 pm

    Let me take a moment to amplify the idea that “we now have better ways to do it.”

    A major drawback of the clog-the-jails strategy is that the right wing noise machine would then jump in and hoot about criminal nature of the left.

    This casts on interesting light on the context of Moran’s post: his defense of the chickenhawks. Consider how the chickenhawks would earn the respect and admiration of America, if they would just get off their sitzfleisch and join up for the war they love so much. Quite a different fate, I must say.

  39. peon  •  Jan 29, 2007 @6:38 pm

    So Maha, explain to me, what exactly is stopping the bloggers from getting involved in planning and participating in these protests?
    I was too young to get involved in the early VietNam protests, but I watched them on TV and read about them in the newspapers. My activism was kindled by those protests. The war went on long enought that when I went to college I participated in a few.
    If the media covered the protests the same would happen now. That is why they don’t.
    I agree with you on ANSWER and the Free Mumia tag along stuff that happened in Sept 05. But that was a small part of the event.
    Many of the people that I know are bloggers and protesters, hell, we even vote and sit on our local schoolboards.
    This isn’t an either-or thing. Oh by the way, thank you for the “small words” they help our wee brains process the infinite wisdom emanating from cyberspace.

  40. maha  •  Jan 29, 2007 @6:44 pm

    So Maha, explain to me, what exactly is stopping the bloggers from getting involved in planning and participating in these protests?

    Well, I say once again, many of us are participating. I have participated in several of them. How many times do I have to repeat this before it sinks in?

    That’s it; I’m closing comments.

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