Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Call Me Old School: Protests Matter

These young whippersnappers - thinking they can just discard tried and true expressions of political protest and reinvent the wheel.

Yes, that's the reaction I often have when I see comments like this from young "progressives" like Markos over at Daily Kos referring to the March for Women's Lives that was held in 2004 and attracted a staggering 1.125 million people:

Longtime readers are well aware of my disdain for protest marches. They are useless, obsolete artifacts of a bygone era. How much money and energy expended in that march could've been used for more effective forms of organizing?

And, to back up his "disdain", he quotes Jane Hamsher from firedoglake who wrote:

It shows just how behind the times these organizations are that they would put so much energy into something like the "March for Women's Lives" in this day and age when the impact of an action like that depends on the media's willingness to cover it, something they quite obviously haven't been willing to do for a good long while.

So, the rationale is that protests are useless if the MSM doesn't give them enough coverage.

Now, Markos is a money-man. He believes that money is the ultimate key to getting Democrats elected, so it's natural he would see organized protests as a waste of funds. What he fails to see, however, is that money does not guarantee anything in politics. Just ask Steve Forbes and Ross Perot - both billionaires who were never able to successfully buy their way into the political system.

And, as for the usefulness of protests, whether they receive wide mainstream media or not, they provide an excellent opportunity for networking and that is what matters in politics - not the amount of money you have in your bank account. They also provide a much-needed forum to stir and effect public debate. Even if not one camera or one newspaper records a protest, the ripple effect is often widely felt in the community hosting the event and the efforts of those involved to spread their message in any other way available to them is felt far beyond the actual geographic location.

Kos and I agree on one thing: all politics is local. The grassroots is the strongest element in any true democracy. Local gatherings and protests, therefore, are a vital tool for encouraging political change. The left cannot lay down and die - giving up some of its most useful political tools such as the power of protests - simply because we are not getting the media coverage we think we deserve. That is nothing but a cowardly surrender to the powers that be.

Just ask Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks.

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