The worst thing about being cynical is being right.
I knew you'd like that one :-)On a related note, there's an interesting discussion on plastic.com about political protests: scroll down towards the end and the discussion focuses on the efficacy or otherwise of stunts like guerilla performance art. It's where I found the roddick link. As one plastician writes:"That's what I'm looking for (in vain) when I look at the protests — somebody who realizes that to make any headway, they need to be making their point with the folks watching at home, not their comrades in the streets."And another writes:"is it that nobody on the left has the stones to tell the likes of Strippers for Peace that maybe the general public isn't quite going to be swayed by their message? Does anybody on the left have the stature to stand up and say this? Kerry? Anybody? Hello?'You, you, and especially you — you're a bunch of self-promoting jackasses, and not only are you not helping, you've wound up helping the GOP. Stay the hell home.'"OK, you're on the opposite side politically, but I think it's an interesting argument. If the purpose of political protest is to draw attention to issues and crucially, to make Mr and Mrs Average sit up and pay attention, are yahoos such as Strippers for Peace making the protest less, not more, effective? My gut feeling is "yep".
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And there are interesting reasons why the Left have much more of this problem then the Right. The main problem is "solidarity". Despite the Left's habit of splitting into more factions and fractions every day ("No, I'm a Marxist-Leninist Environmentalist, not an Environmentalist Marxist-Leninist. What are you, stupid? The Environmentalist Marxist-Leninists are all bastards."), they have woven into most of their ideologies this strange insistence that they should "respect all beliefs" or "embrace all comrades" or whatever. Right-wingers generally have no problem with identifying and ejecting nutters -- they might disagree occasionally over exactly who the nutters are, but they basically agree that nutters are not to be tolerated. So, while the Tories unceremoniously chucked out that BNP sympathiser they found in Central Office, the Lib Dems happily go on marches and share platforms with Jew-Killing Wife-Beating Suicide Bombers For Peace.And the Left, of course, have this utter faith in street demonstration. Street protests are all very well, but it would be utterly undemocratic for any government to take a blind bit of notice of them, at least until someone manages to organise a demo with more than 30 million people on it. So the anti-warriors have achieved the biggest demo ever and are totally baffled that it didn't immediately change government policy, so now they're just thinking "Well, size didn't work, so maybe we should try more shock value." Add to that the left-wing belief that "all political expression is equally valid", and you've got a problem.
I agree with most of that, but not the numbers thing: a small, focused and tight campaign can be very effective, whether it's pro-this or anti-that. I think in some cases the bigger the demo, the less impact it has, especially when it becomes a mess of conflicting and, occasionally, whacked-out demands. For example, get a few thousand pensioners to protest about excessive council tax bills, or local residents to campaign about hospital ward closures or whatever, and the resultant publicity would certainly make the government look at the issue, although whether they would change policy is a different thing altogether. Whereas if you get a huge demo containing all kinds of organisations against all kinds of things then it's easy to dismiss the whole thing as a day trip for the demented.
That's all true, but it's not the way left-wing organisations generally think. When organising a demo, your average left-winger would rather go for numbers than focus.And, of course, when organising a demo, your average right-winger would rather just sod the whole thing and go and have a nice cup of tea instead.
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