Monday, January 29, 2007

Protesters as Normal Human Beings

Bob Hebert of the New York Times has an interesting thought:
You can say what you want about the people opposed to this wretched war in Iraq, try to stereotype them any way you can. But you couldn’t walk among them for more than a few minutes on Saturday without realizing that they love their country as much as anyone ever has. They love it enough to try to save it.
While I am glad that Hebert had enough intellectual curiosity/honesty to meet the protesters, I find myself frustrated that he is playing the 'people who don't like this war are hippies" game. Unfortunately, he is not the only one- this is AmericaBlog (one of my favorite blogs) writing about the march:
It was an interesting mix of people. Rather young, which was very interesting. Lots of students, and kids in their 20s. And not your usual peacenik crowd - these kids looked like upper middle class college kids (not an easy crowd to motivate politically). The march was well organized, no violence or anything out of line that I saw.
I am not exactly sure where this frame originates from- but from personal experience, it is out of date. The people most motivated to help end the war are remarkably similar to those folks you meet in every day life. They shower, brush their teeth and have jobs. Now granted, at every march you are going to get the one group of protesters with signs asking for the end of water fluoridation, and there are the *anarchists* UPDATED: 'Anarchists' (who are most likely in league with the pro-war crazies*); but the vast majority of these people are the type of people you could ask over for dinner.

It only serves those that want this war to continue. As they become successful painting anti-war protesters as pot-smoking satanists, the more likely it becomes that more average folks decide to not join their ranks.

*I have no proof that anarchists are working with pro-war forces, but c'mon- they are either the dumbest political activists on the planet (perhaps universe) or they are working to give the anti-war crowd a bad name.


Disco said...

C'mon man, you try to humanize the anti-war crowd, and then go and over-stereotype anarchists and make wild accusations that are groundless. What exactly warrants them being the "dumbest political activists on the planet (perhaps universe)." While I agree with some of your points, particularly that it is important to recognize the diverse group that protested around the country this weekend, I think you are confusing anarchists with folks who break windows in Seattle.

Broca said...

I don't believe I am over-stereotyping anarchists and the accusations are not goundless (perhaps I should have capitalized the A -- though). When I refer to Anarchists (which is the name they use to refer to themselves), I am referring to the folks that cover their faces and are a general pain in the ass.
At every rally I have been to, they show up and give everyone else a bad name. They vandalize, intimidate and seem to only be there to create havoc.

Disco said...

Exactly my point. You are assuming that putting on the black masks and destroying property represents all anarchists. As a counter-point, there was an excellent series in the Eugene Weekly on the environmental activists in the Eugene area. Part of the story detailed some of the pro-social things they did in the Whitaker neighborhood, such as developing community functions that were free of finances, such as mass-meals in the park by the Red Barn. In fact, one of our mutual friends, which I won't name publicly, was very active in this movement [perhaps you are unaware of this?]. I think you've got to give a little more evidence than saying " I saw these people at a rally and they were a pain in the ass." I think even anarchists speak with disappointment that the pointless violence that happens at rallies, such as the one in the WTO rally in Seattle, were a fringe of the anarchists, and far from the mainstream anarchist.

Can't you see that you are picking out the worst of the bunch, and making global statements about the whole bunch, and in that way not taking the time to learn what it's really about? How is this different than the examples you put as "protesters as human beings?" I think we can find common ground if we move past dehumanizing stereotypes. But, wasn't that your point in the first place?

Broca said...

It does represent all anarchists, as they are responsible for their popular portrayal (when it becomes a purposeful act of putting on a uniform).

Whether the 'nice' ones like it or not, when they decide to wear the same uniform as those that destroy, they are tacitly accepting the image that is commonly thought of. In turn, they destroy the underlying meaning contained within the movement. The image of the destructive anarchists becomes the 'brand' of anarchy.

I would go even further in saying that the putting on of the black mask is a representational image whose sole purpose is to intimidate (e.g. the KKK). By agreeing to wear the black mask- they have created the dehumanizing stereotype.

Disco said...

1- not all anarchists where black masks, those are just people wearing black masks, might I say the posers?
2- How is saying that destructive, black-mask wearing bad agents is the same as all anarchists any better than right-wingers saying that all protesters are left-wing hippies?

Seattle WTO is such a great example. Great cause, great protest, few bad apples that ruined the perception. Look beyond the headlines like you so like to do.

Broca said...

1. In that sense you may be correct and that was part of my original post, and whether we like it or not, they have appropriated the name Anarchist.

2. I am only referring to individuals who would take on the same uniform as the posers.

As far as your last comment, you have made my original point (regarding this particular subgroup). Their actions are either the work of some brain dead contingent or they are plants.