Saturday, September 24, 2005

Wrong Answer

Did any of you catch CSPAN's coverage of the rally today?

I did, and I'm sorry to say that I managed to stick with it for maybe an hour.

Watching it was like stepping into the time machine of my 20s, when I was beaded & braided, when if anyone said "Protest!", all I needed were directions to get there. See, when you're a kid, a protest is just a really big party in your eyes. You go to see who's there, who's not, what vendors there and hey - if there's a band or two, even better! However nobly intended at least in sentiment, The Message of the protest itself is really a secondary consideration (provided it’s a hippie-vetted cause).

I had high hopes for this rally. I still do, hoping that CSPAN's coverage was not representative of the larger event. However, as a goal, it's a little short, since the MSM appears to have given it only a passing mention and as a result, CSPAN's coverage will be what gets picked up as video segments, with sound bytes chewed like cud over at Fox and the Free Republic indefinitely.

What happened today, (or at least as much as I saw) is what always seems to happen, and what pretty much drove me out of most "movements" before I got within earshot of 30. What was meant to be a single-topic protest turns into a smorgasbord of issues, a great many of which aren't even directly related to the Main Point.

I didn't immediately scoff at the speakers discussing the Palestine problem, since it's sophomoric to try and comment on the Middle East without addressing that particular quagmire. While I may be guilty of selective reading, all of the historians and political scholars I've read from agree that U.S. involvement in the Palestinian conflict is part of the engine of modern terrorism. And I've long thought it to be the elephant in America's living room where foreign policy is concerned, so at first I was nonplussed by the speeches. After all, in a "Get Us Out of Iraq" rally, a bit of historical perspective is a good thing when presented as context for the rally's demands.

Trouble was, it wasn't just one or two speakers. It was several, and they spoke at length. When the last of them (that I saw before turning it off) started talking about Haiti, I was done.

Grass-/netroots activists are the first to cry the loudest over how unfocused and scattered the Democrats have been for the past decade, but apparently they fail to understand how their behavior is quite often no different.

Please don't misconstrue -- I have no problem whatsoever with say, a Israel/Palestine Protest. Seriously, have at it. It's high time the topic got some real attention. Same for Haiti. We've been treating that country like the world’s armpit for an embarrassingly long time.

But not today. This was an IRAQ RALLY. Specifically, an ANTI-WAR RALLY. It was not a Liberal Soup Rally, or Intro to Leftie Politics Rally. Honestly, people. We can't stand around bitching that no one takes liberals seriously, that Democrats have no solutions or platform, and that the left has been marginalized into caricature by the MSM if we CAN'T MANAGE TO STAY ON MESSAGE FOR ONE FUCKING DAY.

Now, I understand part of the speakers’ motivation (if I might be presumptuous for a moment). They figure that they have the national spotlight for a few nanoseconds, and they hope to take advantage of the podium and spin as dense a web of issues as possible before the mikes are turned off again. I get it, and I sympathize.

However, it's a childish response. Do we not all learn by the time we're 9 or 10 that getting what you want depends on asking at the right time and place, as much as it requires our best persuasive mojo? As adults, we know perfectly well that we don't ask for a raise right in the middle of being dressed-down by the boss. You don't ask a wife covered in baby spit-up, who’s wrestling with a screaming toddler while the phone is ringing and the smoke alarm is going off, "Honey? Can Daddy have some nookie?"

If we've half the wit we pretend to possess, we learn to present our requests demands when our audience is receptive and willing to listen to a reasoned plea. And in stating our case, we speak clearly, convincingly and STAY ON MESSAGE.

Unfortunately, today's event organizers,, took the sandbox approach to this rally, and while optimism may blossom as I hear from actual attendees, at present I fear that the net gain from today will primarily be more sneers from O'Reilly, more ridicule from Malkin, and nary a cricket chirp from the MSM. What makes it worse is that America was (is?) willing to listen. Bush’s approval ratings have told us that time and time and time again. Were we not listening? Did we really not get what our opportunity was?

This kind of rally should have been able to reach the tentative, the undecided, the fence-sitters all across America. Think about it. It certainly wouldn't have swayed Bush's base, so that demographic can be safely ignored. There isn't a card-carrying liberal anywhere in the U.S. that needs validation through an event like this, so the firm left also needed no consideration. That leaves all the folks in the middle. THAT'S who we needed to reach. Those are the folks that, if you convince them, will pressure their Senators and Reps for solutions to the Iraq war, and if we're really lucky, will abstain from checking off any Rs in the voting booths a little over a year from now.

I'm not trying to unjustly vilify Answer here. But they deserve the grief they get as official organizers. For any like-minded attendees waving "American Imperialism = Bloody Oil" signs, you deserve some shit, too. If you're going to attend a topic-specific rally, can you leave your black hoods & gas masks at home just ONCE, please? You may be impressive to the anarchist adolescent demographic, but to the rest of America, you're an ass. You don't get to scream about fundamentalists’ shredded fetus placards through your Death Ninja outfit and retain any measurable credibility.

The GOP has been mopping the floor with the left greatly in part because they approach every little thing they do like it's a BUSINESS. Yeah, a corrupt and fetid business, but a business just the same. They plan, they organize, they create an agenda and they pursue it relentlessly. The nebulous Left treats politics like a Grateful Dead show, where everyone is welcome and everyone gets a chance at the podium, and no cause is devalued. That's all well and good for awareness-raising campaigns, but it's sheer stupidity when you're standing on the Ellipse.

Maybe I should be pissed that evidently not one single Democratic official showed up. I’m reluctant these days to call many of them “professionals”, but compared to the scattered kaleidoscope of lefty ire I saw, their influence might have been the cohesive thread that was missing.

I don’t know. I’m just sick to death of seeing things like this on the news and thinking, again, that it’s time everyone took a Remedial Marketing class. These stunning, fundamental errors in presentation are killing the party, are discrediting sound policy initiatives and making a mockery of the left.

Someone, quick. Give me some good news about today, please?

Update: Well, I went looking for optimism, and found it. Sunporch says:

There was/is MUCH more going on than that ridiculour ANSWER stage that CSPAN covered.

There are tens of thousands, possibly 100,000 people or more in the streets right now. The audience for the ANSWER stage was always a small subset of the total on hand...there were thousands out on Constitution Avenue waiting for the march to begin.
Most of the marchers watching the ANSWER speakers drifted off long before the speeches were done...I suspect due to a combination of disgust with how long the speeches were running over, and a disgust with the content of many of the speeches.
I just spoke with my wife at the protest and it is far more mainstream, and much larger, than the impression left by the CSPAN coverage of the ANSWER stage.
CSPAN's coverage was weak and misleading by only showing the participation by one of the most radical, fringe participants in the protest coalition.
Next time we need to do a better job of marginalizing those jokers and controlling the agenda of the event.

So it's time for angry letters to CSPAN, then?

More news, from Chicago Dyke:

People also complain that the organizers, like a lot of us pointy headed overeducated leftists, sought too much to "educate" and not enough to "protest." I think it's worth noting: there is a difference between a rally and a march. C-Span, according to my sources, can only broadcast that to which an overseeing "bi-partisan" committee agrees. I assume this means DC party operatives, and I'm sure that it means C-Span will never, ever show the 300,000-600,000 strong march in the streets today. In order to marginalize citizen action in general, I'm sure both parties agree to only show "the crazies." Tomorrow there will be a counter-protest and perhaps march. I doubt those Protest Warrior types will fare much better in the eyes of Susie Soccer Mom and Joe Sixpack. (And I'd be surprised if there are more than 10,000, but I'm sure C-Span will provide visual representation that suggests `balance.')

Oh! I forgot to mention, oh loyal H&S fans: Greenlily went to the rally, so think of it as having our own personal correspondent there, who will, on her gallant return, help us voyeurs wade through the BS we're being fed over the airwaves....


david bennett said...

For some clarification the hippies were aplolitical and considered conventional politics a deadend. They tended to believe change came through life style.

Mostly it was dead end, but certain important things did develop. Note the following demonstration of the mouse and a networked system a bit more sophisticated in some ways than the one you are using:

Engelbart's assistant is Stewart brand whose mentors included Ken Kesey. Of course te arc team was to go on to Xerox Parc and in various ways these "hippies" helped develop the net. And yes Arpa did use "freaks" (one term after hippies were declared dead about the time the above video was taken.)

Another strand were "hippies" were important was in the development of "Jesus freaks" and modern evangelist Christianity. Also they helped strengthen modrn libertarian strains. These were predictable flows when you look at what actually was being said and done in places like Haight Ashbury. The people and ideas involved did not necessarily evolve the way you have been told.

The sixties was a very complex interplay of forces and while I'm half nit picking for fun, the models used to explain them do not capture the complexity or contradiction, but distort and simplify for political purposes.

But "hippie approved" political action remains a contradiction.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Thanks for your feedback, David. I realize now (with a bit of mirth) that nearly 40 years after the "original" hippies, I need to clarify what generation I speak of. During the time to which you refer, my biggest challenge was potty training and tying my shoes, so when I use the term, I don't refer to the "classic" hippie. I mean the kids of those folks, actually -- the ones flocking to Earth Day festivals and Phish concerts, who thought Regan was the devil and Clinton was god.

The "hippies" I ran around with as a kid were the kinds that tried in vain to find a sane place in the political machine of the 80s and 90s, only to be drowned out by our Republican parents that insisted smaller ICBMs were better because they were infinitely "more efficient".

Yeah, they share the trappings of their 60s predecessors, but by and large, the ones I knew (know) don't share the anti-establishment view of decades past. For that generation, you're right -- "hippie approved" is indeed, a contradiction. For the ones that followed, though, I beg to differ (if only for the sake of dialetic quibbling).