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Protest Inc.

by on July 13, 2016

                                                                    Protest Inc.

                                                              by Marco M. Pardi

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Eli Wiesel (1928 – 2016) “Hope, Despair and Memory” Nobel Peace Prize acceptance address, Oslo, 11 December 1986.

All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment, please be assured you may do so freely. No one will capture your email, follow you home, or subject you to cavity searches. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

Hoodlums. Thugs. Rioters. Looters. Professional agitators.  Who has not heard or read these terms in recent years?  But professional agitators?  The term implies two things: 1. Their participation is funded in some form; and, 2. the cause is irrelevant so long as the reward is there. 

I have always avoided demonstrations when possible.  I dislike both noise and crowds, more so when it is the crowd making the noise.  Through much of the 1960’s I was away or too busy with other matters to witness most of the many demonstrations.  However, I did see on television several masterfully executed agitations.  When Richard Nixon, and even more when his henchman Spiro Agnew were campaigning for the presidency and vice-presidency the rather dull speeches were loudly interrupted by “hippies” standing in the rear of the crowd and shouting insults and obscenities.  I say masterful because to my eye the crowd control device was perfectly employed.  The candidate drones and the conventionally dressed middle-aged crowd, packed together toward the front of the venue, is lulled into the metered cadence, their full attention on the speaker. Suddenly, an unnumbered crowd of wildly dressed, unkempt young people starts shouting and gesticulating from behind them, between them and the exits.  The instant fear reaction is perfectly triggered.  The crowd moves away from the source of the fear, by default moving it toward the speaker, and the speaker arises above it all with strong words that give voice to the anger which always follows quickly on fear.  The speaker then becomes the voice of the majority (sound familiar?) and is assured support for him long after the event has passed.  No one seems to note the anger was not at what the agitators were saying, but at the fact the crowd was startled and made momentarily fearful.  This is textbook stuff.  I never for a moment doubted these “hippies” were recruited, issued hippie uniforms, and strategically choreographed.  And it worked.

Of course, other demonstrations were more spontaneous and more vaguely targeted.  While in graduate school at an elite private university I had cause to visit the Graduate Dean’s office to check on my full scholarship.  Entering the Quad I encountered a milling mass of, presumably, undergrads expressing anger at the Viet-Nam war, the fresh Nixon administration, the R.O.T.C. program on campus, and “The Man”, whoever or whatever that was. Taking my time through the crowd I heard one student compliment another on the super expensive Nikon camera hanging around his neck.  “Yeah, thanks. I ripped off the old man. Told him I needed money for a campus fee.” Sneer, sneer.  In fact, the yearly tuition and board for undergraduates at this university was more than most college graduates made in their first year of subsequent employment.  I did not see a single student who appeared to have come to campus from a part-time job or after separation from a stint in the military. Did these kids have even the slightest idea what they were protesting?

A couple of years before this, I encountered an old friend (actually my age) in an all-night restaurant near a State university and we caught up the missing years.  As we each parceled out the bits,  exchanging bona fides, she informed me she was undercover FBI, traveling about working the student demonstrator crowds.  At her apartment she showed me the science fiction style photographic equipment she had been issued and showed me copies of photos she had taken.  She could photograph a single letter in a word in a paperback book from 50 feet.  The photos clearly showed her tradecraft was beyond flawless; nationally known figures, sometimes in poses not fit for prime time indicating they often knew they were being photographed and were okay with it. I didn’t ask about her style of approach. But the thinking was that the Soviets were funding much of the civil unrest from Civil Rights to Anti-War demonstrations.  Unfortunately, only a tiny few of the photos showed people who might be paymasters.

On the other side of the scales, some time later, over a late dinner a colleague talked about the latest take from Flaps & Seals, the department that opened incoming and outgoing foreign/overseas mail, photocopied and analyzed it, and sent it on to the recipient with no sign of tampering.  A certain Congress person, very active on the protest scene, had been in contact with both the Soviets and North Vietnamese.  While it was highly likely this Congress person had no idea of the existence of Flaps & Seals, it was evident the foreign correspondents anticipated every word would be read and studied.  So, the “smoking gun” was hard to pin down.  But it was quite clear that foreign powers were “supportive” of the protests.

Domestic surveillance was often clumsy.  In the early ’70’s a fellow college faculty member told me he had identified an Army “observer” in his classes.  With just a little checking around, I verified his suspicions and identified one in mine.  And, a source I had deep in the county sheriff’s office told me my unlisted home phone was tapped, which I already knew.  My reaction? It’s working. These Bozos don’t know who they are looking at.

For the past several years protests have been far easier to assemble, if not organize.  The proliferation of social media portals and devices ensures a crowd can be assembled in very short order.  Of course, that does not always guarantee the members of the crowd know exactly why, or what they are trying to accomplish.          

I’ve wondered what the success rate for protests is, and what that success depends on.  The massive and relentless civil rights and anti-war protests did seem to succeed.  But the television media arguably played a larger part, especially when such luminaries as Walter Cronkite came out against the war.

The Act Up protests against the denials and foot dragging of the Reagan/Bush administration’s response to HIV/AIDS seemed useless until Bill Clinton came to office.  But all indications were that so long as the Reagan/Bush political party had remained in power there would have been little or no impact from the protests.

Which brings me to my daily efforts. Every day I read and sign dozens, if not hundreds of petitions for various causes.  And, every day I realize living in a Republican State means none of my signed petitions to State and local lawmakers will even be noticed, much less read and considered. An interesting experiment would be to rewrite the petitions before submission: kill all wildlife, destroy the environment, financially destroy everyone but the 1%, de-regulate all industries, abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, ban all abortions and contraception,  and so on.  I would probably get an invitation to serve on some committee, or at least an invitation to dinner at the Governor’s mansion.

I find it hard to understand people who go from one protest to another.  In the face of an utterly unresponsive (unless you sing their tune and have your checkbook at the ready) vested interest Congress and practically uniform State and local power structures the whole exercise seems futile.  Yes, I do get follow-up emails occasionally citing a victory or two from a petition.  But largely these small victories are just minor adjustments to the tank treads coming to crush the cause you fought for.

I think becoming a parent and a grandparent bolstered my resolve to continue signing all these petitions although I’ve always been a very outspoken advocate of non-human animal rights and those measures which will hopefully reduce the impact toxic humanity has on Gaia.  On the social issues, were I not a parent I could simply say, at my age, why should I care?  I care because I grew up with the immediate effects Fascism had on my family.  I care because I lived in the U.S. most of the 1950’s and it was most certainly not the Ozzie & Harriet wonderland so often portrayed as the Good Old Days; it was the authoritarian, chauvinist WASP holding tank one particular political Party so dearly wants to return to.  I care because my love for my daughter and grandchildren is unconditional and I will always strive for their well being – which I happen to see as intimately enfolded in the well being of the planet and all that lives here.  I admit that in my moments of deeper despair I ask myself if they would know they have it bad, if they wouldn’t just “socially adjust” to the dominant gemeinschaft, no matter what it is.  And, worse yet, why instill a sense of dissatisfaction if the political/cultural machine is so powerful as to ignore, marginalize, ostracize, or even crush them for speaking out?

In primary school my teachers labeled me an iconoclast.  Okay, at 12 years old I had to look that up.  Nice concept, but too generalized.  I prefer to pick my fights.  Ooops, another batch of petition requests just popped up.  Thanks for reading.  

p.s. If readers would like to start up a petition to get me to shut up, I’ll be sure to read it.  

 

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19 Comments
  1. Ray Rivers permalink

    Perhaps there should be fewer petitions and more blogs.

  2. Thanks, Ray. We would certainly like to see more interaction on this blog. There’s even a term for this etherspace – the blogosphere. Of course, it takes actually reading it and taking the initiative to join in, and I thank you very much for your steadfast and principled participation. Marco

  3. Oddly, I recently saw an old (there’s no other kind) episode of Twilight Zone in which this subject constituted the plot line. A young man hated everyone who was different (race, color, religion) who was different from himself. He ranted on the street, trying to get others to believe as he did, but failed in his mission. After one particularly bad failure, he is approached by a man in darkness who taught him what to say, and how to say it. He did as he was taught, and soon he was a grand success. Given the age of the show, who is surprised that the man in the dark was Herr Hitler himself.

    I wonder who is pulling the strings today.

    • Thank you, Rose. You captured my message perfectly. As we near the Finale to the Punch & Judy show we are treated to daily, I wonder how many will look behind the curtain to examine the puppet masters playing us as fools.

  4. The individual is smart, the group is stupid. I was in Protest Warrior group in the last decade. We protested the protesters. I never went to a protest living here 50 miles past the middle of nowhere but I was a lesser admin on the site. I did bust a hacker trying to steal $250,000 from us. He got a paltry 2 years Federal. He was also hacking other sites and was stealing somewhere around 1.5 million to donate to nefarious groups of his own.

    I don’t bother with petitions but I am a member in good standing with my local Humane Society helping to clean up our little corner of the world. It never ends. Education is the key. I still have the 10 fosters who should be now labeled as terrorists and destroying parts of the house daily. I should have them for maybe another month and then out for adoption and I can do spring cleaning once again.

    • Thank you, PO. I think your experience was an unusual education in the realities of individual versus group behavior. So many others who have had even a glimpse of what you have seen take the easy way out and stay silent.

      I’m very heartened by your efforts on behalf of those who cannot plead their own case – the fosters in your care. I would find it hard to part with them, even when they do seem to conspire to wreak havoc. Marco

      • I’ve always taken the askew track to come into things. It’s just how I understand things.

        Now as a species we are supposed to be evolving from human/animal to human/spirit. I don’t know if my fostering is keeping me at human/animal or evolving me towards human/spirit. Oh well, I do love animals.

        Fostering is easy with your animal of preference. You already know what to do. And with the fosters the foster family gets a say-so in who adopts them because they know the critter better than anyone. The match is made better. The hard part is saying goodbye.

      • Thanks for explaining fostering, PO. I’m glad you are there with them including through the vetting of the adoption. And, I would still be hard put to let go.

      • If you have the hard time giving away the critter, now would be a good time to start fostering those Mustangs you talked about. You could have a herd in no time! 😛

      • I would absolutely love to foster a herd of Mustangs, but would probably end up keeping them.

      • Well, I still have 5 of the 10 fosters and they’ve grown enough to act like 10 😛

      • P.O., With so many fosters growing, how do you keep them from breeding? Or, are they all neutered?

      • They were fixed a few weeks ago. They’re only about 4 months old, not yet breeding time although I had a kitten go in heat at 6 months old. Usually it’s 7 to 12 months. Since our Humane Society crosses state lines (I live 3 miles from the line to the east and 40 to the north) all our critters must be up to date on shots and spay/neutered.

  5. A timely post. Protests and signing petitions means the participant has hope. I’m in such a state I don’t have any at this point. I was listening to NPR, and they read the platform of the Republicans to be presented at the convention. I nearly cried. I envision what this country has the power to accomplish but because it is shackled by hate and closed minds, it not only is not progressing but going backwards. I had my hopes so high eight years ago. I thought real change was coming and we were going to hit high speed heading into the future. At this point all I can say is we are going to get what this country deserves.

    • Government is a slow moving train. Do not dispair, the change just takes time. Probably another 20 years. That and the dumb masses rule.

      • Thanks, PO. My concern is for those who are and will be unable to get themselves off the tracks. And, that includes so much of the non-human life forms that will suffer and perish as well. Marco

    • Thank you, Mary. Knowing you I know how deeply you feel this, and that makes me very sad indeed. While I’ve said your closing line so often in the past years, there is no joy in seeing it come true, and in seeing the impact on the few people like you who are left.

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