Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More Protest Notes

I haven't yet uploaded the pictures I took at the rally, but I have collected some from around the 'net.  John Conyer's blog pointed to this collection.  Other Flickr collections are here and here.  Another collection is here.  The C-Span video is here: ANSWER Coalition Rally Against War in Iraq (09/24/2005) -- but it would not work for me, giving a page not found error.  

Some pro-war sites have pictures as well: here, here, and here.  Global Cop has more here; Global Cop was liveblogging, so you have to go to his several posts from 9/25/2005 to find the pictures.  There are photos from the LA protest here.  

 Naturally, I cannot merely find, organize, and post links.  My right hemisphere demands equal time.  Accordingly, I am going to respond to a comment left here, by Callimachus (Done With Mirrors, The Sciolist)...
That's a thoughtful post. But as one who is not convinced by the anti-war rhetoric, but is open to a reasonable discussion about it, I find the presence of so many "radicals" at the microphone and the bullhorn off-putting.

Even if I know most of the people there were not as fierce as the leaders and speakers, I'd be concerned about a movement that lets the fringe rush the stage and hold it all day.

You might want to consider the ultimate goal of the rally: Was it to expose the already-converted to even more radical agendas? Then why make a media spectacle of it?

Or was it to convince the not-yet convinced that there's a good case to be made for -- immediate withdrawal from Iraq, impeachment, whatever it is that the rally is addressing.

It's an age-old problem for groups in this situation. Back in the '60s, was middle America turned against the Vietnam War by the antics of Abbie Hoffman, or by its own reflection on the casualty list and by institutions like Life magazine and Walter Cronkite?

If what I suspect is correct, and the hippie street theater made it more difficult, not easier, for straight-laced America to turn against its government, then why repeat the mistake?
The fact is, I am close to the last person on the  planet who would engage in any kind of "street theater," and I knew perfectly well who was sponsoring the event.  I do not agree with much of what they had to say.  So why go?   The reason is that quiet moderate types do not seem to have any inclination to organize this kind of thing.  When they do, I'll go to their rallies instead.  

From my perspective, the problem is not how do we avoid alienating moderates?  Rather, the problem is, how do political moderates find a way to make their voices heard?  One way is to latch on to people who know how to get their message across.  Perhaps it is not ideal, but it one way to address the problem.  Moreover, and again speaking purely from my own perspective, the fact that a quiet moderate type of guy would go so far as to associate with radicals, is a way of showing the people I know, personally, that I am serious about my antiwar sentiment.  I would not put myself in that position unless I felt strongly about it.  

In that way, the street theater put on by others is something that accentuates the message I sent to my friends and coworkers by attending the rally.  My decision to go to the rally had nothing to do with the national media.  I was not trying to change the world by going to Washington.  Instead, it was a way for me to influence the small groups of people that I realistically can influence: those who know me personally.  Perhaps there will be a bit of influence on those who read this blog, and who know that I am a pretty serious guy, not prone to extravagant display of emotion.  But that really is not high on my agenda.  

The reason that I emphasized, in my previous post, the small-group interactions that took place at the rally, is that I believe that it is personal influence in small groups that is the most powerful agent of change.  In fact, there is reason to believe that it is persons who have loose ties, with multiple small groups, who have the greatest social impact.  Such persons act as channels through which ideas can flow from one group to another.  See The Strength Of Loose Ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78, 1360-1380. Granovetter, Mark S. (1982).  It is not in the public domain, but you can find out about the concept by Googling "The strength of loose ties" with the quotes.  (I have a PDF copy of the paper somewhere, and it probably would fall into a "fair use" category for me to share it with a small number of interested individuals.)  

Will there be some people who are put off by the street theater?  Sure, but they will forget about it after a short while.  In contrast, the persons whom I can influence will not forget quickly, because one does not readily forget the actions taken by those whom they know personally.  I cannot prove that the latter affect outweighs the former, but I tend to think it does.

(Note: The Rest of the Story/Corpus Callosum has moved. Visit the new site here.)
E-mail a link that points to this post:

I'll agree with you that one of the greatest frustrations of the current American political scene (by "current" I mean "within my lifetime") is the lack of vocal moderates. But that's an old human problem: enraged moderate almost is an oxymoron.

"One way is to latch on to people who know how to get their message across." But then you're not a moderate anymore. You're fuel for an extremist (they thrive on crowds).

The way to test an assumption like that, in our dualistic political culture, always is to apply it to the opposite party. Let's say I'm a moderate who has some reservations about the ACLU's effort to erase all religious symbols from public places -- even down to the tiny cross on the seal of the city of Los Angeles. Should I then go to James Dobson meetings and Jerry Falwell rallies?

I'm not sure I read you right, but it's possible that you're defining "moderates" to include only those opposed to the overthrow of Saddam by the U.S. and British military. That is, there are no "moderates" on the other side of that line that separates war opponents from those of us who thought the liberation of Iraq was the right thing to do.

In which case we're not having the same conversation.

But I'll tell you, I will not forget the "Street theater" in a few days.

I have co-workers who attended the rally, too. (I work for in the media; what did you expect?) Their attendance didn't move me one iota toward their political positions. I found their willingness to swell the crowds called together by venomous anti-semites and Stalinists rather a point against them.

But then, I don't look to friends and co-workers to teach me my politics. That's a personal choice, and they'd no more likely convert me to their politics than to their religion.

But if they were going to convert me to either one, they'd have better chance through simply letting me see a good life honestly lived, than in proselytizing.
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