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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Monday | January 20, 2003

True Confessions: war protesters bug me

This is one of those rare times when I know most of my readership will disagree with me, but what's life without a little spice?

I do not attend war protests. I was asked to attend, and I declined the invitation. I also decline to encourage people to attend them on this site.

It goes without saying that I oppose a war on Iraq on both ethical and practical reasons. Click on the "War" archive, and you'll find piece after piece attacking Bush and Co's warlust. But the protests themselves? They bug the crap out of me.

Problem #1: I don't care for the event organizers themselves. Tacitus has written a great deal about some of the people behing the protests, including ANSWER -- an organization linked to the World Worker's Party (people who bring us shit like this).

Many of you are probably thinking, "well, so what? I don't agree with the WWP, but I oppose an Iraq invasion. What's the harm?" One of the virtues I value most is consistency. I have spent the last two months bashing the GOP's "Southern Strategy", noting that while not all Republicans are racist, they benefit from a strategy of appealing to base racist instincts in the South. ALL Republicans benefit from race-based policies, therefore they are all implicated (racist or not) by association.

In the case of the anti-war protests, it matters who organizes them. I attend one of ANSWER's rallies, I am also implicated in their policies by association.

But it's not even just ANSWER. It's every yahoo with a pet cause. I turned on C-SPAN's coverage for 30 seconds before listening to a speaker make a pitch for slavery reparations. Nevermind that reparations is about the dumbest cause in the country today, what the heck did it have to do with opposing war against Iraq? Jeez.

Problem #2: I don't care for many of the participants. You know, those eager to relive their 60's activism using the exact same tactics as they did in the 60s, or the younger generations trying to capture a bit of that old time religion. Call me cynical, call me an asshole, but the world is a bit more complex than "make love, not war". There is a time and place for war, and blanket outrage at the concept of war is simply naive. By contrast, WTO protesters seem to be far more educated about their cause and have far more of an edge (for lack of a better word) -- which, to me, makes them more effective. Anger is good (short of smashing storefronts, that is), and far better than this "smile and sing folk songs" crap. Or the "support my pet cause and, oh yeah, oppose war while you're at it" crap.

In all fairness, the chickenhawk supporters of a new Iraq war are no more complex -- with their video game outlook on the conflict, perched safely on their ass in front of CNN, blabbering on an on about "Democracy" in Iraq (like Bush I did in Kuwait -- which is still waiting for Democracy to arrive). And at least the anti-war folks benefit from an inherent honesty -- they don't want to die, and they don't want anyone else to die either. I wish more (any) of the chickenhawk contingent would join the armed forces and back up their words with more than empty rhetoric. After Pearl Harbor, Americans lined up at the recruiting offices ready to stand up for what they believed in. Now, war supporters are content to let others do the dying.

And of course there are MANY protesters who are intelligent, thoughtful and have a realistic understanding of how the world works (including many friends of mine who I am in the process of insulting). And perhaps most ironic of all, I am glad that an anti-war movement exists to lay waste to the claim that all Americans support Bush's war.

I just wish saner, more mainstream heads wrestled control of the movement. Right now it's too easy to dismiss anti-war protesters and their organizers as far-left kooks. They look the part and act the part. And I don't want to be associated with that crowd in any way.

You all now have a free pass to flame me.

Update: I know I criticized without offering an alternate solution. Quite frankly, I felt unable to offer one. Thankfully, Nathan Newman has.

And frankly, rallies are far less effective than people give them credit for. They make a nice media splash but given the work and time involved, a really poor use of resources. Think about it-- if 100,000 people (to take a conservative estimate) were down in DC this weekend, most of them taking the whole day to get there and get home, that is something like 1.2 million volunteer hours.

Instead of one media event that most people just barely notice in an impersonal newspaper article or TV message, if all of those people had spent that time in phone banks or door-knocking, they could have literally engaged tens of millions of people individually. They could have asked these new people to come to followup meetings, asked them to host house parties with neighbors, asked them to write their legislators-- asked them to do something other than stare at a media report.

Also, Eric Alterman tackles the issue:
But radical rhetoric denouncing America and everything it stands for — which is what I heard from the A.N.S.W.E.R.-chosen speakers in D.C. over the weekend — does more harm than good. They harden the other side’s resolve and turn away “normal” non-political people from a cause they might otherwise support.

Posted January 20, 2003 06:28 PM | Comments (95)


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