Demonstrations are so last century

Demonstrations are so last century

: In the old days, if you wanted to be heard and didn’t own a newspaper, you had to hold a demonstration so the people would see that you can a critical mass of folks who thought like you and so media would notice and tell the rest of the world.

But that was in the old days.

I read about the rude action of bike riders (a breed I, a runner, am not wildly fond of anyway) who blocked streets in New York because they wanted to protest somethingorother (do we really care what?). Oh, they get publicity. But they also piss off thousands of New Yorkers (who did nothing wrong to affect these left-turning bikers and deserve this treatment). And I’ll bet that most people who saw their publicity (a) didn’t notice what the cause was and (b) thought they were being pretty silly or rude.

Demonstrations aren’t the way to get your message across anymore. Because now, you can own your own newspaper.

Yes, you know I’m going to say that you can get your message across on a blog. But, of course, that goes only so far.

You can also make a movie like F9/11 and get your message across — and make a helluva lot of money as a bonus! F9/11 has not much more intellectual content than a demonstration full of hand-scrawled signs — but it’s more effective.

And as media continues to blow apart, you will have more and more ways to get your message across.

In a sense, this is a return to the roots of dissent: In America’s earliest days, demonstrations couldn’t work; there was never a critical mass of folks around. So, you wrote pamphlets. Today, you simply use the best media available and there is more of it.

Stopping me from getting to work and pissing me off is not the best way. And breaking the windows of the place where I buy my decaf certainly is not the way.

And besides, it’s going to be hard to impress the old farts who once were young demonstrators. We demonstrated. We stopped our war. We’re jaded now.

We’re going to see lots of demonstrations this week. Many of them will be silly. Some will be rude. But all of them will start to look pretty damned anachronistic.

: UPDATE: If you can even figure out what the hell this protest is, then you probably have a dirtier mind than I do. Good for you.

  • Jason Puckett

    No matter what you say on a blog, you’re not going to get on the cover of the NY Times and the lead on CNN like the protestors will be doing this week. And, sadly, the NY Times and CNN remain more influential than a whole bunch of
    I am against the violent protesters as much as the next guy, but the argument that protests are ineffectual because there are blogs and new media forms today nowadays seems pretty weak. I’m not saying that this will never be the case, I’m just saying right now, protests can do the trick (if done right and not rudely.)

  • This “so last century” from someone who loves blogging for its promise of Liberty-Equality-Fraternity. Why engage in 20th century protest when ideals from the 18th are right at our fingertips?

  • Disagree.
    Don’t want violence, don’t even want anger – but passion. Love seeing people out there. Proves apathy doesn’t rule – and I need that reassurance more and more these days.
    A blog is a sit-on-your-ass, passive affair – however entertaining.

  • I took Mayor Bloomberg’s comments about welcoming non-violent protest at face value, and joined the ride. A few comments I feel I have to make here:
    1. The bikes were retaking the streets. So long as you don’t run in the middle of the driving lane, you’re not going to come into contact with us. The reason you, as a runner, don’t like cyclists is because the cars push us off the roads and onto pedestrian paths, where — we both agree — cycles don’t belong. You should be supporting actions which point out that cyclists have just as much right to use roads as cars do.
    2. Most people who saw the ride — I can tell you this from first-hand experience — were hugely supportive. All along the way, even in the snobbiest parts of the Upper East Side, we were cheered along by impromptu crowds. Even the disrupted car drivers were generally supportive, although of course a few made rude comments and a couple actually got violent.
    3. Unless you start work at 9pm, we weren’t stopping you from getting to work. As I say, the only people who got pissed off were a handful of car drivers who got stuck in traffic for longer than they normally would. All demonstrations are disruptive; in a sense, that’s their point. Your utopia of non-disruptive demonstrations is a world where demonstrations don’t ever make a difference.
    4. The 200+ arrests notwithstanding, this was in no way a violent protest. The arrests were for traffic violations: riding more than two abreast, that sort of thing. And nobody broke any windows. You’re eliding Critical Mass with the WTO protests in Seattle.

  • Jarvis-
    A request: Could you please make a separate feed for your posts in the “weblogs” category, so I can just read them without having to scroll past the inanity in the “politics” and “culture” posts? It would save me time and blood pressure, and save you bandwidth (I think). Please?

  • Blogging isn’t a mass action. Taking to the streets makes their actions seem more “important”.
    People like to beleive they’re part of something important. Makes it easier to believe in themselves.

  • Meezer

    “All demonstrations are disruptive; in a sense, that’s their point. ”
    No one has ever won me over by making me late. And in that group of non-going-to-work people were sick people, pregnant people, people wanting to meet loved ones at airports and train stations, and the disabled (like me, temporarily in a wheel chair; any time over a 1/2 hour in a car causes more pain – thanks!)
    Like always, the Left care about “The People”, never any real person.

  • Nia

    Partly agree, in the getting-message-accross part. But demonstrations are also about knowing that you are not the only one out there who thinks something is wrong. When you distribute flyers or make a blog you don’t see people supporting you, in a demonstration you do.

  • shark

    And besides, it’s going to be hard to impress the old farts who once were young demonstrators. We demonstrated. We stopped our war. We’re jaded now
    I’m glad you’re alive to be jaded. How many million of Viets and Cambodians died at the hands of the Communists once you “stopped your war” and made us abandon them to genocidal regimes?
    Just asking is all…

  • Felix expressed most of my thoughts better than I could. Well put. As a runner, you should appreciate a “breed” of people who do not contribute to the air pollution you must be accustomed to sucking up. The majority of cyclists (including me) did not block traffic any more than cars do on a daily basis. Critical Mass is (usually) not about protesting anything. It’s simply one night a month to remind our neighbors that there are alternatitives to automobiles clogging our streets.

  • No demostrations are not just about getting your name in the paper. Not really. There are easier ways to do that. The point of a demostration is to physically show the number of people who support your cause. Thousands of people all gathered together chanting “down with fossil fuels” make people look and think “wow thats a lot of folks maybe they have something.” Partly this is herd instinct I suppose.
    The other thing that they do is intimidate folks. “Wow thats a lot of angry folks, I better see what I can do to calm them down.” Or “Maybe I should give them what they want so they will go away.”
    Demonstrations do get publicity but they are more than about publicity. They are about not just the message, but the public support behind it.

  • Chris Josephson

    It’s hard for me to understand, but there are people who care more about staging their event than they do about whatever cause they support.

  • >> It’s hard for me to understand, but there are people who care more about staging their event than they do about whatever cause they support.
    Posted by Chris Josephson

    Chris J – you’re right – that’s what I was thinking of the Republican convention, too.
    Great minds think alike and all that. (: )

  • It’s simply one night a month to remind our neighbors that there are alternatives to automobiles clogging our streets.
    And is it somehow better if those of you who have knees suitable for bicycling do the clogging instead?

  • Ptolemy

    Just the repubilican convention? I’ll wager you’ll see a more representative Repub convention than you did a Dem one. Mob protests are great for Venezuala and Romania but what does America need them for? If everyone did their duty and voted then most everything we want to happen would. Americans don’t need to protest, they just want to. A luxury most nation don’t have. When you can write a book, an article, a pop song,or anything else you want about the government what does marching add? Marches are for the bored and personally frustrated.

  • “And is it somehow better if those of you who have knees suitable for bicycling do the clogging instead?”
    Yup. We’re low on both air *and* sound pollution. And to be honest, past months without heavy-handed tactics by police have resulted in much less “clogging” than was present on Friday.

  • More fun protestors:
    > A second protestor shoved a middle-aged
    > woman in a black cocktail dress, shouting
    > “Bitch, go home! We don’t want you here!”
    And we wonder why the rest of the country hates us New Yorkers :-(

  • What from that one line of a media account makes you think that person is a New Yorker?

  • I’ll give a high-five to the protests, too. They were on the teevee this morning, and again tonight when I checked the cable news, and it’s somewhat impressive to see 250,000 people walking around making a political point compared to the 5,000 delegates in town for the GOP convention (along with 5,000 journalists who badly need a story to cover).
    Of course, it helps to have your own media. I remember the trouble the Indy Media folks had in Philadelphia for the last GOP convention. Blogs hadn’t quite caught on & the “unconvention” newspaper was a clumsy, rarely updated PDF thing.
    Anyway, it seems the protesters are providing a story for bloggers, teevee crews, print journalists, web journalists and everybody else. If some of the protesters are also publishing blogs, all the better.

  • jeremy in NYC

    They provided an afternoon of entertainment, too. If they had all been “down with Bush” protesters, they might have had a stronget message, but half the fun was just waiting to see who was going to come by next – the Communist revolutionaries, sex workers for choice, Billionaires for Bush….you may not agree with some or any of these people (and I still wish the convention and protests were held somehwere else)….but I looked at this thing and was happy for my country, that this kind of thing can take place.

  • ” We stopped our war. “
    Yes. You and other well-meaning Leftists did that.
    You got the USA to leave SE Asia, and not look back.
    You think that getting the US immediately out of Vietnam, like Kerry advocated in 1971, is the morally superior position.
    Even after the evil commies committed genocide.
    The choice was more war, or (US) peace and genocide. You supported the “peace and genocide”.
    Real choices are tough — with real results.

  • Surely you’re more open minded than you let on. Protests certainly fill a role. If nothing else they are celebrations of individual civic responsibility. Sure they can be good or bad, but they are a medium much like blogging.
    This smacks of the “paperless office” and other such “end of” statements. Old media isn’t going anywhere. Perhaps you’re one of the people who scare old media reporters into thinking their jobs are going somewhere when infact its simple evolution and the people are just coming to them. Blogging compliments and benifits reporting just as protests compliment and benifit the political process. It all depends on how they’re used.
    PS. I’m commenting on your post because it was the most alarmingly backwards sentiment of the thousands of posts I came across in the last week. Given the wide range of public opinions in blogs that’s saying something. I’ve been reading your blog for quite sometime and though you were more enlightened than that. All in good fun though, eh.

  • From Octomoto‘s most recent post: Million Media March
    But apparently demonstrations have their skeptics. According to Buzzmachine writer Jeff Jarvis, demonstrations are so last century. Surprisingly, Jarvis, a long-time evangelist of citizen media, misses citizen media