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Thursday, August 26, 2004

'Victories' in the culture wars

August Pollak draws attention to the lies and bullshit being used to justify rejection of protest permits in New York. It's all interesting, but I do have a quarrel with one thing he says.

But more significant is the often-dispached fallacy that (typically right-wing) commentators make about protest groups. It's not a "victory" when they get their permits turned down, and it's especially not a "victory" for public order and property protection.

Why? Because even the most brief Google search will come up with the fact that people coming to protest the GOP are as spontaneous about it as the writer's fantasy world. They've been planning this for months. They have plane tickets. They're booking hotels, and when that fails they're sleeping on the streets if necessary.


Thousands of angry, agitated people are coming to New York, and whether or not they're ordered to keep off the grass is probably around 3 or 4 on the Top Ten Most Irrelevant Issues Ever list.

I agree with him that this is going to be a huge mistake. But you're not going to convince conservatives that it isn't a "victory" for two main reasons. 1) Many conservatives, especially young ones, think pissing off liberals is the entire reason to be conservative. This is pissing off liberals and is therefore a victory. 2) They want to provoke protesters to act out, especially violently, so that they can claim that liberals are actually the violent ones. Of course, that's in irrational stance, since anti-war violence is not comparable to war violence, but it could work nonetheless because people want so badly to have a reason to hate anti-war protesters.

Still, they are playing with fire here. There are enough people committed to civility and/or non-violent civil disobedience that the protests could very well generate even more sympathy for the anti-war cause. Plus, the protesters aren't there soley to protest the war. There will be protesting for civil liberties, the right to vote, and economic justice. Again, conservatives hope they can spin it out of control because the protesters aren't "organized" or "focused". Whatever--they are focused laser-like on the person of the Shrub and regardless of why each individual protester is protesting, all that anger will be aimed in his direction.

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