have mass demonstrations become irrelevant?


the future of political demonstration?

I won't represent or recommend anything other than non-violence on August 29, but I can't help wondering how we could expect a peaceful (if we're very lucky) demonstration involving 250,000 people, or even several times that number, to impact the Bush administration or the November U.S. elections. A year and a half ago, in sub-freezing cold, close to a million people marched in New York alone, joined by millions more around the world on the same day, demanding that the U.S. not engage in a pre-emptive war. Washington ignored us, the American media barely covered the phenomenon, and a few weeks later the Bush cabal invaded Iraq.

Like many others who watched these events, I'm wondering if traditional mass demonstrations have become irrelevant in a post-democratic society composed of a fat citizenry and a diseased media, and run by a corporate cabal. If so, what can we come up with instead? How can we effect change before the Republic is beyond repair if it is not already too late? I don't think we have the half century some of our older, more patient sages suggest it will take.

[image from The People's Korea]

You're absolutely right to wonder, as do I, about the effectiveness of any mass demonstration, but I also believe that public perception is a shifting (dare one say protean?) entity that will always respond differently to each stimulus as it encounters it. Which is to say, the marches before the intervention in Iraq found a large part of public opinion (and the local media) unsure of what exactly this implied — the whole "stand up for President who must know best" business that is so rooted here. Now, however, we've seen so much to disabuse this same "public opinion" of the presumed motives of this action as well as the increasing number of dead soldiers and civilians, that I believe the public is less inclined as a group to give Bush and Co the benefit of the doubt. This holds, I believe, for the media as well — if anything, they shall be under some pressure to attempt to make up for their shameless and cowardly jingoism leading up the war by covering the events in New York during the convention. Which means, I believe, (and I apologize for taking so long) that numbers in the streets of Manhattan will count. Will they change policy? Not directly. Can they potentially influence the election? Absolutely. As someone said to me recently, "Well, even if the Times and the TV ignore it, we'll be able to see it on the BBC."

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Published on August 13, 2004 6:24 PM.

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