Quit Protesting for Protesting’s Sake

It seems a small but very vocal element of the Georgia State community continues to rear its head at the forefront of virtually each and every protest. Well, here’s my protest — enough is enough.

The skins they use to represent themselves — Occupy Atlanta, Occupy GSU, the Progressive Student Association and the Georgia Students for Public Higher Education, to name the most prominent – seem to change at the drop of the hat.

But for people that love to shout “shame” at every possible instance, they surely don’t understand their actions discredit those they claim to represent.

What do they expect people of power (i.e. senators or university regents) think when they disrupt public meetings — to the point of getting arrested, even? Or when they protest outside corporate headquarters, such as the AT&T building, for example? Do they seriously think these political titans or industry tycoons will have some sudden, miraculous revelation about the way they run their business or somehow bow to “public pressure?”

No.

But that seems to be the implicit assumption by these groups. Otherwise, what’s the point?

And the expectation of such a response reflects both a broad misunderstanding of the politics of local government institutions and a general naiveté of how laws get made.

True, there’s unquestionably terrible, corrupt links between elements of the corporate world and the political sphere. Industry lobbyists spend thousands of dollars every year buying the votes of those that claim to represent the people — to the point where ethics enforcement is a running joke in Georgia. After all, Georgia was recently ranked the most corrupt state in the country.

And during some the last hours of the most recent legislative session, Georgia lawmakers apparently tried to remove even the last bit of ethical oversight in one of the shakiest, most appalling bits of politics I’ve seen in a while.

It’s no wonder people have grievances with the government, especially the Georgia legislature.

But that doesn’t mean one radical act should beget another.

And let’s not forget, these people are not protesting for the end of the Vietnam War or changes on the level of the Civil Rights movement.

And half the time it seems as though these groups don’t even know what they’re angry about. True, within the last few months, their agendas have become gradually more targeted — especially toward certain legislative bills and corporate policies.

Even on the university level they have become better organized and have tailored their plans.

But, even then, the ways they present their arguments, frame their speeches and organize their actions reflects a gross over-exaggeration of what they’re fighting against, especially when they compare themselves to historic movements like those of the 1960s.

True, some issues they speak about — including the University Board of Regent’s ban on undocumented students — might seem similar, yet they do not even encroach upon the same scale or impact of past movements.

Further, while the issues they speak about are important and should be discussed, the methods these organizations choose to employ discredit people of similar, yet reasonable, disposition. For example, the language in press releases or event invitations by these organizations frequently employs increasingly violent rhetoric. Similarly, the imagery of  Occupy GSU’s raised fist, for example, denotes a potentially violent framework of protest, which alienates moderate supporters.

In terms of physical action, these groups have employed extremely questionable tactics at times, such as blocking public roads for the sole purpose of utilizing the ensuing chaos to spread their message and organizing a walkout several weeks ago that both disrupted classes and left a veritable mess of flyers scattered about campus.

The truth is neither of these actions really improved student perception of these radicals. Maybe it spread awareness of what they’re about but not for the better. Even then, I’m willing to bet their messages created a much deeper impression (and certainly not for the better) on the janitors and university employees that had to pick up their trash than on the students and administrators they meant to reach.

And now that the Georgia legislative session is over, I ‘m not sure where these seemingly ADD-like groups of activists, many of which aren’t even GSU students, will turn their attention — perhaps back to the university to end the semester with a bang.

Well, if that’s the case, I say take a second and re-examine your message and the tactics you use to explain it.

Then people might actually take you seriously.

 

Comments
2 Responses to “Quit Protesting for Protesting’s Sake”
  1. Phantom Justice says:

    I think the point of these protests is public awareness. You question how laws get made. Well, one of the ways that laws get made is because of public outlaw for them. Public outcry generally starts with a small group of protesters then gradually over time becomes a deafening outcry. These protesters don’t necessarily expect that the senators or university regents are going to change their minds but perhaps some students minds will be changed. Perhaps when years go by with the issues not being addressed while staying in the lime light these students will now be graduates. Graduates that will no doubt be hounded relentlessly by the school for endowment funds and other charitable donations.
    The key to most of these protests is awareness, not necessarily immediate action. The real shame of the matter is if you want to draw any attention to a cause in America it either has to be over the top antics like many of these protests or the issue has to start negatively affecting a larger percentage of the population.
    Sure, maybe these battles aren’t as big as the civil rights of the 60′s but does that mean they should not be fought? The argument you are making is that since the issues are not as big, they aren’t worth fighting. Perhaps this push back from protesters is the first line of defense. Perhaps if the powers that be continue to push you will see larger and larger crowds of people at these protests. Maybe the amount of fuss that is being caused by this small group is enough of a disturbance to curb greater reaches for power from lawmakers and corporations.
    The raised fist that you attribute to violence actually has nothing to do with violence. The fist is the international symbol for solidarity and has been used by many oppressed groups for many different reasons. For almost 100 years that fist has been used by hundreds if now thousands of groups with a very small percentage of them advocating violence. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raised_fist#History .
    There is an almost sickening irony that you would even attempt to drag these groups under for “littering their message” on our campus. If I am not mistaken you are an employee of The Signal, another group that hands out their literature and opinions on campus. Many of these papers end up littering the entire campus week in and week out. One major difference between your organization and these organizations of protesters is that the protesters generally go around after events and pick up their trash, I have yet to see a Signal employee so much as pick up one page of a littered paper. If we want to dig furthers into the littering topic we can at least agree that the messages of The Signal and these protests at least bring a social awareness, a deeper message than 95% of what really litters our cars, campus, buildings, walls, and bulletin boards ….PARTY PROMOTION. The only weight your argument against littering holds is to anchor down the bottom of your rant, most of which are recycled talking points from the media in the Occupy Wall Street days. If there is anything more tiring than protesters trying to actually get off their ass and do something it’s the people who sit on the sidelines, doing nothing productive for their school and community, and vomit the same tired rebuttal to “Shut up, get in line and don’t upset the apple cart” then turn the other way against the faces of people that need them. To that I say “Quit Bitching for Bitchings Sake”

    • Well, let me first say that I appreciate your response and respect the stances of some of these organizations on a variety of issues, as I clearly mention in my post. However, my point is most carefully tailored to the actions these groups use to spread their message, which I believe alienates moderates with similar views and potential supporters.

      I don’t think that, just because OWS’s objectives are arguably less important than that of the Civil Rights or Anti-Vietnam movements, they should be ignored or marginalized someway. Rather, I think that interested parties like those associated with the Occupy movements should better target their messages in terms that legislators and people in power will really understand. I mean, what good does a protest of, let’s be generous, 300 people at the capitol solve? Or at the University Board of Regents, if we want to go smaller?

      Nothing.

      These people don’t respond to rallies and blow horns– not from people like you, at least. And not on any kind of scale you’re talking about. Consider the Trayvon Martin case, for example. Hundreds to thousands gathered on the steps to show solidarity with the family and push for changes to “Stand Your Ground” laws. What happened? Nothing, again. Granted, national pressure likely convinced prosecutors to charge Zimmerman, but nothing happend on a local level.

      And, like it or not, Occupy GSU/ATL/Gwinnett/Whatever will never even begin to approach the numbers seen by the black community for Trayvon, much less that of other Occupy movements during the height of the fad. So fat chance of them getting anything changed on an organizational level.

      Instead, these groups should use tried-and-true methods of convincing legislators to shift their votes. Tactics like mail-ins from constituents, personal phone calls and use of the media to bring spotlight to an issue are much more effective at getting legislators to reconsider their positions, historically.

      To be honest, no one cares if a bunch of kids get arrested yelling and making a scene on campus.

      Don’t get me wrong, rallies, self-proclaimed “propaganda” and social media all have their place and are fine on limited scales, but they shouldn’t be the driving force of a movement with policy goals. They’re merely tools to an end.

      And my argument is not that these policies shouldn’t be questioned just because they don’t share the same magnitude as other movements, either. Instead, I’m arguing that the methods employed by the more radicalized and outspoken members negatively impacts the overall perception of the policy goals held by these members.

      Which brings me to my point as regards to the raised fist gesture. In this case, I’m most clearly referencing its connotations to the Black Panthers, the militant, leftist group which infamously made it popular during the 60s and 70s. In my mind, the rhetoric and imagery employed by those within these groups mirrors that of other radical, often leftist groups that have used this symbol in the past. And you can’t argue that perception doesn’t matter.

      Finally, in regards to copies of The Signal left to rot, I can honestly say that every paper we individually pass out reaches someone’s hands, even if they decide to litter the campus with it later, which is a shame in my mind. The same cannot be said for Occupy GSU, especially, since I know they’ve made a point of employing ‘drop-marketing,” or littering with the sole purpose of proliferating the campus with their message. How else do you explain the arrest of the Occupy GSU-affiliated individual a few weeks ago during the walk-out, who was caught throwing a pile of flyers into the library?

      Bottom line, if these groups really want to change something, they should work out a more reasonable approach and cut free the more radical elements of their organizations.

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