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?”
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.