Thursday, November 17, 2005

Protesting! UGH! (Good God, Ya'll) What Is It Good For?

Absolutely nothing. Say it again?

Heckling was disservice to Baker and Cheney (Knoxville News Sentinel - Registration Required)
"In Knoxville on Tuesday, [VP Dick] Cheney was the featured speaker for ceremonies involved in the groundbreaking for the new Howard Baker Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee. Predictably, his visit sparked protests against the war in Iraq...


The protests were the healthy part of what ensures the viability of our democracy. It is free speech, which we advocate without the designated and roped-off zones.

However, the heckling of the vice president during his speech praising the service of Baker was disrespectful to both men. It is difficult to see how such behavior helps the cause of those participating in it, much less shakes the resolve of its intended target. "
While this may be an unpopular opinion, I fail to see the point of protesting in this manner, in this day and age.

Scores of people carrying signs, printed with slogans. Chanting, yelling...yes, protesting. Sometimes people actively protest politicians like the President or the VP. Sometimes they protest against companies or organizations they feel are unfair or dishonest. Sometimes they protest ideas or actions like war or nuclear power.

I'm all for healthy debate and civil discourse, but all the protests I see lately are no longer healthy nor civil. Heckling is unacceptable to me, no matter the cause and no matter the justification. Signs with rude, obscene and otherwise distasteful slogans have no use or place in a society that supposedly prides itself on intelligence. And, as mentioned above, I have yet to see how the protests themselves have changed the minds of any but the most pliable mentalities.

Here's more:

Cheney critics assail vice president in arena and on campus streets
Chad Neace shook his head in amazement Tuesday as more than 100 protesters launched into chants deeming Vice President Dick Cheney a racist, sexist, traitorous war criminal.

"This is a leader of our country and they're bashing him," the 21-year University of Tennessee student said. "It's like their parents never taught them respect."


The protest outside the Thompson-Boling Assembly Center and Arena began with James Wilkins, a 46-year-old Knoxville man who took the day off from work. At 9:30 a.m. he grabbed a street corner, holding a white poster board sign that asked, "Who would Jesus torture?"


At 11 a.m. the real army of protesters was gathering at McClung Plaza to put Cheney on trial. Using a bullhorn, a student yelled out charges against a faux Cheney while about 75 others confirmed the vice president's guilt. Another crowd of about 75 students gathered to watch and cheer.

The faux Cheney was a female student wearing a 30-inch-tall, papier-mache, oversized head. The same head had been used in a protest against former UT President John Shumaker but had been transformed Tuesday into Cheney with the addition of some toilet paper for hair.


Thomas Walker, with the Progressive Student Alliance, said the activist group on campus had organized two protests for Cheney. In addition to the one outside the arena, several PSA members tried to disrupt Cheney's speech by shouting anti-war slogans.

"We felt if he was going to hide from the public, we were going to chase him down," said the 20-year-old sociology major.

Brian May, 19, a UT chemistry student, was one of the dozen protesters escorted from the arena after yelling anti-war slogans. He shrugged off the idea that his act was more rude than enlightening.


"Their behavior was despicable, to treat a sitting U.S. vice president like that," Thompson said. "To express their views is great, but I don't think this is the proper venue."
I heard on a local radio station yesterday a name-calling session between UT Professor Mark Harmon who reportedly was an organizer or leader of the protest (I'm not certain for sure what his involvement was, so forgive me if I'm in error) and a caller who, while trying to protect his son in the crowd, was yelled at and spit on by protesters, who then accused him to a policemen of hitting them. It denigrated into a "You're lying!" "No, you're lying!" "No, you're lying!" sissyfight, which accomplished nothing.

For the most part, they seem to be self-defeating and random. Oftentimes, such as many of the anti-war protests of the last couple of years, they were sponsored by 3rd party anti-government and pro-communist groups - which have nothing to do with the actual subjects of the protest. Willing dissenters with intelligent opinions are led to believe they're doing a good and noble thing - when in reality, it's hurting their cause more than helping it by pretending to try and channel 1966... And turning off people who might be willing to listen to your opinion. And certainly not swaying the opinions of who or what they might be trying to protest.

Is there any recorded instance of a politician, company, or organization actually changing its mind or opinion or policy as a result of signed protests in the last, say, 20 years? Not that their opinions might actually change as a natural result of time, but where they truly admitted they were influenced by a group of picketers?

I'm not saying people shouldn't be allowed to protest, or that the "Free Speech Zones" should be moved back farther or abolished. Not at all - in fact, I think people should be allowed to protest from wherever they are, as long as they're polite, civil and not interfering verbally with what's going on. That's a wonderful freedom.

In the 50's and 60's people protested against American involvement in Vietnam and even more successfully they protested in favor of Civil Rights. They protested in honor of Rosa Parks, of Martin Luther King, Jr. and in favor of desegregating schools and society. And with great success and effect.

But I just think it's pointless now, and only serves as a vent for anger and pettiness, as well as a rallying tool for dissenters of a more insidious nature.

I'd ask the protesters and hecklers who were at the ceremony on Tuesday to find more productive ways to protest - write letters, do research, run or participate in elections, speak, blog, talk to your friends, whatever. Just be smart, be civil and be real.

If you are a protester, or have actively participated in a protest recently or in the past (held signs, marched, yelled, heckled, whatever) - what did you feel you wanted to accomplish? Do you feel you succeeded? Do you think your message was succesfully sent, and people left with a positive image of your group and their message?

UPDATE: (11/18/05) Big Orange Michael has more.

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