Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Peace in our time

I give up.

Michelle Goldberg, “The whole world is watching”,, 2004 August 17.
Recently Bill Millard, an East Village writer, editor and musician, posted a suggestion on an anti-RNC listserve that activists should respond to the media's fear mongering by pledging, "publicly, loudly, with absolute seriousness -- to avoid and repudiate idiotic actions like triggering blackouts, harming horses, etc. That's right-wing provocateur behavior, not principled protest. Karl Rove couldn't think up a better way for this whole event to play right into the Repugniks' hands."

To Millard, the idea seemed like common sense, and he was surprised by the vehemence with which several activists rejected it. "Denouncing violence is the equivalent of attempting to minutely define who makes up a NoRNC coalition that's actually quite diverse and hard to pin down," wrote Eric Laursen, a member the A31 coalition, a group calling for direct action against the RNC on Aug. 31. "It just complicates the story for a corporate media that can't handle much in the way of subtleties."

Rather than repudiate violence, the direct-action faction of the anti-RNC movement is trying to convince the media that violence is solely the fault of the police.
[R]age has to be used strategically, [argues John Passacantando, the executive director of Greenpeace USA], or it amounts to little more than a tantrum. "We have to take our own discontent about the horrors this administration is foisting on our world and we have to find a way to productively channel that anger into something that speaks to a larger audience, as opposed to just engaging in personal therapy," he says. "When you're doing something in front of the cameras, for the cameras, you have to take into account how will this be perceived."

Such thinking makes sense only to those who are worried about alienating American voters. Liberals are, but many anti-RNC activists defiantly are not. Ironically, despite being motivated by a ferocious hatred of George Bush, some of those planning direct-action protests against the convention have grown so disillusioned with electoral politics that they barely seem to care whether he's defeated in November.

Getting Bush out of the White House "is an aesthetic thing -- I won't have to look at him anymore," says the A31 Coalition's David Graeber, explaining his mild preference for Kerry. A 43-year-old anthropology instructor at Yale, Graeber, who lives in Chelsea, says, "Maybe I'll vote for Kerry, maybe I won't."

With the outcome of the election a source of relative indifference to him, he's less interested in communicating with people in swing states than with people abroad. "I want to send a message to someone in Iraq, in China, in Afghanistan," that there are people in America who oppose Bush's foreign policy, he says.

Many liberals find such sentiments so irrational as to make discussion impossible. "I don't know: How do you convince the potential rioters that they're buying Christmas presents for Karl Rove?" [says former antiwar organizer Todd Gitlin].
It gets better.
Jennifer Steinhauer, “Just Keep It Peaceful, Protestors; New York Is Offering Discounts,” The New York Times, 2004 August 18.
In a transparently mercantile bid to keep protesters from disrupting the Republican National Convention later this month, the Bloomberg administration will offer "peaceful political activists" discounts at select hotels, museums, stores and restaurants around town during convention week, which begins Aug. 29.
If only the Romanovs had thought of this.

"It's no fun to protest on an empty stomach," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday, when he announced the program at NYC & Company, the city's tourism office, which will distribute the buttons to all comers to its Midtown office.
So the Bloomberg administration is going to try to placate protestors, some of whom are violently (in every sense of the word) anti-capitalist, with a discount scheme?
Protesters can also get the buttons from groups that have a legal permit to rally. But Mr. Bloomberg conceded yesterday that not everyone who wore a button would be strictly vetted for his or her peacefulness. "Unfortunately, we can't stop an anarchist from getting a button," he said, though he doubted any of them would want to wear one.
Mr. Mayor, I'll be blunt. You're not very popular. Commuters resent the re-introduction of the commuter tax. City residents resent the cuts in services. And, though the negative effect of this is likely negligible in a such a gay-friendly city, you kinda ping our gaydar more than that McGreevey guy ever did. Maybe even more than Tom Cruise. And we’re Blue Staters. We've got good gaydar.

I tend to vote Democrat, yet I genuinely admired your brave defiance of special interests in defense of our city's financial well-being. On the basis of that alone, I would vote for your re-election. In the last three years, Gracie Mansion has demonstrated far more fiscal responsibility than the White House.

Like our President, you hold a Harvard MBA. (Unlike you, however, he seems to have missed the class on the importance of positive cash flow. Perhaps he was off fulfilling his duty in the National Guard. You know, getting up at the crack of dawn to do lines. Of marching, that is. Yeah, Bolivian marching, maybe.)

Which brings me to my point. You are a Harvard MBA with a Wall Street background, which suggests that your firsthand knowledge of anarchists is limited.

I used to live in the fair borough of Brooklyn, in a neighborhood known as Williamsburg. Many of the people whom you hope to ply with promises of discounted Applebee’s Buffalo chicken salads were my neighbors. (By the way, if you were a visitor to Manhattan and deciding on a restaurant, would you really choose to eat at a fern bar like Applebee’s?)

I have no doubt that some of them will be perfectly willing to wear the buttons to, in language they would use, “appropriate the symbols of hegemony. And that salad doesn’t sound so bad. I don’t suppose they could do a Buffalo tempeh salad with a vegan soy blue ‘cheese’ dressing, could they?” If nothing else, with their ironic postmodern sensibilities, they may appreciate the buttons in and of themselves for their kitsch value. But you’re probably too far in the closet to be an enthusiastic fan of the whole kitsch thing.

(N.B. As far as they're concerned, You = The Man)
Law-abiding protesters will be given buttons that bear a fetching rendition of the Statue of Liberty holding a sign that reads, "peaceful political activists." Protesters can present the buttons at places like the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Sex, the Pokémon Center store and such restaurants as Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too and Applebee's to save some cash during their stay.
Words fail me. I mean, the Pokemon Center?! Are you sh*tting me? *sigh*
The discount program for protesters is modeled on one for delegates to the convention, and there are some notable differences. Protesters are offered $5 off admission to the Museum of Sex, while delegates are not. But delegates get $3 off the space show at the American Museum of Natural History, a discount not offered to protesters. The Republicans get "Rent," the people who oppose them get "Tony n' Tina's Wedding."’re sending the Republicans to “Rent” and the protestors to “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding”?! Why hold back? Hire Pat Boone to entertain the protestors, why dontcha? And while you're at it, why not give the Republicans tickets to Bugger McSodomy's Leather Chaps Revue?

Okay, okay, now I get it. You're trying to pre-emptively "punk" both the Republicans (for their shameful refusal to send New York City the money promised after September 11th for increased security) and the protestors (for their anticipated violence), right? Right?!