RNC Protests Will Neither Help Bush Nor Hurt Kerry

Eric Alterman worries that the New York protests against the RNC will backfire: Anarchists and idiots ruined the Seattle protests and the media--loving conflict and hating context--will eat any violence and property destruction, even bad language, to smear not only the protesters but also anyone and everyone who opposes Bush. Chicago '68 unquestionably helped elect Nixon. (I've read the polling data.)

And the same thing could happen here. Second, as with Johnson, Nixon and Reagan, it hardly requires an act of imagination to prepare for the possibility that Republican conservative spies and thugs will infiltrate these protests and cause the violence themselves, with the knowledge that it will be blamed on the protesters and their cause.

I would be surprised if they don't do this, but of course, it will be years if not decades before we ever found out that those crazies who wanted to start fires and break windows were actually right-wing operatives. The media will treat this possibility as beyond the pale, just as they did when the CIA and FBI did it to the antiwar movement under both Johnson and Nixon, and when the FBI did it to the anti-intervention in Central America movement under Reagan.

Second, the protesters themselves are pissing me off. As I said, I support the cause--as well as the cause of free speech -- but that does not mean I want to sacrifice the well-being of Central Park for the cause. I imagine millions of New Yorkers feel the same way. They made a deal for the West Side Highway and they should stick to it. Perhaps the deal was unfair, but now they seem to be brewing a potion for pure chaos, that will rebound the Republicans' benefit and also screw up the Park.

Alterman's worries about infiltration and other attempts to tarnish the protests are well founded, but his fears about political ramifications seem to be based on the media of the past. Simply put, the national media doesn't cover protests anymore, even if the protests are infiltrated and ruined by violent thugs. You can expect significant local TV coverage, but don't expect any on CNN. The sad fact is that on February 15, 2003, when the largest single day protest in the history of the world took place against the invasion of Iraq (30,000,000 people worldwide), it was the feature story on evening news programs for a few minutes that Saturday night. In the same coverage, the "counter protests" of a few hundred people received nearly equal time, and then the story was completely dropped the following Monday after Bush's quip about focus groups. The March for Women's Lives, the largest protest in DC since the pre-Telecommunications Act Million Man March, received maybe 10% the coverage of the MMM. In 1999, Seattle was a splash because it was so new to American viewers. However, since that time, many other anti-globalization protests of similar, equal, or greater size have been all but completely ignored by our national media. Because of this extremely lax media coverage of modern dissent, the protests in NYC will ultimately not affect the national political landscape of this election one iota. Outside of local news, there will simply be little or no coverage of them.

As for Eric's other worries, Steve Gillard and Jimmy Breslin have thought provoking responses.

Personally, I am going to New York to send a message directly to the Republican delegates, warmongers and GOP corporate cronies themselves. They started a war, and now they feel they need a 20,000-member army to protect them in their own country from their fellow citizens. They are actually frightened to death of pacifist, geeky wimps such as myself, so I plan to fuel that fear by showing up, protesting and blogging in an attempt to counteract their spin. They do not represent us, and they do not represent New York. That is something I want to tell them personally. I will try to tell the truth about the protests and the conventions to as many people as possible, and as a group us protesters and bloggers might just be able to make a dent. However, I am not holding my breath.

Tags: Media (all tags)



I think that's the wrong take

I disagree -- the media will cover the protests -- and especially the loonier elements within them and most especially any property damage or violence -- very strongly, because to do so serves the purposes of the GOP.  The Republicans get to stand tall and firm and to uphold AMERICA, and they will spin the protestors as being equivalent to the Democrats.  As I wrote late last night (before I read the Alterman) this will both energize their base and may turn some undecideds.

The protests are not a particularly good idea.  I'm with Alterman on this.

by Ed Fitzgerald 2004-08-11 12:16PM | 0 recs
Re: I think that's the wrong take
Agreed. The protests will get covered, because the RNC will be closely monitoring them, and they will provide talking points and videos and pictures and accounts of the loony protests, and they will provide party representatives who will bring up the protests. It is to the RNC's benefit that the protests are covered, and covered in a biased manner, and I have little doubt that they will do their best to ensure that's exactly the kind of coverage the protests get. There are many good reasons to protest, and I certainly support the protestors in New York. But I really wish that some of them would calm down and realize that their moronic violence and property destruction hurts their cause. Attempting to induce anarchy will not convert people to your cause, no matter how fun it sounds.
by punishinglemur 2004-08-11 12:34PM | 0 recs
Re: I think that's the wrong take
I am afraid that I have to agree. Rove and his friends are desperate, and I suspect that the protests represent one of the last chances that Bush has to save himself from defeat. There is every reason to expect that the Repugs will use provocation to incite violence or will just do the violence themselves, and while Chris's point about the media not covering protests is true, the counter point that they will do it if it helps Bush is surely beyond doubt. The protesters have every right to express their opposition, but I would like to see Kerry make a prominent statement calling for a completly peaceful and orderly protest. And I think it would be good if Dean could do that too. At this point victory is in sight, and all of those who have influence with the leaders of the protests should use that influence to make sure that there is no way the Republicans will be able to use this to their advantage.
by herodotus 2004-08-11 01:02PM | 0 recs
Re: RNC Protests Will Neither Help Bush Nor Hurt K
here's my take, and i've been thinking about this for quite a while since i'm planning on protesting.

first of all, i share the fear that the loonier, anarchist, black-garbed violent jerks will get all the media coverage.   i share the fear that they will be painted as representative of all of us who plan on protesting peacefully.

look, i don't intend to trash nyc - a city i love and can't wait to visit again - and i will not tolerate infiltrators or anarchists inciting violence.

i think that all of us who are on the non-violent side of this protest need to take responsibility for those who would harm our cause.  i have made a personal pledge to crack the skull of anyone i see breaking windows or inciting violence.  seriously.   and yea, that might be a violent response, but to be honest if i see someone breaking a window, i will grab them by their hair and personally put them in timeout.  i'm sorry, but i am just not going to tolerate that type of behavior during this event.  it is too important to be messed up by a bunch of trouble makers.

imagine if the news actually ran a story of peaceful protesters cracking down on the violent idiots.  sure would be a change of pace from what chris has described in his post.

will it happen?  i don't know.  but i personally will have my eyes open, and like i said, i have no qualms about putting a few violent idiots in timeout.

by annatopia 2004-08-12 10:39AM | 0 recs


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