The Death of the “Traditional” Protest
Note: Once again, I am going to briefly interrupt the chronology of my ongoing “Left-Right” series of articles. Part III will be up next week.
The claim I am about to make is one I have been thinking on for quite a while now. But the latest displays surrounding the Inauguration of our glorious new President, Donald J. Trump, has all but confirmed my theory. Just as significant as the permanent disruption and fall into irrelevance of the “left-right” spectrum I have been discussing, I believe we are witnessing the death of another long-standing political norm in American society.
The deceased: traditional forms of protesting.
When we think of “protest,” chances are the first image that comes to mind is a march of some kind. A group of people, in a massive crowd, marching through streets (preferably in larger cities) in order to publicly voice their concerns about a particular issue. Examples may include, among others, the many marches of the Civil Rights era, led by such great men as the reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This form of protest was responsible for some of the most significant civil rights reforms in our history, including rights for African-Americans and voting rights for women.
But these days, the outlet of protesting has all but been completely demolished through gross misuse and overuse. These days, there’s a protest every other week. These days, there’s a protest on every single issue you can imagine: from so-called “racial profiling” by police, to demands for higher wages and free college, to opposition to political candidates and incumbent Presidents.
The first cause of death for this political norm should be evident: protests are now far too commonplace. Back in the 1960s, when protests were held on such issues as the Vietnam War and Civil Rights, it was quite a rarity. Such massive protests were something that hadn’t really been seen as much in American history as they were during those tumultuous years. As such, those protests were held for only the most important issues of the day, including those mentioned above. By contrast, when protests are now a regular occurrence, and are held all the time for every other issue you can imagine. Too much of a good thing can severely reduce the impact of the protest itself.
Furthermore, the aspect of who is holding the protest is also significant, and could not have changed more in the span of roughly half a century. Whether it was women marching for women’s suffrage, or African-Americans marching for desegregation, the fact of the matter is that these groups were legitimately marginalized, at the time. Because they were second-class citizens for so long in history, the sight of women, or African-Americans, going out into public and marching bravely down streets in the hundreds and thousands, was truly a sight that few thought possible at the time.
Now, protests are widely held by...normal, unoppressed American citizens, and focus on such petty issues: (mostly middle-class) workers at fast-food restaurants, demanding higher wages for flipping a burger; (mostly white) college students, attending prestigious universities and getting an education, demanding that said education become free; women, who already have access to reproductive “rights” and health care, demanding even more such “rights” at the expense of the taxpayer, thus proving that, if anything, they are a slightly higher class than other Americans; African-Americans, now protesting every time a criminal is gunned down by police, acting as if this is even remotely equivalent to the kind of oppression they saw in the 1960s and before (essentially making it seem as if they are never truly satisfied despite the amazing strides that have been made in their favor); and, of course, thousands of whiny sore losers, protesting over the fact that their candidate didn’t win an election. These individuals are not “oppressed” in any sense of the word - except, perhaps, by “micro-aggressions” - yet they continue to stage hundreds of marches claiming that they are. They severely discredit themselves and reduce the seriousness of protesting whenever they protest for such petty things.
But, of course, the most damning factor of all is the uncontrollability of these protests. Almost inevitably, protests these days are prone to violence and vandalism. This is primarily due to the inherently violent nature of leftists in general, but also due to the seeming anonymity of being just one face in a crowd - those who feel they can get away with it will take advantage of the opportunity. Look no further than the epidemic of rape and sexual assaults in the Occupy protests, the arson and looting of Black Lives Matter, and the violence against police and innocent bystanders committed by the Anarcho-Communist scum known as “Antifa.” This, more than anything else, destroys the credibility of the larger message, even if it’s being done by a small minority - because those images of violence are the images that the media will, inevitably, show to the world.
The age of social media has sought to make activists out of ordinary people. However, this quick access to activism has come at a heavy cost, in the latest, and perhaps most historic, form of quantity superseding quality.
Follow the author on Twitter: @EricLendrum26