I suspect were it not for the media, primarily television, public protest groups would dry up and blow away. The idea of gathering like-minded folk to protest against one thing or another seems symbolic and silly at the same time. I appreciate a good rally as much as the next guy but many of these protesters are almost professional in their strong beliefs for or against a host of issues. Many too, I suspect, have not a clue about their cause.
This week was protest week in Washington with pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli throngs as well as anti-World Bank protesters and those against providing military aid to Colombia. For the most part, all of the gatherings were strictly peaceful other than a few idiots who wanted to block traffic and ended up spending a night in the hoosegow.
But here's my point. Without the cooperation of a willing media, these protests would be absolutely useless. The elected officials for whom much of these protests are intended rarely catch a glimpse of these early-morning rallies. And without that media spotlight, no one outside of handful of Washingtonites would even know they existed.
I think the day of the public protest has long ended. Rallies in the '60s focused on the civil rights movement and the anti-war effort. And, given your view of these topics, they did indeed focus public attention on issues critical at the time.
But today these public protests are more of a carnival atmosphere. They are sometimes highly organized and financed. The idea of public protest is as old as this nation and probably much older still. But in our changing world you can motivate many more people with a simple email than with a public march and a prepared statement.
As with almost any other aspect of life, too much of a good thing spoils everything. The sight of opposing viewpoints yelling their respective pleas across a barrier to their counterparts just seems so futile and useless. Take away the television cameras and you take away the protesters.
Our lives are unchanged as a result of this week's protest in Washington. And unless you read it here, you probably didn't even know the anti-military aid to Colombia forces were out in protest this week. But now you know.