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The Stale Language of Protest

This Is What It’s Usually About

This Is What It’s Usually About

Every so often, I feel that a particular mode of behavior has run its course. I think it’s time for a paradigm shift (perhaps that expression has run its course as well) in the art of protest. Turn on any news program, and you are sure to see a group of people carrying placards and usually moving around in a circle chanting very stale slogans. Typically, a newsman will hold a microphone and camera up to one of the most inarticulate of the protesters and ask them why he or she is picketing. After a few hems and haws, the protester will say that so and so is unfair or unjust or dangerous or just irksome as all get-out.

Now it is possible that all ten people who think like the protester are with him marching around and chanting. It is indeed probable that the viewpoint being expressed is not only in the minority, but a statistically insignificant sliver of the total population. In our era of “fair and balanced” news reporting, we are eager to seek out these minority viewpoints and make as much hay with them as possible. Think of these boring protests as a boon to news organizations, particularly on a slow news day.

I am always for more ingenuity. If one’s point of view is to be effectively conveyed, I say do something that people will remember. Let me cite a classic example. An Argentinian condom manufacturer who was also a big soccer fan published the following graphic before a match with Brazil:


I will not try to explain exactly what is happening here because—well, if you don’t know, you probably haven’t reached the age of puberty yet. Needless to say, the B stands for Brazil and the A for Argentina. This did not sit well with the Brazilian soccer fans. When their team pasted the Argentinians, they rubbed it in by publishing an even funnier graphic:


I will always remember this as perhaps the most inventive act of protest I have ever seen.

The next time you feel like taking to the streets with your message, try something different. Think of the streets as a form of theater. And start from there.

(This is a re-posting of one of my 2009 entries from Blog.Com.)