Monday, September 26, 2005


I took an unscheduled summer break from the blog that somehow extended over a month (we all need some semblance of a REAL life after all). I'm flattered that some fine folks actually read this thing and wondered when I'd post again. Well, I'm back with a few random links.

Anti-war fellow traveller James Wolcott has a good critique of certain aspects of mass protest politics in regards to last Saturday's big march in Washington:
Here are the problems with mass rallies and marches on TV.

1) They all look alike. They're interchangeable pedestrian jams. If you didn't know what year it was, you wouldn't have known whether this demo was taking place in 2003 or 2004 or spring of 2005, because apart from Cindy Sheehan and a few others, it was the same cast of characters you always get at these protest smorgasbords, which remind me of WBAI at its most doctrinaire PC, where every faction and caucus has to be represented and heard no matter how boring or splintery or tangential to the event they are. What you get is an event that seems to have been exhumed from a time capsule buried in some aging ponytailed radical's back yard. As Steve writes:

"I mean some of the speakers were in fantasyland. The slogans were from the 1970's.

"Nader, Galloway, even the ANSWER people don't bother me. But Mexicanos Sin Fronteras? Lynne Stewart? Uh, she was convicted of aiding a terrorist. She may be innocent in the end, but isn't she a distraction now?

"A lot of people want to downplay their role, or ignore it, but the reality is, that every minute of CSPAN devoted to them and their message is going to dilute the anti-war message."

The right never makes that mistake. They enforce a message discipline.

"Think about this: do you have a school prayer protest at an anti-abortion rally?

"Fuck no. One message is clear, Fifteen are not."

2) The scale is all wrong for TV.

To be heard before thousands of gatherers, speakers feel they have to shout into the mike and every every phrase sound STENTORIAN. But for the larger audience at home, it's like being harangued, and who wants to be harangued, especially by speakers pounding you with played-out slogans? And no matter how large the crowd, on TV it looks like congested clutter, a sea of tiny, ugly billboards. It really doesn't help that so many of the signs are homemade and hackneyed. As the camera panned over the crowd yesterday, I saw placards featuring Mumia and Malcolm X, and I thought, What have they got to do with what's happening now in Iraq? The placards looked as dated as punk Mohawks in the East Village, and watching protesters wave them around as if they were in the studio audience trying to get Monty Hall's attention on Let's Make a Deal didn't help.

With her vigil near the Crawford ranch, Cindy Sheehan carved out an original protest space. The magnitude of yesterday's protest miniaturized her. It was as if she was swallowed up inside a whale aslosh with flotsam. I don't know what the answer is to the lack of adversarial energy against this accursed war, but what I do know is that yesterday's flea circus wasn't it.

On a much cheerier note, here's a link to a reader submitted Q and A with cartoonist Bill Watterson, creator of the sorely missed Calvin and Hobbes. (via bookslut)