simple little question



Freddie deBoer used to blog at, and may again someday. Now he blogs here.

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14 Responses

  1. To answer your question with another question, what is the difference between a protestor who hold a simple sign which says, “No more war” or the protestor that carries an effigy of a President and burns it on a public street? Is one statement more powerful than another? To take this analogy in a non-violent direction, what is the difference between a modestly-dressed protestor who holds a sign saying, “Support gay marriage” and another who shows up in drag and makes out with his boyfriend for the media? My gut tells me that the more extreme forms of protest are always less likely to effect change…if that is even possible from a protest.

    I think your question gets back to the point that McArdle made yesterday which is that in a larger sense what point does protesting have in general? I think I share her skepticism that protesting is an ineffective way of pursuing change compared to other tactics. Ultimately I think it’s really more an expression of frustration. When done in an orderly fashion, I respect the protestor’s right to free speech, even if I disagree with their approach. Just like burning flags and over-the-top costumes, I think the guns are an unfortunate distraction, but (again) since these are outside of the townhalls I don’t think they are somehow impeding the democratic process.Report

  2. Avatar Zach says:

    It’s not about expressing their right to bear arms; it’s about their “right” to armed revolution against a tyrannical government. It’s entirely about reminding Americans that this is what they’re about. Given that it’s, you know, completely insane to view any health reform that stops short of nationalizing existing companies or forcing people to get medical treatment against their will as being anywhere on the road to tyranny, this viewpoint is a little scary.Report

  3. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Obviously it’s for protection against the really, really crazy people.Report

  4. Avatar mike farmer says:

    Maybe different people have different reasons for carrying firearms to townhall meetings. I don’t care — it’s their business. As a citizen, if they use physical coercion against someone, or others, or cause physical harm, I care, because I care about good security that punishes coercion against others. Our police have practically lost control of certain parts of major cities, which threatens the legitmacy of the state — this is what anyone concerned with security ought to be concerned with, not people carrying firearms in peaceful protest.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I don’t mind when people exercise rights that I don’t mind, it’s when they exercise their rights that I do mind that I mind.Report

  6. Avatar ChrisWWW says:

    “My gut tells me that the more extreme forms of protest are always less likely to effect change…if that is even possible from a protest.”

    Hrmmm… I don’t know about that.

    For protests to be successful in getting the attention of our leaders (and possibly affecting change), they must be large and disruptive in one way or another. For example, the civil rights movement only started to force the hand of those in Washington after massive riots.Report

  7. Avatar Sam M says:

    I agree that it’s hard to come up with a “practical” defense of most protest actions. And that practicality is a dangerous standard. For instance, what’s the practical purpose of carrying a “Free Mumia” sign to the anti-war rally? Does anyone think that there’s an off chance that the warden, or perhaps an appelate judge, will see the protest on TV, see the sign, and say, “Wow. Hey. Never thought of that. Someone call cell-block D and have them free Mumia.”

    I suppose one might HOPE that it will be a way to raise “awareness” or some such, and that a saturation effect might get people to look into the case. “Who’s this Mumia I keep seeing signs about. Maybe I’ll Google him and… Wow. OK. Seems like that guy got a raw deal. I will write a letter to my congressman urging him to free Mumia.”

    Again, unlikely.

    So you can ask people to explain why they are carrying guns. Some might have an answer. Like they have it to protect themselves from robbers and rogue cops. Are they likely to need this sort of defense at a health care rally? Well, no.

    Generally, I think they are (trying) to do the same thing as the Free Mumia people. That is, they are presenting themselves this way… because they can. And for lack of a better word, they feel like they “have the right” to do so. So they do.

    Nobody has ever been assasinated with a Free Mumia poster, as far as I know. But these trappings do play an important role in adding to the “heat” of a given protest situation.Report

  8. Avatar MikeF says:

    what is the practical purpose of bringing a gun to a town hall meeting?

    You get to be on TV.Report