Serious Thursday Question: Saving Face

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76 Responses

  1. Tod Kelly says:

    When mass media and the internet allowed us to collect in large tribes that encouraged us to cut out dissenting voices and data.Report

  2. greginak says:

    The Great Brunch Disruption was one of those things that got a ton of intertoob attention for very little action on the part of the protesters. In that sense it was genius. They videoed themselves bothering some brunchers in Oakland and NY and people talked about it for a few days. However the problem with this kind of social justice action, and also plenty of tea party/occupy type protests, is that is doesn’t seem related to any concrete or actual policy proposal. Of course not every protest has to be related to a proposal, but when movements are entirely unmoored from concrete actions it is to easy to just be happy with getting attention.

    Actual legislation is hard and requires compromise and specifc vision, which MLK and other civil rights leaders had. It’s much easier to complain about what others have done and to find every fault.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

      As if people who eat Brunch are the problem.

      Of course, had they done this in a place where people were eating breakfast that late, they’d probably have had to worry about someone packing.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:

      Was it really called The Great Brunch Disruption or is that your turn of phrase? If it is yours, very good.

      I think you are right that it is a perfectly designed piece of performance art activism and sometimes those are good for starting conversations but they might end up just being a way to vent without getting stuff accomplished because legislation is hard as you noted.Report

      • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        The GBD was my turn of phrase.

        I find it really hard to believe that there are more than a handful of people who hadn’t heard about all the various killings by cops over the last months and would have been informed about them by the GBD. So if people already knew about them it wasn’t raising awareness and offered no forward direction. It wouldn’t have showed people who weren’t sympathetic to the cause of blacklives mattering how to see things differently: it wont’ increase support or bring people over to there side who weren’t already there.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        My interpretation of the GBD is different. I think it is more about making white, middle class liberals feel guilty about not doing more. “You say you care about police brutality but why are you enjoying bottomless Mimosas and Eggs Benedict today instead of standing with us?” Why did you go to the bar for happy hour instead of attending the protest?”

        There is a certain type of activist that is all politics, all the time, and thinks every action is a grave and serious moral choice. This is the school that holds “the personal is the political” and “If you aren’t outraged, you are not paying attention.”Report

      • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I agree with that Saul. How dare they being eating when all that bad stuff has happened. Of course that doesn’t offer a constructive way forward nor does it account for what they might have done or will do in the future.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        To be fair, I think it is very human to want normal life to slow down or stop when some kind of bad or traumatic event has happened but this is often not possible. Work still needs to be done, bills still need to be paid, etc. There is an interesting question in how much should we stop the fun things in our lives for the sake of a protest or our politics.Report

      • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Saul, fair yes but not reality. People die, the world goes on. I’m not talking about police killings although i fits, i’m talking about myself. People in my life died, i woke up the next day and had to figure out a way to live.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Re: Ideas for a way forward

        In NM, the DA in Albuquerque charged two cops with murder over the death of a homeless man. The police backlash has already begun, with the police shutting out people from the DAs office, and the beginnings of a PR campaign against the DA.

        I hear a lot about how we need to address police violence, but little on how to do it given the actual politics in play.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @saul-degraw “You say you care about police brutality but why are you enjoying bottomless Mimosas and Eggs Benedict today instead of standing with us?”

        It was introduced as “we’re going to ask 4 1/2 minutes of your time to read a list of black people dead at the hands of American police” – the time you were expected to put down your fork and listen respectfully was clearly outlined up front.

        At the end, brunch eaters were invited to stand to show solidarity – they were invited in, not shamed for being at brunch.

        I see it a bit differently.

        The point as I read it was to produce reactions, specifically the (totally predictable, and indeed forthcoming) horror and outrage that an entire 270 seconds of sacred brunch time was stolen, stolen I say, and how dare these hooligans disrupt the eating of waffles?

        To show that while “Black Lives Matter” may seem obvious to some (“Why would that even be a slogan? Isn’t it obvious that everyone accepts that? How about All Lives Matter”) it’s actually still a matter of some contention when you express it as “black lives matter more than a trivially unimportant thing that still has a non-zero effect: an omelette cooling uneaten on the plate for 4 1/2 minutes.”Report

      • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Dragon, yeah that is what happened but is still seems more like a trivial publicity stunt. Not that publicity isn’t important but its far from everything. If the purpose was to create a freak out about people not wanting to stop stuffing their pie holes for a few minutes then that is just elaborate trolling that isn’t going to change anyones mind or focus on something concrete.

        MRS noted a story from NM above. I’d be all for a lot protests in NM about what is going on there supporting the charging of the cops. That is taking a more concrete focus on something where publicity may help sway things.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Good, although if history is any guide, the police & the union will continue to ignore such polling and exhibit complete disregard for the concerns of the people they are supposed to serve (because it’s all about them, doncha know).Report

    • Kimmi in reply to greginak says:

      Pittsburgh had a concrete policy proposal: When a man is being investigated by the FBI for his conduct as an officer, put him the hell away from people duties (desk job, if you will).

      It’s not “fire the man at once” — you can’t DO that. But the police can understand that if you’re under investigation, you don’t get to be in a place where you might make more trouble. (Hell, when the police officer realized that people had concerns about his current conduct, based on “potentially problematic” past conduct, he asked to be moved off the beat).Report

  3. Jim Heffman says:

    “When did all politics become about fantasies of total victory? ”

    But the other side isn’t just wrong, they’re evil! How can there be anything but total victory over evil?Report

  4. j r says:

    Don’t know that I have good answer to the question that you posed Saul, but I know my answer to the question of what present social justice movements could learn from MLK: the importance of classically liberal Enlightenment principles.

    Also, is “#blacklivesmanner” a new thing or is that a typo. The barging into restaurants thing goes under the hashtag of #blackbrunch.Report

  5. Chris says:

    No link to the podcast? And no image (though the no-image is apparently from Wikimedia Commons)?

    I ask because I’m trying to connect your example of a tactic used by the Black Lives Matter folk, and your question, and that’s difficult to do from this short write up.

    I have my own views of the tactics being used by those protesting police murdering black people, but that’s probably a separate discussion.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

      Do you think that they should spend more time talking about the murders? Put more emphasis on them?Report

      • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        As someone who’s participated only in highly unsuccessful protest movements, my general theory of why some protests work (say, the Civil Rights movement from the mid-50s on, or the late 60s anti-war movement) is that their protest tactics are targeted at the source(s) of the issues they’re protesting: sit-ins in businesses or sections of businesses where black people were not allowed to sit, marches through segregated neighborhoods, bus boycotts, marches on government or military buildings, and so on. Getting attention is important; directing attention is essential.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        My problem with the GBD folks is that they turned the protests into “this is about me” rather than “this is about the injustice”. They made themselves the focus and that makes it all-too-easy to focus on them rather than the injustice.

        Talking about the murders makes it a lot tougher to do something like that.

        But, I suppose, it’s not as youtubable.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Jaybird says:

        I would argue against the notion that the Vietnam protests were ‘successful’. They were influential, (and why we have neither a draft nor a Johnson presidency into the 70s) but did not actually succeed in hastening the end of US involvement in Vietnam.Report

      • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        Eh, there have always been attention-seekers in protest movements. I don’t see this one as unusual.

        Kolohe, point taken.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        The attention-seekers, however, are usually good at what they do, though. Well, all of the ones that I’ve noticed, anyway.

        The best ones, of course, do it in such a way that you notice the injustice. The guys at the lunch counter? You’d see them cuffed and taken away. The firehoses against the peaceful marchers? (Moderate) white people were covering their mouths in horror all over the country as they watched.

        Which makes it somewhat different from being yelled at during breakfast.

        I suppose that there’s also the whole “showing” vs. “telling”. Whites at home watching the march on TV saw and felt the injustice. Whites out to eat felt yelled at by people who were talking about themselves.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        See, and even the term “attention-seekers” carries with it a pejorative.

        Were the people marching seeking attention? Hell yes.

        But to call them “attention-seekers” is to paint with such an ugly brush that I want to rewrite my last comment.Report

      • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        People seek attention for different things, and different reasons. By attention-seekers, I meant people who are there to be noticed themselves, for themselves. They attach themselves to any protest movement. They are not, however, the movement.

        I get what the black lives matter demonstrations are intended to do. It’s cool for a while, even, ’cause people are definitely paying attention, but eventually they’re doing to have to do something targeted.

        I still have no idea what this has to do with saving face.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        I suppose it’s the difference between running up to someone and saying “YOU! YOU NEED TO PICK A SIDE!” and having someone see something that makes them say “Holy crap. I need to pick a side.”

        But I suppose the Eric Garner video should have been that moment.Report

      • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        Or the Crawford video. Definitely the Rice video. Probably the Mike Brown murder and cover up.

        Granted, if those don’t do it, interrupting breakfast probably isn’t going to either, but in general demonstrations aren’t meant to be noticed only by the people whose lives they’re briefly disrupting.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:

      The image is the front page one.Report

  6. Kolohe says:

    If I may bring up excerpts from this again

    I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

    I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

    Is this not Lefty Luther chastising Liberal Lyndon?

    It seems to me that the statement about saving face is also part of the myth of MLK. Based on what we would like to believe about him and the history of the times, and not what the man actually believed and how he acted.

    Unless Bouie is saying that the acceptance of the ‘white moderate’ happened after Birmingham. But that seems to contradict the recent revisionist (and correct) take that MLK went from pushing for ‘easy’ stuff, like public accommodation, to harder stuff, like voting rights, to impossible in his lifetime stuff, like economic equality – which at each phase gathered fewer and fewer followers and allies.Report

  7. Pinky says:

    “When did all politics become about fantasies of total victory?”

    July 1st, 1987. The floor of the Senate. Kennedy’s response to the Bork nomination. The moment when we discovered that total attack can attain total victory.Report

  8. LeeEsq says:

    I alluded to this in the past but was to lazy to link to it. Some people are just attracted more to theatrical politics like the various forms of protests or more violent theatricals like terrorism. The goal isn’t to change things in these cases. Its to do whats good for your soul and announce to the world that you are better than others. People who won’t allow for reasonable disagreement or face saving are likely also to want to announce to the world how good and pure they are.Report

  9. Burt Likko says:

    I must have missed this #blackbrunch thing. Wow.

    On the one hand, I’m simply aghast at the awfulness of it. You have a problem with the police? Well, you should. Protest in front of a police station, not an omelette station. This isn’t going to change anyone’s minds.

    On the other hand, it’s an amazingly well-fertilized field for jokes. “No justice, no scone!” “Remember, remember, the boozy provender…” Oh, it practically writes itself.Report

  10. James Hanley says:

    When did all politics become about fantasies of total victory?

    The reign of terror.

    Or surely before, if only my knowledge of world history was more expansive.Report

  11. Michael Drew says:

    Total victory aside, I think this

    Suppose Lefty Larry describes an incident as being “fucking outrageous” in how unjust and wrong it is and Liberal Laura thinks that said analysis is way too hyperbolic but not completely wrong. Does Liberal Laura become just as much of a problem or monster as someone who would completely disagree with Lefty Larry?

    is a really good question that’s been made quite valid by the way American political culture has evolved in the last decade or so, especially in the internet/social-media space. Really an important question, if perhaps itself a bit hyperbolically framed.Report

    • Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

      I find this uninteresting, as a question, because it’s more an expression of liberal angst than any real, new phenomenon. In fact, liberals have long tried to distance themselves from the Left. I don’t remember a time in my adult life when Chomsky and those who take him seriously weren’t sneered at and dismissed by liberals, for example. Suddenly, when the liberals find themselves interacting with leftists somewhat regularly, thanks to the internet, and learn that leftists consider liberals part of the problem, the lesser evil at best, as they have for decades (as Dr King did, to an extent), liberals feel like they can’t get no respect. And they start to see slights in everything they associate with the Left, like youthful, pretty inclusive protests.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Chris says:

        Well, the time period I describe constitutes most of my time as a politically aware person, so perhaps the question is made valid by the way politics has been in this country for much longer than that, and I’m just noticing the way it’s been transposed onto the internet. Either way, I find it interesting, not just for its novelty. Extremely obviously: YMMV.Report

  12. Damon says:

    What a bunch of pansies.

    Let’s go protest in a reliably liberal enclave. In a private business.

    No store owner called the cops and had them arrested for trespass and disturbing the peace.
    No one in the crowd stood up and told the a-holes to get the hell out.
    They should have.Report

    • Chris in reply to Damon says:

      What a bunch of pansies

      Says a dude writing comments on a blog.Report

      • dhex in reply to Chris says:

        also if you wait long enough they go away. it’s like crazies on the subway. usually.Report

      • Damon in reply to Chris says:


        Sure about that? There seem to be more and more around every day….Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Pretty much every form of protest or demonstration is disruptive, and designed to be, so that it gets people’s attention. Disrupting brunch seems kind of silly to many of us, but the whole point is to get people to recognize that this is a normal, everyday issue for some people. Their whole m.o. is to disrupt everyday, normal stuff. Calling them “pansies” because they didn’t get arrested (protesters elsewhere have gotten arrested for similar protests, I believe) or because you don’t get why they did it is just stupid.

        I mean, perhaps Damon is out there working in the world for whatever causes he’s passionate about, if he’s passionate about any. But I suspect that if he was, he’d have a bit more sympathy for others who are working for their causes as well.Report

      • dhex in reply to Chris says:

        hence the “usually”.

        also, it’s brunch. the stakes are low. your best case scenario is a 14 dollar waffle, so getting yelled at out of context by strangers is quite possibly an improvement.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        The last time I went to brunch the muzak alone caused me to pray for a bunch of people in their late teens or early 20s to interrupt it with yelling and hand-printed signs.Report

      • dhex in reply to Chris says:

        i had some brunch in park slope once, before kids. it was what you’d expect. the homemade smoked bacon was pretty boss though, and the coffee was suitably pourovered.

        that said, i diverge from chris a bit in that i don’t think he has much sympathy for all tireless grassroots efforts, even if they’re on behalf of evil and stupid (no matter how devoted), but rather for the well intentioned but incoherent.

        i kinda fall in the middle, and figure any tourists there (perhaps off a “girls” guided tour of williamsburg!) got their new york moment along with their locally sourced frozen waffles.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        I’m joking about brunch. There is actually a pretty good brunch place here in Austin called Tacos and Tequila. The tequila is the key component. If you’re sauced by 11:30 on a Sunday morning, you’re not going to care if you get interrupted, or what kind of music is playing. And the tacos and omelettes ain’t bad.

        And I personally have respect for any effort to fight for a cause. I may have a great deal of disrespect for certain beliefs, and for anyone who holds them, but I will at least respect them as people who are putting their time where their blog comments and Twitter hot takes are.Report

      • dhex in reply to Chris says:


        being drunk at 11:30 am was never a skill i could pull off. it just stone cold wrecks the rest of your day, even if it’s a saturday you were going to spend record shopping or something beautiful and wonderful like that.

        “but I will at least respect them as people who are putting their time where their blog comments and Twitter hot takes are.”

        yeah see i don’t feel like putting a ton of effort into promoting the cause of white power or vaccines causing autism (etc) is actually worthy of respect. or fanfiction, frankly, but that’s just stupid rather than malignant. i don’t really think you would either, but if so bravo for your consistency. i cannot pull that off, either.Report

    • Damon in reply to Damon says:

      See here’s the thing, like I said. They protested people who AGREED with them. It’s not like they went to Staten Island and disrupted cops in a donuts shop. They protested in “midtown”. Yes, a bastion of the opposition! Protesting against folks who agree with you seems like kissing your sister, but hey, you “did” something…..Report

      • Chris in reply to Damon says:

        How do you know they agree? And perhaps you’ve missed their message: even if you agree, you do shit about it, like it doesn’t really matter.

        Anyway, they’ve done the protests all over. That they did one in a location you disagree with doesn’t tell me much. It certainly doesn’t tell me what you think it tells you.Report

      • Damon in reply to Damon says:

        NYC, Oakland, Berkley.
        Where else? These aren’t tea party enclaves. Hell, they even protested at a shop owned by a “major Democratic fundraiser”. Yah, ALL over. Hey, it’s not conclusive proof, but it’s pretty convincing.

        Nah, I didn’t miss their message, it was pretty clear. The point of a protest is about change. You think this is one of the better ideas to motivate change? I don’t. You don’t protest those who agree with you position. It kinda turns off your allies. Smart move.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Damon says:

        It strikes me as a variant of “you need to publicly denounce this thing!”

        I suppose that doing it at brunch is somewhat better than doing it on twitter but…Report

      • Chris in reply to Damon says:

        Yeah, if you think liberals aren’t a big part of the problem, you disagree with them. That’s cool, but it doesn’t name them pansies.

        And St. Louis, Nashville. Dallas…

        And it’s not “you need to publicly denounce this thing.” Damon is right, these are probably people who’d have no problem doing so. That they don’t do anything else is why these protests are happening, and why they target whom they target. Like I said, I’m not a fan, but dismissing it because you haven’t even thought about it is, as I said to start, stupid.Report

      • Damon in reply to Damon says:

        @chris “That they don’t do anything ” You just described 99% of the population on any subject matter. 🙂Report

      • Chris in reply to Damon says:

        Well, at least you now agree with them too.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Damon says:

        Damon is right, these are probably people who’d have no problem doing so.

        Isn’t the problem with demanding stuff like “YOU NEED TO DENOUNCE THIS” the assumption that the vast majority of, for example, Muslims already don’t approve of violence, don’t approve of murder, don’t approve of threats to silence the opposition?Report

      • Chris in reply to Damon says:

        Yah, that’s a problem. Not what these kids are doing, though, so not their problem.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Damon says:

        “We invite you to denounce this with us.”Report

      • Chris in reply to Damon says:

        Still not what they’re doing.

        Of course, I have already said what they’re doing. Different versions of the same interpretation don’t answer that.

        To say it differently, they want to make this issue salient in people’s everyday lives, not so that they’ll denounce it, but so that their voting, their money, and the pressure they put politicians and police creates change. They don’t just want to change opinions, they want those opinions to matter.

        “Denounce this,” as a charge that can be levied against every protest, from the suffragettes to Gandhi to King is a lazy reading of people’s behavior.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Damon says:

        “To say it differently, they want to make this issue salient in people’s everyday lives”

        Of course, a possible response to making the issue salient in people’s everyday lives in this way is that more people will buy guns and fewer people will take the BART.Report

      • Chris in reply to Damon says:

        Density, racists gonna racist.Report

  13. Mike Schilling says:

    The real question is why the brunch protesters weren’t wearing flag pins. Do they hate America?Report