Apparently, explaining why the demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri are self-defeating is a quick way to be banned from various online forums. Such pervasive censorship of well-reasoned alternative views on a given issue contributes to the illusion of consensus.
I thankfully have this blog as an outlet for educating the general public as to why they should neither support nor emulate any protests. In no particular order, I’ve identified three reasons public demonstrations are self-defeating behaviors:
1) Statements made during public demonstrations are generally not public record and are therefore forgotten by public officials and decision makers generally. Although the mainstream media might quote a handful of statements, you give enormous control to third parties to summarize what you say.
Also, most people in a protest are never identified, which means decision makers question the relevance of the demonstration because many protesters might be from outside their jurisdiction and even communicate messages the other protesters don’t agree with, i.e. starting violence.
By contrast, a letter, phone call, or email to the offices of elected officials is read or listened to at least once and then archived. Your phone call or correspondence is acknowledged, contingent upon your recitation of your identity and voting address to evince you reside within the jurisdiction of elected decision makers.
Your statements are taken verbatim in written form — including any facts, statistics, and anecdotes you want to share — and an aide summarizes your main ideas over the phone — thereby communicating in much better quality the nuances of your message, above and beyond the vague notion, “So-and-so is angry enough about something to protest, but we don’t have any details as to what s/he wants changed in our statutes.”
2) Because demonstration involves physical presence, you run the risk of committing a crime when impassioned by the emotional contagion of fellow activists. Even if you don’t do anything illegal, your reputation with police can sour — be guilty by association — if you’re around when the protest turns into a riot “in the heat of the moment.”
Staying at home and contacting your elected officials is a far less risky alternative. You can say what you would have said during a protestation, but in a more professional tone that is less likely to angrily or boisterously scare away potentially sympathetic parties and would-be supporters.
The use of institutionalized means of communication imbues you with a sheen of respectability that the common, “shameless attention-craver” demonstrator lacks. And once you’ve written and called enough times, aides recognize you as an amateur lobbyist and not just some palooka protester!
3) Protestation too easily turns into violent, unprotected speech. Boundaries are blurred between individual behavior and group behavior, so police can forcefully disperse a crowd in which one person has created a public disturbance and officers deem the others likely to follow suit.
Who doesn’t see that coming? Surely, not all the protesters were born yesterday! Maybe they don’t care about being labeled as trouble makers or receiving citations for disorderly conduct.
So long as they don’t lose the handful of part-time jobs amongst them, why care about anything other than venting? Ah, the life of a disillusioned palooka!