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Thursday, September 29, 2005


Michael Balter

I've lived in Paris for the past 17 years, and we have marches all the time--I mean nearly every day. They nearly all have permits, prescribed routes, police escorts, and the rubbish trucks follow up behind them to pick up the trash (I'm not joking!) If they are workers on strike, they often get some sort of results; otherwise they don't. But they are ways of letting off steam. What drives everyone nuts, especially the government, is if they turn militant or violent.

As I've said in an earlier post, demonstrations don't do much on their own unless they ARE militant or violent. During the Vietnam War, those demos that made a difference were militant ones that blocked Dow Chemical (maker of napalm) from recruiting, or the ROTC from recruiting, or took over the adminstration buildings to protest university contracts with warmakers (weren't you in some of those, Marc?)

I am not an advocate of militancy or violence per se. But what militant marches show is that the marchers care enough to make their point strongly; peaceful marches, like the one in DC last weekend with 45 different themes, show the government that everyone is going to behave and go home and do little until the next peaceful march. Yes, the opinion polls are much more powerful than that, because at least in the case of Iraq they show the government that the marchers are not in the minority.


The striking thing about the crowd was the diversity. No single picture could capture it. You had the usual suspects among left groups, but you also had lots of kids, college students, old folks, and families. Saw a guy with "Free Speech" and a picture of Howard Stern on his shirt, and "Freeskiers against Bush." I have no idea what those are and the president and vice-president made a surprise appearance.

The jingoists will try to make a big deal about the co-sponsorship of
A.N.S.W.E.R. It's a total non-issue. The crowd couldn't have cared less
about sponsors, speakers, or sects. The focus was an incompetent president and an unjust war.

John Son

Debating the strategy of the peace movement makes one a "jingoist?" It would seem your definition of diversity does not to extend to those who question the self-appointed leadership of the rallies.


I think this guy has it right actually:



As someone sympathetic to the aims of the marchers and with several dear friends among the crowd, I had to ask myself why I would not have gone even if I could have. These posts are beginning to give me the answer, and I have a good enough memory (still intact) to recall Marc's pointed criticism of ANSWER's domination of the antiwar actions right from the beginning in 2003 (for which he was roundly and repeatedly denounced). Now I think we can see more of the impact of that domination in crippling the movement itself. It isn't good enough to say that we don't all have to agree on everything to join forces and oppose Bush's craziness. We also have to put some limits on how much craziness we want to endorse on our side, and sorry, having people on stage hint that blowing up civilians is a good thing puts the whole event over the top, at least for me.

As for the question of where better to put the resources if we decide NOT to march off to Washington, I support more teach-ins, another worthy tradition from the old days when people realized that they didn't know much about Vietnam and Cambodia and probably should do some learning before and while shaping their political strategies. But that would take humility and a dispassionate, long-term perspective.

Freddy the Pig

The "Update" comment especially is terrific. I've been waiting to see this kind of discussion for a long time.

The late Mayor Richard J. Daley used to have a standard rhetorical response whenever someone would suggest that he not do something like tear down an architectural masterpiece, destroy a historic neighborhood, etc. He would say. "Well, what's their plan?" Now, not tearing down a great Louis Sullivan building ought to be a plan in and of itself, but Daley did understand something, which is that the guy with a plan for a crappy shopping mall is at least being proactive and thus taking a certain portion of high ground away from the people who simply say "don't do this." And eventually his opponents learned that lesson and were able to advance a positive agenda that did score some wins against the Daley administration.

I feel like we've allowed Bush to take that same high ground. We pretend like it will be okay if we simply withdraw and leave the middle east as is. But as is in the middle east has been a mess for 75 years. What is our plan? What is the position that reduces America's presence while still advancing freedom and reducing the threat in that region? Kerry didn't have it; we still don't have it. And as long as we don't, as long as we just say "withdraw and whatever," we will be mistrusted by the majority of Americans as the leftwing stereotype that ANSWER actually is.


Freddy P writes: ``We pretend like it will be okay if we simply withdraw and leave the middle east as is.''

Who would "we" be in this case?

Those of us who favor withdrawal know the mideast will not be "okay" post-U.S. departure, nor do we suggest in any way that achieving a withdrawal is simple.

F the Pig's confusion about Kerry's position on the war reveals an even deeper confusion. FP seems to forget that Kerry supported the war, taking issue only with the Bush team's failure to execute it efficiently enough. I don't know much about the Answer people, but can they be much worse than that? Kerry didn't need a withdrawal plan, because he was against withdrawing. His view was that the U.S. should "finish" the job. True enough, Kerry had no plan for "finishing" the war either, outside of vague suggestions about INCREASING troop levels and providing them with more armor.

The people without a plan here are the Democrats who, safe in their gerrymandered districts and happily watching ball games from their corporate box seats are betting that it's too risky to come out against the war--yet. In this respect, it's just like Vietnam.

America lacks the moral authority, the political apparatus and the financial resources to "fix" the middle east. Getting out militarily and using that withdrawal as a cornerstone to start rebuilding goodwill with people in the region and allies around the world is a sound, long-term strategy. As I've said before, better minds that mine will surely find disagreement with the advisability of that strategy, but to pretend that the war's opponents have no plan or that the war's supporters do is counterfactual.

richard lo cicero

Look what KOS said just reinforces what everyone except Amy Goodman and some other lefties believe. This was a pretty widely ridiculed event from the standpoint of the speakers and the multiplicity of the causes. I wrote here several times that the most effective anti-war agitprop this summer was "Camp Casey".

Demos are old fashioned. Rather like the folk songs against the war that sound like SING OUT 1963. What KOS and all his spawn point out over and over is the need for political acrion and by that they mean electoral politics. And that means, in most cases, Democratic Politics. I'll argue that with Marc on another occasion but until the left gets over its allergies to electoral politics we'll have marches and feel good but accomplish little. Even Karl Marx believed that, because of their democratic roots, socialism would come to America, and probably Britain and the Netherlands, thru the ballot box.


I've already read wonderful stories, from the march in Washington, of mothers who had lost sons in iraq, who cried and shared their grief in discovering other parents of fallen soldiers at the march. In my own personal experience large marches offer one of the only outlets for getting people together, making folks feel that they are not alone in their oppisition to the war. We dont especailly live in a political culture which fosters dissent nor collective action. In these ways, at least, in feel that large protests, serve a pretty vital purpose which may be overlooked by markos

Michael Balter

Re Richard's post:

It's not so much that some on the left have an allergy to electoral politics, but that Democratic Party politics always means nominating a Gore or a Kerry, and now, perhaps a Hillary Clinton--for fear that anyone more progressive will lose. Well, that strategy has sure shown its uselessness, but that doesn't mean the strategy is going to change. Why? Because those who control the pursestrings of the Democratic Party would RATHER LOSE than see the party go to the left. Meanwhile, all third party candidates are blamed for losing elections, like the Nader scapegoat fest which is still going on!

David Martin

What alternatives are there? Letters to your "elected representatives?" They do a lot of good, don't they? Or phone calls when you get to talk to some automaton in your representative's or Senator's office who very politely assures you that your message will be passed on. How about petitions? Moveon.org and True Majority are always asking me to sign petitions, which I do, and then I never again hear about that particular issue. Grassroots political campaigns for Green or peace candidates? Our political system is so fossilized and corrupt only certified members of the club have any real chance of being elected and once they are you know they won't do anything to rock the boat.

The only viable alternative I can think of is to lock and load and start hunting Republicans. But they're not in season yet.

Mavis Beacon

“I've already read wonderful stories, from the march in Washington, of mothers who had lost sons in iraq, who cried and shared their grief in discovering other parents of fallen soldiers at the march. In my own personal experience large marches offer one of the only outlets for getting people together, making folks feel that they are not alone in their oppisition to the war.”

Ahmed, this is exactly what Marc means when he derisively refers to lefty activists as being in the therapy business. This isn’t to say there aren’t some real benefits to therapy, but it isn’t the same thing as driving political change.

Kos’ post is outstanding and fitting for a pundit born from the net. Much of the love for rallies and protests is pure nostalgia. Republicans haven’t been limited by the tactics of mass protest since they were never much the protesting kind to begin with. Kos is correct that we need a media savvy strategy that is designed to reach people and make change.

Mavis we seem to disagree here. I actually think protesteing is a politically mature act. Im not sure there's such a wide big of a gulf between a protests, like thew one we witnessed last week, and institution building which we urgently need, no doubt. I dont think that rallies begin and end on one day. I think people will often attend a mass event then go home, participate in their communities, write an op ed piece, donate to groups they support. iN short days of action help galvanize people and in this case can deepen folks resolve to oppose the war. Its simply inadequate and cynical to refer to them as pure nolstagia. besides, those who do often offer little substancial alternative political wisdom of their own. And mavis republicans arent really interested in mass tactics because they already have insitutional power and i know youll reply by saying "how do they get that, but please can we have a little complexity. Before the war for example you never had any mass pro war rallies. why? because the very people pushing the invasion not only has guns and power but they also had the advantage of a media, liberal to conservative, that for the most part sold the false bill of goods, opting to sell bush horrendous lies. Furthermore we dont exactly live in a political culture which foster or celebrates dissent especially when the march for war begins. so the debate is a tad bit more complex than you suggest.


Oh that was me. and marc thanks for pushinbg corn's piece im just happy he didnt find it in him to go placate oreilly this time


In a radio interview with Christopher Hitchens a few minutes ago, the host asked Hitchens what he thought about the anti-war protests. Hitchens corrected the host and said that the protests are not against the war but for it--just for the other side. A lot of the rhetoric from that movement tends to back him up. Maybe it would help if they could convince people that they actually cared about the U.S.

richard lo cicero

If you read KOS or MYDD or any of the other blogs that collectively make up the netroots you will know that no one takes the Democratic party as given. The whole point is to go outside of the DC establishment and create a new party. Impossible? Well the Right did it with the GOP. Are we too unruly? In the words of a sign I saw years ago at some New Left Meeting: Us Anarchists better get organized!

Look. you can have all the rallies you want. The crowd in power could't care less. But they do care about power and as the polls and the people turn against them you'll see action. And Hillary will find her prospects lost in the desert if she wants to stay this course. Going back to KOS the Straw Poll there gives a big lead to Wes Clark and, now, a draft Gore movement is growing. And Gore has been speaking out against this fiasco since Sept of 2002. The establishment of parties is under siege. One for corruption and one for mealymouth irrelevance. 2006 will be an interesting year.

Marc Davidson

Woody, the pathetic Hitchens is just looking for somebody to blame for the fact that the venture he staked his reputation on has gone down the toilet. I don't think you have as much at stake, so you don't need to go that route. "If you're not for us you're against America." The man has no shame.

From Max Sawicky, who like most persons on the left of note are critical to one degree or another of ANSWER but remain unobsessessed by the matter:

"Some on the left are inclined to turn up their nose because of the sponsors of the march. Many in the so-called liberal blogosphere have done the same. Few Democratic politicians were in evidence. Why is hard to justify."



Marc D., I simply reported what Hitchens said. By the way, in an *excellent article* of his this week he complimented Marc Cooper! http://www.slate.com/id/2126913/ (And, you said he has no shame.)

On my part of the comment, I believe it is valid to say that extreme radical talk attacking the U.S. doesn't play well with the voters. That kind of conduct will keep them out of power rather than help them get it.


Ask yourselves why Marc Cooper spends so much time attacking the opponents of a war that has killed more than 100,000 people?

Also challenge Mr Cooper for his reasons for not retracting any of the untruths he published about George Galloway.

One example, Cooper claims that Galloway is 'homophobic' - where is his evidence?

If you believe Cooper, who refuses to provide any evidence for his clainms, then please read this (by the way, the BBC is no friend of Galloway)


As for those who regard Cooper's blog as his private space, I discovered his smears through a Google search - if anyone writes a lie on a wall, I'm entitled to write the truth above it.

Josh Legere

Resistor - You are a boring broken record. We got it. You defend Galloway. Point taken. Your bravery in pointing out Coopers lies is noted. You will be given a high ranking job in the Party after the revolution. I would still like to know who or what you are resisting? You smell like some sort of member of the Church of Galloway. Either way, most of us are not believers.
How is this ( www.zombietime.com ) kind of behavior going to end the war?

Corn's article is spot on.


Speak for yourself, Josh. You are free to pretend Cooper's juvenile, unsubstantiated attacks on Galloway are acceptable, but you should at least have the integrity to acknowledge that you represent only yourself.

too many steves

Honestly now, does anyone take these 60's era protests seriously? They are, at best, anachronistic and nostalgic. But effective? Unh... no.

I see these folks, Cindy Sheehan especially, and think of the movie "A Mighty Wind".

They offer nothing of substance to the conversation.

David Horowitz

You are almost there, Marc. You just need to move few inches to the right and you'll be running tours of England with me and Hitchens. There's big bucks out there. What you get for scribbling for the Atlantic Monthly can't compare to what Olin, Coors and my other pals can pay you for promoting Americanism. Keep up the good work.

Abbas-Ali Abadani

Off-topic, I know, but I was wondering how many people had heard of this?


The icon of American masculinity and machismo was a Chomsky fan, an opponent of the war on Iraq and planned on voting for Kerry?

Say it ain't so? :)

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