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Direct Action Protest: It Works

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The following characterization does not by any means describe all LGM commenters, or even a majority. But there is certainly a strong group of people around here who look down on direct action protest as a mode of political action, arguing that political organizing needs to primarily happen within the electoral system and that getting out the vote, finding strong Democratic Party candidates, and the like are a better form of political action. I certainly do not deny the importance of doing these things and working within the political system, but there are many types of political action that work toward justice and we need activism both inside and outside the political system in order to make that happen.

One critical example of why protest is needed is on pipeline issues during the Obama administration. Obama is an example of the farthest left candidate Democrats have elected since at least 1964 but who still is between disappointing and outright awful on a number of issues. His administration has been inclined to support pipeline construction that has received the ire of both environmentalists and the people living near it. In two cases now, government plans to build pipelines have been defeated by direct action. The first was the Keystone XL Pipeline, organized by Bill McKibben and his 350.org movement. And now we have a second example of protest changing pipeline construction, with months of action in North Dakota finally getting the Army Corps of Engineers to deny the path for the pipeline near the Standing Rock reservation.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Sunday that it won’t grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in southern North Dakota.

The decision is a victory for the several thousand camped near the construction site, who’ve said for months that the four-state, $3.8 billion project would threaten a water source and cultural sites.

The pipeline is largely complete except for the now-blocked segment underneath Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir. According to a news release, Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said her decision was based on the need to “explore alternate routes” for the pipeline’s crossing.

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

This is a great example of cross-racial organizing making a huge difference. This was members of the Standing Rock Sioux taking the lead in demanding their rights on the land that should rightfully belong to them combined with hundreds of largely white protestors serving to bring more publicity and media attention to the protests. This was not without tension between the indigenous and white activists on the ground, but with tensions also rising between the activists and the government, the latter caved. There is no room within traditional political organizing to stop this sort of project from being constructed. It requires people putting their bodies on the line. After January 20, those sorts of actions are going to require even more of this type of activism, because a Trump administration Corps of Engineers is far less likely to respect the human rights of protestors.

So, yes, channeling activism within the electoral system is critically important. So is supporting direct action around whatever struggles pop up at a given moment. We need both. Both work. We need more of both, especially during the next 4 years.

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  • I agree with both of these, and I also think we should put more focus on changing the electoral system itself. As I pointed out in another thread today, it would have been almost impossible for Trump to even become the Republican nominee in a system that reliably elects Condorcet winners, much less the actual president. (Of course, if we elected the popular vote winner, that also wouldn’t have been a problem, and the House elections would also have looked a lot different.)

  • Origami Isopod

    So, yes, channeling activism within the electoral system is critically important. So is supporting direct action around whatever struggles pop up at a given moment. We need both. Both work. We need more of both, especially during the next 4 years.

    Yeah, I don’t get the binary attitude about this. Both are important. And not everybody’s going to be cut out for both, either.

    • I think it’s a lot about posturing and discomfort. I think that some leftists show disdain for the political system and political organizing because it’s easy to portray yourself as a badass if you never compromise with reality, which of course also makes you ineffective in some ways. I think that some liberals show disdain for protest because they are personally uncomfortable with what happens at protests and don’t want to be part of something messy like that.

      • Origami Isopod

        Yes, I would agree.

      • BartletForGallifrey

        I can’t speak for all liberals, but I have enormous respect for protest/protesters, even if it’s not something I generally do, for various reasons. I also, however, have enormous disdain for people who refuse to participate in electoral politics.

        Sometimes those groups overlap.

      • saraeanderson

        It’s also frustrating to see it fail over and over. But boy does this development make me feel better.

      • Nang Mai

        Sometimes a person cannot compromise. There was no possible way Standing Rock could compromise on 1st amendment privilege or their tribal sovereignty. To step back even an inch from those principles would invite disaster. Similarly with some environmental issues. Some damages last forever.

        Some people are afraid to engage in collective action because it appears impolite and that’s a scary taboo. Loud voices. Public singing. Costumes and signs. Confronting evil. An example that springs to mind is the Code Pink demonstration against Henry Kissinger. So many people I knew freaked out because it looked like they were bullying an old guy. They were really struggling with a clash in values. On the one hand here was a guy responsible for so much evil in the world being treated like a wise elder … to not do or say something is to become complicit. But he was an old shrivelled dude. Maybe his mom never hugged him or something. I think Code Pink found a good balance by turning it into a bit of theatre.

    • DrDick

      Importantly, direct action is really the only effective option available to disenfranchised populations, like the Sioux at Standing Rock. Nobody has ever moved forward without it.

      • PhoenixRising

        Locking yourselves to the building is a great tactic when you have no access to anyone who works inside the building.

        It’s not a great tactic when you can vote for a major party candidate who has committed in public to supporting your goal to get an office in the building.

        Most of the time, protests are as effective as their contexts.

        There are also organizational factors. For example: OWS started off great, but after 3 days of chanting bullshit and consensus and Michael Moore visiting (most dangerous place in North America is between MM and a camera, y’all) it became a waste of momentum because no one could say No to excluding anyone’s giant puppet.

        • Phil Perspective

          For example: OWS started off great, but after 3 days of chanting bullshit and consensus and Michael Moore visiting (most dangerous place in North America is between MM and a camera, y’all) ….

          No, the most dangerous place is in between Chuckie Schumer and a TV camera/microphone.

        • Origami Isopod

          OTOH, Occupy engaged an entirely new generation of activists, who were very effective in local efforts like Occupy Sandy and the Ferguson protests. It also “changed the conversation” and put the phrase “economic inequality” back into the national media.

    • Murc

      Yeah, I don’t get the binary attitude about this. Both are important.

      It’s the same slap-fight you see whenever the “Class issues!” “No, race and gender issues!” false choice comes up.

      The charitable interpretation is that people really seem resistant to walking and chewing gum at the same time.

      The uncharitable interpretation is that people view certain kinds of what should be perfectly acceptable politics as unacceptable for either crypto-conservative or aesthetic reasons, are reluctant to admit it, and so have to look for other justifications.

      • PhoenixRising

        My take is: insiders who got inside without ever chaining themselves to anything have imposter syndrome and are mad at anyone who as chained themselves to anything.

        Outsiders who have never accessed electoral power despite taking physical risks in protest of the unacceptable have messiah syndrome.

        And it’s only when we all figure out that this is not a drill and we need both kinds that both may lay down their emotional attachment to being the only Right Kind of Political Actor. G-d willing.

      • Origami Isopod

        It’s the same slap-fight you see whenever the “Class issues!” “No, race and gender issues!” false choice comes up.

        Well, the protest argument is about tactics, while class vs. “identity politics” is about strategy.

  • BartletForGallifrey

    But there is certainly a strong group of people around here who look down on direct action protest as a mode of political action, arguing that political organizing needs to primarily happen within the electoral system and that getting out the vote, finding strong Democratic Party candidates, and the like are a better form of political action.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone who looks down on direct action protest as a form of activism. But I do think that it’s rather futile if we aren’t electing people who will care about the activism. What’s going to happen to the pipeline on 1/21/17?

    • Origami Isopod

      I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone who looks down on direct action protest as a form of activism.

      I’ve seen it around this place, though I can’t remember who said it or in what context.

      • Right–I recognize that some might claim I set up a strawman because I didn’t hunt down any specific references in comment sections, but as you note, there is plenty of that in various threads about organizing. It would however take real time to find specific examples, more than such a post is worth. I assume that this recognition is something of a general consensus.

        • King Goat

          I can attest to that. I don’t think I’m a ‘regular’ here but I’ve participated in a few discussions where I’ve certainly questioned the value of direct action.

          I grant direct action has worked, for example the early civil rights movement. It’s especially useful to bring attention to something that otherwise people wouldn’t be aware of in the first place. And I think it can be useful to push those friendly to us to take stronger stands.

          But I think it can also turn off potential allies and fire up opposition. Especially since the more militant protest movements of the late 60’s and 70’s there’s a ready made frame lying around about ‘angry, whiny protestors’ that makes much of the public start out hostile to them, making direct action an effort of pushing a big rock up a steep hill, and that rock can roll back down and squish lots of good things if you can’t get it over that initial hump. It’s got to be very wisely engaged in.

          • Linnaeus

            Thing is, there’s always going to be some people who will be turned off or made uncomfortable by direct action. There comes a point, when considering whether to do it or not, when you just have to accept that.

            • King Goat

              Of course there’s always some. But that can vary by the form, aim or timing of direct action, and all I’m saying is that that has to be taken very seriously before engaging in it. A direct action which leaves your cause worse off than before is one that shouldn’t be engaged in. That should be obvious, but people can miss it, and one way to do that is to too quickly dismiss any cautions about that with ‘oh, well people are gonna be upset by anything that we do.’

              • Linnaeus

                Any direct action involves some kind of risk. Yes, those risks should be considered before doing it.

                one way to do that is to too quickly dismiss any cautions about that with ‘oh, well people are gonna be upset by anything that we do.’

                Sure. By the same token, “we can’t do this action because it will piss someone off” is always lodged as reason to not do it in just about every discussion I’ve ever been in when a direct action was considered. Sometimes, that’s a serious consideration. Other times, it’s just a way of saying, “we should never do anything like this ever because reasons.”

          • DrDick

            If history is any guide, the positives generally greatly out weigh the negatives.

          • Barry_D

            “I grant direct action has worked, for example the early civil rights movement. It’s especially useful to bring attention to something that otherwise people wouldn’t be aware of in the first place. And I think it can be useful to push those friendly to us to take stronger stands.

            But I think it can also turn off potential allies and fire up opposition. ”

            We have a false picture of the Civil Rights movement. Early protests caused lots of controversy, and many criticized it (see ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’).

            • Origami Isopod

              Not to mention that, at times, you are absolutely not looking for public approval. You are seeking to be such a pain in the ass to the powers that be that they grant your demands.

        • BartletForGallifrey

          I wasn’t accusing you of setting up a strawman, but rather wondering if you were interpreting posts like mine as attacking direct action. It seems you were not, and I just haven’t seen those other posts. But I trust OI that they exist.

        • DrDick

          I can attest to that as well, but cannot recall who.

      • (((Hogan)))

        And it’s not usually a blanket dismissal of direct action so much as a steady drone of “too confrontational/not civil enough/attracts a bad element/interfered with my commute once/have they tried talking to the mayor?” that ends up at the same place.

        • DrDick

          Yep.

        • DAS

          I was the one complaining about interfering with commute. But my main issue wasn’t with my commute per se. Interfering with the commutes of people like me would be kind of the point of having the protest. The problem is that the protest would NOT have interfered with my commute (and didn’t interfere with the commutes of most people in my socio-economic class) had I drove that day.

          The people whose commutes the protests interfered with were largely underprivileged working class folks — the protest, ostensibly on behalf of the underprivileged, was keeping underprivileged people from getting to their jobs, or getting back home to their kids (and they may have had to pay extra money for daycare due to the delay getting home). Call me a concern troll, but I do find protests, ostensibly to help the underprivileged, that disproportionately hurt underprivileged folks, to be problematic.

          • cppb

            I think this argument discounts the extent to which protests also serve to mobilize other supporters. Seeing your peers taking a public stand on an issue you might care about, even if that stand inconveniences you, can help convince you that you are not alone and that others think the issue is worth fighting over.

            I understand (I think) you aren’t making a categorical condemnation of disruptive protest, but I don’t think the evidence really supports even a “rule of thumb” that commute disruptions disproportionately affect poor people. Maybe they do, but considering it’s mostly poor and working class people raising the issues being protested, and given the long history of successful direct action, I think the burden is on you to show that it harms the underprivileged more than the groups targeted.

    • Nang Mai

      BartletForGallifrey

      What’s going to happen to the pipeline on 1/21/17?

      Standing Rock is not assuming the fight is over. The history of broken promises is too long.

      I am guessing this particular pipeline is going to be a stranded asset. Bakken production is down, prices are low and contracts are up for re-negotiation. The company is deep in debt and having cash flow trouble. Energy Trade Partners (the main company behind the pipeline) had to consolidate with Sunoco this month in an effort to stay afloat. And even with the media blackout damning facts surfaced. This pipeline was never intended for domestic consumption but earmarked for export. Weirdest news of all, the CEO Kelcy Warren has started investing in wind power.

      What will happen to other efforts? They will look much the same. People getting hurt with little Federal protection.

  • King Goat

    Fair enough.

    On the flip side, I think there’s often to little grappling with the view that direct action can have negative as well as positive effects. It can turn people off that might otherwise support something in other ways or spur the opposition to more and better action. I don’t find that appreciated much, and I’d be interested in your thoughts there.

    • Sophia

      What kind of direct action are you imagining? People who would stop supporting a cause because of a non-violent protest are not people who were ever going to give you meaningful support.

      • BartletForGallifrey

        People who would stop supporting a cause because of a non-violent protest are not people who were ever going to give you meaningful support.

        This.

      • King Goat

        That’s not true. I’m thinking, for example, of the currently popular ‘lets block a highway.’ I might be sympathetic to your cause, but you make me unable to pick up my kid from after school on time and I’m going to be on your bad side. And I’m pretty left of center in my sympathies.

        • PhoenixRising

          Yeah, ‘blocking a highway’ is the suggestion that comes up right before I leave the consensus process. It’s never, ever worked once to do anything but piss everyone off. It’s also not a tactic that can be targeted enough to be an effective direct action.

          I assume anyone who suggests blocking an off ramp is either too stupid to be the FBI plant or the FBI plant, and that rule has never let me down yet.

          • King Goat

            “It’s never, ever worked once to do anything but piss everyone off. It’s also not a tactic that can be targeted enough to be an effective direct action.”

            Well put.

  • CrunchyFrog

    Agree with direct action.

    But I’ll note that this happened after the white protesters showed up. (“Veterans Stand for Standing Rock”.) Now they’ll be more TV coverage so of course the Feds had to switch to Bundy rules.

    • Perhaps the lesson to be drawn here is that white people need to be more active in direct action until we come closer to actual racial equality, then. Collectively, we certainly have a lot to make up for in a Trump administration (I’m counting myself as “white” despite the fact that most white supremacists probably wouldn’t, and despite the fact that ethnic Jews voted overwhelmingly for Clinton).

      • BartletForGallifrey

        I’m counting myself as “white”

        I’m not anymore. We were always conditionally white. This election–we may have voted for Clinton in higher numbers than Hispanics–and its aftermath–swastikas everywhere, the KKK giving Nazi salutes–have made it abundantly clear to me that I’m not white in 2016 America. For the moment, the police still see me that way, and I’ll still film any interaction between cops and black/Hispanic people. But don’t kid yourself. We’re not white.

        • That’s probably an appropriate response. I certainly don’t take the idea that I have white privilege for granted anymore, and to be honest, I’ve been terrified since even before the election results came in. On November 9, I was even more so. I was afraid even to go out in public for awhile, despite living in Florida, which, one would presume, was one of the most Jew-friendly places in the world for several decades.

          • BartletForGallifrey

            I’ve been seriously looking into what it would take to make aliyah if I needed to. My biggest fear is that I’ll do what a number of my family members did in the 30s in Eastern Europe: stay too long.

            • I probably should look seriously into what is needed to qualify for citizenship and/or political asylum elsewhere. Looking into aliyah in particular is probably a good idea since it’s not entirely clear if circumstances for Jews elsewhere will continue to be safe, either, although places like Canada and New Zealand look likely to remain fairly acceptable for at least the near future. New Zealand in particular is far away from this country’s borders, which, if Trump carries out my worst-case scenario of nuclear war, might be helpful (probably not, though). I would be interested in learning what you find out when you’ve done so.

              • BartletForGallifrey

                Swastikas have started showing up on Canadian shuls too, yay!

                It’s ridiculously easy. Prove you have one grandparent on either side who is Jewish. Then there are some forms and shit and then you go and Israel pays for everything for six months to two years. They give you Hebrew lessons, they give you stipends for housing, living, help finding employment, health care, everything. And the Israelis I know have all said they’re expecting an influx of American Jews and we’d be welcomed with open arms.

                Both countries allow you to keep your American citizenship, also.

                ETA: My stance is, my family has fled so many places. The US was supposed to be safe. If it’s not, then I’m not going to go to yet another place that eventually turns out unsafe. I don’t want my kids or grandkids fleeing Canada or another Anglophone country (which would otherwise be a better choice than Israel).

                • PhoenixRising

                  We’ve decided to stay and fight for the US as the only homeland for our particular family.

                  Partly because our Cambodian-born Khmer ethnicity teen is not accepted by Israelis as Jewish, and she returns that rejection by describing herself as Buddhist with atheist and Jewish moms.

                • Sophia

                  Fight fascism by bolstering apartheid. Best of luck with that.

                • BartletForGallifrey

                  I’m so sorry. I know the racism/Jewish snobbery in Israel is awful.* I’ve long contemplated retiring there, because lefty voices and diversity are both desperately needed.

                  I’m sure you know this, but if she ever changes her mind, there are shuls here that would welcome her with open arms.

                  *Hell, the chief rabbis in Israel don’t see me as Jewish, because my mother’s conversion was overseen by a Conservative rabbi.

                • BartletForGallifrey

                  Fight fascism by bolstering apartheid. Best of luck with that.

                  Are you Jewish, Sophia, honey?

                • PhoenixRising

                  The distinction between fighting fascism and fleeing it is lost on some folks. And that’s okay. I don’t want to spend the last 18 months of my life hiding in an attic with her either.

                • BartletForGallifrey

                  I don’t want to spend the last 18 months of my life hiding in an attic with her either.

                  Can I just say, off-topicish, that I’m real sick of people quoting Anne Frank’s “I still believe that people are good at heart”? She said that before she was put into a fucking concentration camp. She may very well have changed her mind by the time she died.

                • That sounds far more appealing the more I think about it. My grandfather was 100% of Jewish ethnicity, so I’d certainly qualify. I still hate Bibi, but that almost sounds like paradise for me, personally, particularly since I have disabilities that our own government doesn’t give much of a shit about. And it’s not as if the U.S.’ government is going to be any sympathetic to me than Israel’s soon enough. Maybe I’d have a chance at changing things there that I wouldn’t here.

                  Agreed on the Anne Frank quote. And basically everything else Bartlet said.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Hey, Sophia? Would you like to take all of us U.S. Jews in? Or do you just want us to stay here and die?

                  And, for the record, I am not a Zionist. I’m just really fucking tired of goyim ignoring antisemitism when it suits them.

                • BartletForGallifrey

                  You’ve gotta get on Twitter, OI. The clique of “social justice minded but ready to punch the goyim ignoring antisemitism” people is all that’s kept me vaguely sane this year.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Ugh, Twitter. No disrespect to all the great people who are there, I’ve learned a lot from users like @absurdistwords and @sarahkendzior and many others, but that platform is really unappealing to me.

                • BartletForGallifrey

                  I unfollowed Sarah Kendzior after she doubled down on connecting Stein voters to David Duke voters. I am second to no one in my hatred for Stein and her voters, but come on.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Huh. I know she’s on the alarmist side of things, but that’s a pretty big leap nonetheless. Did she provide any evidence for it at all? I’m guessing not.

                • BartletForGallifrey

                  I hadn’t seen the tweets where she seems to have backed off a bit; I saw her doubling-down to others: https://storify.com/thewetmale/conversation-with-sarahkendzior-and-mattyaspan

                  ETA: Also, I don’t need alarmism in my feed. I alarm myself plenty.

  • Ahenobarbus

    There’s a quote out there by a pipeline supporter saying he’s 100% certain this will be overturned by the Trump administration. No doubt they want to, but is it that simple?

    • Phil Perspective

      See my comment below. It appears the pipeline builder is going to continue now anyway. So I hope people are prepared for the long haul.

  • Sebastian_h

    Direct action can work, it can be ineffective, it can be counter-productive. The problem I typically see is that people divide in to those three camps on every direct action and argue as if their look at it is universal to all direct actions, so we never get a good exploration of what makes direct action effective, when is it ineffective, and when is it counter-productive.

    I’d love to see a good discussion of that.

    • PhoenixRising

      This is the second comment asking for that.

      Loomis, I recognize that the election broke the space-time continuum in some significant way because while you’re yourself in comments, this is your 3rd post in a row that I agree with every part of.

      That said, this question is pretty important; would you like a guest post talking about some answers?

      My experience in chaining myself to stuff, then working my way up to meeting with the governor, then actually accomplishing a policy goal in collaboration with others who agreed about nothing but the policy goal, might be useful.

      • Steve LaBonne

        I vote enthusiastically for contributions from you on that subject. At age 61 I’m just beginning my education on this stuff as I start to engage, through my UU church, in the antiracism work so desperately needed in the America that Trump’s election has revealed to those of us who were maybe not entirely awake before.

      • dbk

        That would be pretty interesting.

        It’s a little unclear to me from reading the thread how much everyone who’s commented has really tooled up on this story over the past few weeks.

        The Army Corps of Engineers announced the rerouting on the day of arrival of around 2000 US Vets (with another 6000+ waiting in the wings to relieve them). You can read the Times’ story of the Corps’ decision without learning that the decision and the arrival of those who plan to stand by Standing Rock occurred simultaneously.

        I don’t think this was a case of “now that the white people showed up”, the Army Corps listened. Perhaps it was more “What do we do now? The Vets are here and they’re not going to stand down.” The coordinators of the Veterans Standing for Standing Rock are both astute and engaged men who understood the significance of US Vets’ convergence at the site, and who above all respected the organizers and their goals. Michael A. Wood, who spearheaded the veterans’ effort to support water protectors along with Wes Clark Jr., was particularly eloquent and incisive.

        This determinedly peaceful action was well-coordinated on the ground from early on by native peoples (from all over the U.S.); it received not just local or national, but international support, and perhaps most importantly, it gradually morphed into an issue which instead of dividing people of normally-different persuasions, united them around a single cause,”Water is life”.

        • Thanks for this.

          Also, I, too, would appreciate PR’s thoughts on constructive protest.

  • XerMom

    Standing Rock seemed like the kind of direct protest that was most likely to work. It was focused on a specific issue that could be addressed by the government. That issue was pretty easily articulated to the public. There was a clear ending that could be considered a victory.

    A lot of protest isn’t so clear. Some of it seems more cathartic than anything else. I totally get the anger, frustration, and deep sense of injustice that is behind a lot of current protests, but I think they get lost in translation. If you have to spend a lot of time explaining your protest, I think you might want to try a new option (either adjust your protest or use another method entirely).

    • King Goat

      Also well said.

      There’s few protests I don’t find myself sympathizing with the outrage that’s the impetus for the protests. But the advisability of the resultant protest, it’s form, timing, etc., I often question.

  • Darkrose

    I’m taking away three things:

    1. There’s a difference between a one-off protest march and a long, sustained campaign of direct action. People and issues suited to one may not be suited to another.

    2. As Erik said, cross-racial organizing, led and directed by the people most affected by the issue, is key.

    3. Having a straightforward message that’s easy to communicate over a long period of time. The issues with DAPL were clear and the messaging was unambiguous.

    • Steve LaBonne

      4. Only politicians potentially sympathetic to your demands can successfully be pressured- does anyone think Donald Trump’s Army Corps would have done this? The lesson I take is that direct action and electoral politics are two sides of a single coin.

      • Darkrose

        The lesson I take is that direct action and electoral politics are two sides of a single coin.

        Good point.

      • Phil Perspective

        Speaking of which, Trump will likely approve this anyway come January 21. Also, too, there are reports tonight that the pipeline builder said “Full speed ahead.” Yes, you heard that right. They’re going to continue, apparently, and deal later with the consequences.

  • jeer9

    It appears the Army Corps of Engineers didn’t like the public relations image of 2,000 vets being sprayed with water cannons in sub-freezing weather.

    Not sure there’s anything the Republicans can be embarrassed about given their current leadership.

  • PhoenixRising

    Direct action is a tool.

    Meeting with the governor is a tool.

    Calls to your state legislature are a tool.

    Democrats and progressives (which are overlapping but distinct groups) aren’t good at using all the tools when we have access to elected power.

  • JBC31187

    Semi off-topic, but more good news?

    I know protesting isn’t going to do much for Trump, considering he’s a malicious asshole, but can we hamstring the white supremacist noise machine? Will our corporate masters step in to save us?

    • Steve LaBonne

      One of the bitter lessons many of us will have to learn over the next few years is that corporations, though they need very close watching, are not always the greatest evil that faces us.

      • JBC31187

        I have this fantasy of Disney suing the Trump regime for not acting on climate change, in turn threatening Disney property.

      • The more I think about this, the more I realise how true it is. That’s really depressing and terrifying.

    • Linnaeus

      Will our corporate masters step in to save us?

      Not something that we can or should count on.

    • Given that the counties that Clinton carried make up 64% of the country’s GDP, I suppose economic pressure is a tool that we may have some luck with.

      • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

        Oh, wow, progressives going Galt! Turns out we’re the makers.

        Medical personnel unable to cope with epidemic of exploding heads.

        (This is semi-sarcastic, but only semi. And I may have mis-parodied Rand, who I’ve never read.)

        • Don’t worry; most people who cite her have never read her either, or, at least, never finished reading her. I have read Anthem, but I didn’t even touch Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead. I’d never have gotten through John Galt’s speech.

  • UserGoogol

    I feel like the phrase “direct action” is misleadingly broad. There’s nothing direct about persuading to get a government agency to change their policy, even if you do some provocative things to get attention. Things like Planned Parenthood are direct action in a fairly pure sense: they promote reproductive health care by giving people reproductive health care. But the phrase includes all sorts of actions which are merely tactics in the pursuit of a larger end: strikes aren’t about shutting down the workplace as an end in itself, but getting better terms for workers when they get back to work. So much of direct action is just regular politics with a little more panache: working to get people to take your side. The difference between that and campaigning for a politician is just one of specifics, not somehow more direct than the other.

  • Nang Mai

    The CBC article is a good example of how different emic and etic perceptions can be. The Boston Globe did something similar when its reporter visited and found ‘despair.’ Yet, every single participant I talked to shared a radically different experience — one of unity, hope and competence.

    Every day there are prayer sessions, Food and supplies are freely shared. People call each other brother, sister, mother, father. Newcomers are given a code of ethics to avoid tensions. >50 indigenous groups are involved and represented — including groups that have been traditional enemies. 10,000 people peacefully living together for more than 8 months is a remarkable story in itself and testament to the skill of the organizers. Especially when police were dealing out life threatening violence and company actions were deliberately provocative. When a protector would start to feel overwhelmed others would quickly come together to help them find calm.

    Mainstream media just wasn’t present for the most part, I am inclined to dismiss the few dis-empowering narratives that did surface. Americans are taking baby steps re-learning the power of collective action and this fills me with hope for the future. (to Erik: I think the word you were looking for might have been ‘cross cultural’ rather than cross-racial. A great many cultures were present.)

    • Thanks for this account. I hadn’t heard many direct reports of what was going on and the fact that people can still manage to accomplish something like this in Trump’s America is… mildly encouraging. (“Mildly” because, well, I’ve already outlined some of the causes for my existential anxiety elsewhere in this comment section recently).

  • mds

    There’s an alternate-history short story by Harry Turtledove, “The Last Article,” in which Germany’s successes in WWII lead them to invading British India. Gandhi decides to use the same tactics that were bearing fruit with the British against the Nazis. And of course he fails miserably, because the Nazis don’t fucking care. So direct action protest is great, but absent something impossible like a national general strike, it requires the targets of the protests to be amenable to persuasion in the first place, or at least able to feel shame. So direct protest foundered on Iraq II, and will largely founder on the Trump administration. It might help at the edges, though, in moving the needle in states and Congressional districts. Then again, Wisconsin was rife with direct action protest, and it got them nothing except an even heavier boot on their necks. Maybe we can concentrate first on making things better in municipalities that are already nominally left-leaning? Because it would sure be nice to win more than just a temporary halt of a pipeline in North Dakota.

    … Yeah, I’m really depressed today. How could you tell?

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