When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

September 04, 2004

Conventions and Demonstrations

Bravo Romeo Delta

For quite some time now, I've really wondered what the hell the point of protest and demonstration were.

Seriously, be it pro-choice or pro-life, pro-Palestine or pro-Israel, or pro-moonbat or pro-wignut, I've just never really understood what they were supposed to achieve.

They are terrible at converting the unconverted - tend to be fractious noisy things, full of bad signs and worse hygiene.

I think, today, I've finally figured them out.

I started by reflecting on modern conventions (and am I the only one who finds those to be just the tiniest bit Orwellian?). I don't really understand what modern political conventions actually do. Sure, bad clothing, groupthink and slick media production all are apparent at conventions, but what do they actually produce.

Hot air.

Then it struck - demonstrations are grassroot manifestations of modern conventions, without any actual nomination of actual candidates. And they perform many of the same functions - an opportunity to mobilize your base through incestuous amplification created by groupthink and flat-out polemics. Maybe you'll nab some undecideds along the way (there's zero chance of actually converting anybody), but that's kind of incidental.

Essentially, both conventions and demonstrations are like any other form of political communication (like Op-Eds, White Papers, and so on). They are preaching to the choir to prevent folks from straying from the flock, keeping people on message, and equipping your faithful with their talking points. Both whip up the ground troops and loyal lieutenants to go forward with the nitty-gritty work of actually doing something.

And of course, in both cases, there are no small number of fools who believe they are some sort of mystical cultural experience (Chicago in 1968, for a synchronous example).

There's another parallel that arises out of this one that I'm interested in exploring. I'd write more on it, but I need to do some more thinking on it, first. Conventions are to protests as main-stream media are to blogs. Just at first blush, this might imply that the 38 year-political cycle may be twinned with a 38-year cycle on the arrival of new media. Lots of other interesting possibilities arise from this as well. Hmm...

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at September 4, 2004 01:28 AM

Retaliatiory Launches

But a convention is a media event, that allows (for instance) a Rudy Giuliani to give a sort of "catch up" lecture on what the misnamed "War on Terrorism" is really about, and why the expansion of the Democracy Franchise is the appropriate way to fight it.

They're also social events, that allow people to interact, meet others, and even establish bonds that lead to long term relationships. More than a few parents of the Y generation met at demonstrations or mass events, although without followup midlevel, or what sociologists call "associational," events those relationships would have been short-lived.

And demonstrations (and possibly conventions) are pressure valves, that allow pent up grievances to be expressed, and possibly dealt with through public debate and argumentation.

The problem is that some of the ideas appear to be impervious to argumentation and logic. But human folly has always been with us, and the objective is to simply limit its impact by allowing it some sort of innocuous (assuming it's unconvincing) expression. Or if the belief is sincerely held then it at least allows us to take it seriously, before the fault lines it creates in society build up pressure to quake levels.

I also seriously question your contention that people are not "converted" by conventions. It may be that, for large numbers of people, the Giuliani crash course may have been the first and only time that some people had ever been exposed to a coherent explanation of the strategy. This appears to be beyond the capability of the President himself, although I do think he understands it. So the convention really did, apparently, change some minds. If the Time poll proves accurate then most of the rise in Bush's approval rating came from Kerry voters switching allegiance, but the event also convinced not a few undecideds.

Posted by: Demosophist at September 4, 2004 04:38 PM

For me, I was going to vote Bush until last Friday. There was a demonstrator in the street with a rubber pig snout strapped to his nose and he was throwing fake money in the street while shouting something. The intellectual gravitas of his actions have shown me the error of my ways, and I've since changed my vote to Kerry. C'mon AR, join the revolution!!

Posted by: CG at September 4, 2004 06:54 PM

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