Saturday, September 06, 2008

Learning our lessons

I did not go to the DNC or RNC protests. Generally, I don't do protests. I'm pretty sure my work lies elsewhere, and I have serious questions about the efficacy of such things. But, honestly, even my level of cynicism about party politics and mainstream media hadn't quite prepared me for the degree of dead-dumbness that all the establishment factions showed with regard to the protests that took place. With the elephants and the asses jostling to be the bringers of "change," and 1968 replaying itself on the streets outside, you would have thought some bright thing could have thought of some way to coopt the whole street spectacle, either by reaching out to the protestors or by explicitly announcing the rapidly approaching end of western civilization and embracing the storm-trooper assaults. Instead, both conventions sort of cruised along in their bubbles. The RNC was, of course, more spectacularly beside-the-point, with half of the GOP dignitaries not invited or uninvited, thanks in part to the excuse of a hurricane which, Hey Folks!, did kick the shit out of some cities, even if it failed to provide whatever NOLA photo ops had been hoped for. All of the speeches and machinations that drew attention a couple of days ago are now yesterday's news, unless they are lies that will be repeated again today, and tomorrow. All of the exposures of the lies spoken a few days ago only confirmed what opponents already knew, or thought they knew, and don't seem to have the slightest chance of changing the minds of their intended audiences. The politicsmachine is either irreparably broken, or finally works perfectly, depending on where you stand on little things like truth, freedom, justice, responsibility, and other, similarly old-fashioned notions. So. . .

Our people, I would dare to say The People, to the extent that there is still a political "people" in the US, were in the street, or they were home, working at the other projects, listening to cameraphone journalism from the protest sites and dealing with the extension of misrule as usual on other streets. (In Portland, we had black helicopters (no shit!) during the urban military exercises, along with the less spectacular advent of Portland Patrol, Inc. on the central eastside, brought in by one of the lobbying "councils" to chase off the homeless displaces by the downtown "Clean and Safe." And we got a new phrase, "trespass campers," to designate (that is, further demonize) the eastside remnant, and to spice up a lot of really smarmy "journalism" about hygiene on the street. Anyway. . .) Needless to say, our people on the streets of the Twin Cities faced the one-two punch of militarized cops and media inclined to blame protestors first, and they are still facing it. There are people in jail, people whose possessions have been confiscated by the cops, people who have been injured, reports of people who have been tortured, almost certainly still people in jail in need of medical attention.

Whatever you think about "protest," we just saw a week of rampant police-state bullshit, with the "forces of law and order" not worrying much about law or order, as long as the anti-dissent message got bludgeoned in. We still don't know, and probably never will, how much of the property damage was done by infiltrators. We certainly know that there were infiltrators. Nobody is guilty by the laws of the country, when the authorities themselves throw away the whole legal playbook. So find a way to support those still in trouble. Rad Geek has put up a call for support for the St. Paul 8 and other political prisoners, as good as anything I could write here. RNC Welcoming Committee (and Alliance of the Libertarian Left) member William Gillis has promised "strategy analysis," and has already provided useful context and commentary on the events. The Uptake (see the sidebar) continues to provide useful video coverage. Indymedia sites at Portland and the Twin Cities are full of good information and good links. Do your homework, and figure out what you can do, both to help deal with the aftermath of the last two weeks and to develop the next set of responses and alternatives.

Alternatives have to be a big part of whatever happens next for radicals. This is the ground that, despite all the chatter, the "parties of change" seem finally to have abandoned completely. More on that soon. . .

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

Well said. I think if the movement actually does learn the lesson that normal protest is dead then we can actually be more effective next time. But we have a lot of bad habits of citizenship in a democratic republic to unlearn.