The Two Things You Never, Ever Want To Hear About A Protest

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In thinking about the recent United States Social Forum (about which I am quite positive, incidentally, as this piece I wrote on it reflects), I was reminded that I have intended to write this point up for a good long time. That’s because left groups have been making and publicizing bullshit smiley-face summations of their demonstrations, forums, conferences, campaigns, etc. for a good long time.

So here’s a quick translation of the two lines I most dread seeing in any sum-up.

  1. “It was small but spirited.” Translation: It was small.

  2. “It was good that we did it.” Translation: Boy, that sure burned a lot of resources for not much return.

Don’t even get me started on inflated crowd counts.

Yes, sometimes things are small and have good spirit. Yes, sometimes it’s worth having put a lot of energy into something with little evident payoff. But it is never good to lie to ourselves and to the people we work with.

I will close with a quote from Amilcar Cabral, the great Guinean revolutionary and agronomist, but not before urging you, dear reader, to chip in your thoughts and pet peeves in this department.



Tell No Lies…Claim No Easy Victories.

UPDATE (from the comment thread on the original post at Fire on the Mountain):

You also never want to hear a weather report in the context of a demonstration or meeting:

“Despite the threat of rain, a small but spirited crowd…”

“Even though it was a beautiful day outside, the room was nearly packed to hear….”

5 comments

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    • dennis on July 8, 2010 at 2:55 pm
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    • tegrat on July 8, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    if the report is murky about what the message is, then you might as well stay home.  Broad brushstroke messages don’t work either, especially of the “anti-” kind.  The most powerful protests are color- and sign- coordinated which demonstrates immediately not only a concern but that a concerted effort went into creating the protest.

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