19 July, 2016

Dirty River on the road: selfie activism

Quality is the greatest enemy of mass-leveling. -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Polar Protesting: Near Quicken Loans Arena
I spent yesterday in downtown Cleveland trying to find the dire narrative the political extremists on both ends and all major media outlets have been pedaling. True to the old adage "If it bleeds, it leads," it seems as if FOX, CNN, and MSNBC are determined to create a causal connection between the recent killings and the implosion currently happening inside the GOP.

I saw one mini van full of guys in olive drab who were clearly not military, not police, and not connected to any government agency. There were a few people taking advantage of Ohio's open carry law, and if you follow the media story about the "rally"*  in the Public Square, it would be easy to believe that downtown Cleveland is looks like the setting for a Phillip K. Dick novel.

People deserve better than the narrative they're being fed about the actual state of things. 

Yes, there were a lot of cops around. A few of them were wearing bullet proof vests. Most of them were wearing their regular uniforms and carrying their normal firearms. There were also the usual brand of Jesus freaks, megaphone doomsday preachers, and political protests. As I mentioned in one of my video updates yesterday, the polar bear is probably my favorite. Not only is it on message, but I have to give kudos for the person in the suit's dedication to the cause, because not only did that person walk around for several hours in a hot polar bear suit in July, but that person did so around Public Square and E 4th Street -- the hub of activity outside Quicken Loans Arena.

There were a few radical speakers at the free speech mic, some hate mongers posing as Christians, and
two other protest marches against Trump and the GOP: a pro-immigration march that made creative and not market intended use of a sex blow-up doll, and a parade of women wearing pink in protest of Trump's outright misogyny. There were some lone protesters, each with their own cause, ranging from a call to treat Syrian refugees fairly to one of the sanest people I saw, an old man with a t-shirt that read  "END POVERTY NOW."

I was also hoping to find a few of the more radical left marches to include. Tom Morello showed up to wear his IWW hat and punch the air with the Northeast Ohio Wobs... but the march took place at 7pm -- long after any delegates, GOPers, and major media outlets had filed into the Quicken Loans Arena compound to listen to Chachi spout and Trump's wife plagiarize. Moreover, the march took place from E 47th to E 12th Streets.

The hub of pre-game activity for Day 1 of the convention happened between 8am and 1:30pm at the Public Square and E 4th Street. 

Free speech is crucial to a free society, and dissent is the marrow of a healthy democracy. But I have to wonder about the purpose of a protest no one sees except those who would know about it anyway.

I've participated in marches and protests before because while voting is a civic duty, it is the exact opposite of revolutionary action. When people are organized and have a unified message, dissent can change the direction of The State run amok. But the most successful protests, the most successful forms of dissent, also take risks. 

If the radical left is serious about changing the direction of things and taking on the damage done by late stage capitalism, then it's not enough to march somewhere "safe" because they buy into the media myth of a militarized zone at Public Square. Having a radical message means doing more than bird calling it back and forth with people who agree with you. That's the failure of social media activism. 

People deserve better than dissenters who don't want to take a risk for what they believe. If we leave the megaphones for the hate mongers, we are enabling the hate and violence, not standing against it.

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*If the media outlets covering the "gun rally" had used a wider camera angle, they would have had to tell the story of five people that no one paid any attention to. But a close camera angle is the best way to create a crowd to fit the narrative they walked in wanting to tell.
 

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