Why picketing is embarrassing for us all
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer
“I’m against picketing, but I don’t know how to show it.” – Mitch Hedberg
Whether your protest is for extremely right-wing causes, extremely left-wing causes, or anywhere in between, the fury of assumed injustice has always been a powerful and irrational force. Typically a group (or sometimes just one person) will take their indignation to the streets, or sometimes online. Their demonstrations and powerful emotions shown by their homemade signs, chanting, and frequent violence/unrest leads to the cause being “fulfilled” and everyone going home “happy.”
Except for when it doesn’t, which is almost always.
We’ve all seen protesters campaigning around town, or at least heard about them in the media. Observers of this protest, although aware of the specific issue, do not usually change their opinion on the issue based on the demonstration. In fact, demonstration might cause more damage to the protested cause. Protests frequently lead to arrests, extremists become uncomfortably vocal, and participants are portrayed as irrational criminals.
Online protest campaigns are equally ineffective in their efforts. Whether it’s a tweet, Facebook post, or online petition, complaining about an issue online leads to nothing but a slight degree of awareness. Such awareness is also easily manipulated and filled with false information or even downright biases and propaganda. The participants and causes are perhaps portrayed even more unfavourably in the media after an online protest. It’s not just individuals: entire websites or even browsers have participated in protests against a certain cause. They never work. They just don’t. In fact, protesting a cause exclusively on the Internet may say a lot about how much you really care about it. Such a method of protest is commonly known as “slacktivism.”
So what are the alternatives to a visible protest? Working in the place where it all matters: behind the scenes. Systems don’t work or change based on the things seen at the surface. All the functionality occurs underneath. Just ask anyone who works on computers or in a pyramid-style corporate structure. Call your elected officials and tell them your concerns with a particular issue. Get involved with a charity or other organization that specifically addresses the problem. Change can happen. Banging drums and shouting obscenities at politicians while tree hugging isn’t going to block the pipelines. It’s done by directly lobbying and addressing the numerous specific issues involved with, say, an environmentally unfriendly and destructive pipeline.
There are protesters out there on your side. There are also dedicated, organized foundations on your side. One uses shouting, physical presence, and often lawbreaking tactics to achieve its ends; the other uses skill, negotiation, and resourceful people who know what they’re doing via legal means.
It’s possible to make a difference and fight for what you believe in, but it’s important to remember that physical demonstrations have little to no effect. They usually just create a further driving force.