The NYTimes offers Room For Debate on the effect of protesting with an emphasis upon Change versus Primal Scream. This series assemblies several experts on the topic at hand and provides room for a 500 word comment. The Times picked several muggles for this Debate on protesting. Take a few minutes to read the brief comments. As you do consider this Rule:
If You Can’t Count It, You Can’t Change It.
My take on most of the participants is that they have no idea how to plan and evaluate successful protest. Almost none say anything even indirectly about Counting the Change. And, implicit in this failure is the recurring absence of TACTful planning. They simply do not know how to define behavior Change as a Strategy, select Tactics that could make the Change, then Count the outcomes. Instead they zig and zag with what strike me as top of the head, seat of the pants wanderings about the topic. And all that Sincerity!
One expert, however, nails it. Natasha Vargas-Cooper draws blood in her contrast between protest as persuasion (TACTs, Counting the Change) and protest as prima donna passion. Vargas-Cooper worked as an organizer for the Service Employees International Union for awhile and apparently learned her lessons.
At their worst, protests and demonstrations are self-indulgent acts of personal and collective therapy, public tantrums of self-righteousness. Protests, devoid of a strong underlying organization, are bound to become self-fulfilling echo chambers. At their best, protests can be an important tactic, but only a tactic, as opposed to an effective strategy. Political and social change comes only through hard, prolonged and persistent organizing, the sort of nitty-gritty, painstaking and frustrating work of persuasion that few professional protesters can be bothered with.
Vargas-Cooper is a dangerous person and I want her on my team when the campaign begins. She talks the talk and she looks like she can take a punch.