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Thursday, August 26, 2004

All The Critics Love U In New York

If you're going to protest the Republican National Convention in New York, well, have fun, but not too much fun. My first instinct was to say not to go, but I decided that the people likeliest to start trouble aren't going to be dissuaded, and the more non-troublemaking folk that show up in New York, the more chance that the lunatic fringe won't be allowed to dominate the proceedings.

Remember that America, and the world, are watching. From that fact you can derive most of my other advice for anyone planning on making your voice heard on the streets of the Big Apple next week.

Lots of the protest activity will be televised. The press is lazy and would love nothing more than to cover the sensationalistic spectacle of black-clad anarchists throwing rocks through Starbucks franchises and getting into fights with police officers. Make it as hard for them as possible, whether that's by wearing your Sunday best or by looking like you're on your way to the workplace, a trendy nightclub, a fraternity party, or a job interview. The press would have to actually have to work for a change rather than traffic in lazy strereotyping.

The Republicans wouldn't mind seeing rioting in the streets because they want to make it look like Bush is the only thing that stands between the American people and total chaos. That he has been able to project such an image with some degree of success is the main reason he still has support from people who aren't either fundamentalist preachers or members of the board of an oil company. The news media want rioting in the streets because it gets them ratings, and therefore advertising money; they can only get so much mileage from Scott Peterson and Kobe Bryant. I wouldn't put it past either of them to try and foment chaos; the use of agents provocateurs is a time-honored tradition in union-busting and counter-insurgency operations. Ergo, look upon anyone who wants to get violent with a suspicious eye, not only because they might be moles for the Bushies, but because they are being jerks in general.

Despite the fact that the GOP selected New York City for its convention site, the locals are by and large with you. Bush's approval ratings in New York and its immediate surroundings are among the lowest in the country. And for good reason. Most of them want to see a new president, many of them as badly as you do. Trashing their city can only hurt your cause, and theirs.

Political conventions are, at this stage in the evolution of campaigns and elections, boring by nature. Nothing much happens at them and they are scripted to the extreme. And the more boring they are, the less of an impact that they have. If the anti-Bush people in New York don't play into GOP hands by making themselves the story, the "story" of the convention will be one of two things:
a. The RNC was a painfully boring affair because the GOP was trying to present a face as bland and inoffensive as possible, and largely succeeded. Bush and his surrogates aren't really going to inspire anyone on the fence at this point with their speeches; all they can hope to do if they don't get the circus in the streets they want is hold a few Republican-leaning stragglers. Few people would watch anyway.
b. The RNC was a replay of Houston 1992, full of saber-rattling and culture war bloviating, and scared and/or turned-off voters will desert Bush and the Republicans.
While I doubt that the GOP will be so stupid as to repeat the mistakes of Houston, there is no good reason to stop them from boring the public to tears, or to take the spotlight off of them if they are that foolish.

Last but not least, remember - eyes on the prize. Before you do anything in New York next week, ask yourself if whether it's going to help send Bush scurrying back to Texas for good.


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