I Protest Your Protest

I’m not an expert in physics, chemistry, or biology. I don’t have a doctorate in climatology, paleontology, ornithology, or even scientology. That said, I can tell you honestly that I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, but probably not independently. I believe the United States Government keeps many secrets, but an alien crash site isn’t one of them. I believe the moon landings were real, but Walter Cronkite’s hair wasn’t. I’m a skeptic, a critical thinker, and a person who will never cease to question authority. However, quite frankly, I’m baffled by what I encountered in Sinagra Park when coming home from work awhile back.

Working downtown, I’m treated to a plethora of protest events throughout the spring, summer, and fall. From my office, I occasionally hear the voices of dissent belch out their well practiced and overly amplified speech: demanding action, insisting on change, and pleading for Americans everywhere to simply, “Wake up and see the error of your ways!” For the most part, those that choose to take to the street are considerate and polite (considering the nature of what they are doing). And, while I don’t necessarily agree with their opinions or support their causes, I very much respect their passion and will always defend their right to free speech.

However, for me, there is one particular cause that seems to fall well outside the lines of reason. I do not understand how in the world anyone can still cling to the delusional thought that the U.S. government was directly responsible for the attacks on 9/11. Yet, there I was, standing in the center of Lakewood, face to face with a group demanding another investigation into what has already become one of the most critically reviewed events in U.S. History.

Still, after spending close to an hour arguing back and forth with various members of this group, it occurred to me that, while I thought their logic was completely off base, I was actually more offended by their complete lack of preparation and utter breakdown in execution. Sure, they had the nice banners, a few catchy slogans, and the obligatory ringleader chanting meaningless redundancies through a bullhorn. However, what they really lacked was focus, which was really quite a shame since they otherwise made for a nicely assembled, clean-cut group.

With so many ex-hippies and extreme liberals holding positions in higher education, you would think that someone somewhere would offer classes on how to pull off successful protests, rallies, or demonstrations. Actually, I can already imagine portions of the curriculum…
English 103: Creative Conspiracy Writing
Speech 125: Publicly Speaking Loudly
Science 205: Fluid Theory as relates to the Dynamics of Mobs
Biology 307: Long-term Effects of Hunger Strikes
Physics 202: The Science of a Successful Sit-in (including a lab that requires you to chain yourself to various objects)

If any of my adversaries that day would have had the benefit of such a course, they might have stood a half a chance at getting something, anything, accomplished.

Case in Point #1: When approached by a confrontational person such as myself, the entire group should not get sucked into the argument. Before starting the protest, identify the participants best suited for individual debate. After all, you’re there to spread your story or beliefs to the masses and, with everyone simultaneously yelling at me, you’re missing countless opportunities to open dialogue with other passerby.

Case in Point #2: Always evaluate the area to determine the angles of greatest visibility. Holding your biggest, most creative sign ten feet back and parallel to the street doesn’t allow traffic adequate time to see, read, and comprehend your message (having it underneath a shady tree doesn’t help either). I’d bet dollars to donuts that not a single motorist driving by that afternoon discerned that you weren’t just the usual bunch of kids hanging out, let alone that you actually had something to say.

Case in Point #3: Have a point! Yes, a catch phrase is fun, but if and when someone finally does ask the critical question, “So what do you want me to do about it?,” it’s generally considered much more productive if you actually have an answer. And, saying, “Here, read this” isn’t good enough. Have a petition prepared. Hand out the phone number or e-mail address of your local representative along with a pre-written statement of what to do. Never demand a person’s attention if you don’t know what to do when you get it.

Case in Point #4: Think! Isn’t that what you’re expecting from everyone else? If you don’t have your facts straight and ready to be presented, you won’t be able to convince anyone else. Within ten minutes, members of this group gave me three contradictory “facts” regarding a critical part of their argument. Do you really think I’m going to believe your story if you keep changing it?

Personally, my favorite part came when I asked the leader of this group, “If you don’t trust the government and you think all the major media sources are in on the cover up, then who exactly do you have in mind to head up this new investigation?” His reply was, “Well, I’m a pretty smart guy - I can ask some good questions.”

Yeah, I can see the headlines now…“Congress selects unknown Lakewood, Ohio youth to head 9/11 investigative team - unlimited subpoena powers authorized.”

My recommendation is that you go back to your mom’s basement and spend a little time on Al Gore’s Internet researching effective ways to sway public opinion. Treat the process with as much respect as you demand from the public. Otherwise, good luck with your windmill, Mr. Quixote.
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Volume 3, Issue 13, Posted 8:25 AM, 06.15.2007