In response to my recent article on a joke I made about the G-20 protesters, one of the readers — in fact, an old friend — asked me “Do you think protesting the G-20 is entirely without merit?”
That’s a complex question. It’s so complex that I am going to suspend, for this post, my self-imposed moratorium on cursing in writing on this weblog. If foul language offends you, you might want to stop reading now.
First off, let’s be clear that people have the right to and can peacefully protest whatever they want, and whether or not I think their cause has merit or not doesn’t really matter.
Regarding the G-20 protests specifically, I have several critiques. Some of those critiques are objective, and one is subjective. The first objective critique is that at each and every G-20 summit protest, the protesters have brought some level of violence and intentional destruction of property. I think that that is unacceptable thuggery, and anyone engaged in it must be publicly shamed.
A common rejoinder to this is “Well, not all the protesters are violent, so don’t blame everyone for a few bad apples.” That’s a bad argument. Let me explain why.
Recently, the right-wing “Tea Baggers” marched on Washington. Some of the marchers carried signs like this:
Now, I don’t feel at all shy about saying that not only was the person carrying that sign a racist pigfucker, but every single person marching within sight of that sign who didn’t confront him is, without question, someone who likes hanging out with, aiding, and abetting racist pigfuckers.
I apply the same standard to the G-20 protesters. Every person who marches with people committing violence and thuggery, and who doesn’t confront them and try to stop it, is someone who likes hanging out with, aiding, and abetting thugs.
My other objective observation is that the G-20 protests have no center, no organization, no cohesive goal, and no end game. One can’t even state with certainty what, in fact, is being protested. There is absolutely no set of actions any government or private entity could take that would result in “the protesters” (giving them a monolithic status they don’t in fact have) saying “Our demands have been met: we’re going home.” Given that, my impression is that this is less a legitimate protest movement and more a party holiday for people who have determined that showing up at protests is the best possible way to get laid.
My subjective comment is that we live in a world where most women are subjected on a regular basis to systemic and widespread oppression through physical violence, where in much of the world you can be harassed, injured, or killed if you are of the wrong religion, where much of the world is subject to governments that are actually totalitarian police states, and where the response to protests on the scale of the G-20 would be, as we’ve seen in Iran, violence on a much greater order of magnitude (warning: disturbing violent imagery at that link). As I said above, people can protest whatever they want to. But in my personal opinion, if you live in the Western world and economic globalization is the issue you choose to get worked up over, then you’re a complete lightweight and not worth taking seriously.