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Fatwah / February 27, 2011

AboutAmericanDream

You know things are dire when I go to a protest rally. It’s one of the signs of the apocalypse, the one right before the seas turn to blood. I hate rallies. You stand out there feeling like a complete ass, while people around you chant “Hey-hey, ho-ho, corporate welfare has got to go.”

Whatever the thing is that’s being protested, see, you say it’s Got to Go.

This event was the insipidly-named “Rally to Save the American Dream” that went on yesterday in various cities across the USA. The intention was to give the thumbs-up to the Wisconsin protesters, encourage them to keep up the battle for collective bargaining rights. Also, presumably, to dig the trenches for the last-ditch fight to save the American working class, in spite of tea-party defectors who have already put out the sign saying “Welcome Corporate Overlords!”

But there’s got to be a better way than this. At the San Francisco rally, there was a cheap microphone that didn’t work, people yelling “we can’t hear you” at the back, old lefty warhorses trotted out to say the same things they’ve been saying for forty years in the same reedy tones, and mildly diverting signs done with marker on poster-board:

“Scott Walker is a Koch-Whore”

“Think Outside the Fox”

“Hitler Banned Unions”

“We Are All Cheeseheads Now”

“Gov. Walker Isn’t a Badger, He’s a Weasel”

“Tax the Rich (They’ll Be Okay)”

The worst of rallies is, nobody knows what to do once they show up. So they fall back on the toothlessly traditional. For example, the call-and-response routine that was old when Pete Seeger was young:

“What do we want?”

“Justice!”

“When do we want it?”

“Now!”

Seriously, that was one of the things chanted yesterday. Also wanted: jobs, fair taxes, and, if I remember right, collective bargaining rights, which played hell with the chant rhythm. Nobody had rhythm at the San Francisco rally.

Crowd II

Embarrassing as hell, all of this, but y’know, squeamish avoidance is a luxury we can’t afford anymore.

The reason we who work haven’t all hit the streets at every increasingly sickening outrage in this country in the past ten-twenty-thirty years is a pretty simple one: it’s because we aren’t used to hitting the streets. We weren’t raised right. We’re out of practice. We don’t know the etiquette, or else we’ve seen the etiquette and we despise it. So we hang back, snarling and fuming, and the same small gaggle of protesters and rally-ers who go to everything show up again, chant “Hey-hey, ho-ho,” and make no impression. Live bodies is what you need at protests, millions of ’em, live bodies that show up and impress through sheer mass and brawn, and who look serious as a heart attack when the news cameras zoom in on faces.

But how to get them, when so many people are justifiably averse to looking like rally-twits, and won’t come out in the first place? In San Francisco, where people like to rally, they didn’t even fill the plaza in front of City Hall. It was maybe a third full, and it broke up quickly, with a lot of people drifting off to other rallies. There was one at Bank of America about something or other, and another just a block away, in support of Libyan protestors.

See? Not serious. People out making a day of rallying for a grab-bag of causes, wandering from one to the other like desultory attendants at a street fair—that cuts no ice with anybody.

Crowd VI

Personally, when it comes to protesting, I’m for glowering, fist-shaking single-mindedness, all-night amassing in darkness, ideally by torchlight, ferocious speeches, enormous colored banners carried by scores of people, signs with fists on them, and marching on things (cities, government buildings, corporate headquarters), preferably in clomping boots. Savage songs would be good too, only nobody sings anymore. In short, I’m for the no-Hey-Ho protest.

I realize some might consider the torches excessively old-school. Fine. Flashlights might be okay, if they’re that real eye-searing kind that are also big and heavy and look like weaponry. Just in case.

ppc-fist

If we could get a new, formidable kind of protester in America, the kind that refuses to do mild-mannered chants and mealy little poster-board signs, we’d soon come up with better protest-rhetoric altogether. This bland, measured, excuse-us-please-we’re-rallying rhetoric is sadly inadequate. For example, here’s the statement put out by MoveOn.org’s Justin Ruben:

Today’s massive rallies show that the middle class is not going to sit idly by while Republicans demand tax breaks for corporations and their rich friends and then turn around and say there is no money for police, firemen, first responders, teachers and workers. Today’s actions are just the beginning, and we will not rest until Republicans stop their attacks on the middle class.

If you read all the way to the yawn-inducing end, congratulations—MoveOn.org is the org for you.

In our new Crazyworld, this org is considered scary and threatening by right-wingers, who mention it in tones of horror. And I guess we have to give MoveOn credit, they cobbled something together on the left, and kept it together, when nobody else would. But just imagine what a really tough org could do!

It’s just lucky for us that a lot of right-wing rhetoric is still oddly cautious and trembly too (though we make the same mistake they do—we think they’re far fiercer than they are). Here’s the call for a counter-rally in Lincoln, Nebraska, to face off against the MoveOn.org “Rally to Save the American Dream.” It’s posted on a right-site called Grassroots:

OUR PLAN: We will gather on the Centennial Mall because we are NOT 
attempting to get involved directly in the labor union rally. I 
explicitly urge you NOT to do so as it will only lead to trouble. Our
 purpose is to gather together in whatever number chooses to show
 support for reforming collective bargaining.

Heavens to Betsy, it might lead to trouble.

So you see, they’re not even worthy adversaries yet. There’s still hope. We can get serious before they do. But first we have to get some practice rallying. Job One is to mass in public, get used to being massed with a purpose. Job Two can be figuring out what to do while massing, including how to get the microphone away from the hey-ho-ing rally-twits. We’ve got to grow into this thing, and grow fast. All you guys out there who like to talk tough? Log off, and take it to the streets. You’re needed out there.

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76 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. SirEricBlair  |  March 1st, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Fuckall,

    Let’s be buddies in real life. As long as you clean up after yourself ill toss you my condo keys and BMW X-series no problem. You seem like you could play the part.

    Just throw me a one-way to a third world country of your choosing and we’ll reconvene in a year and turn it into a reality show. You game?

  • 2. Doug II  |  March 1st, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Someone has mistaken me, Doug II, for Doug the Wall Street prick, and they mistook both us Dougs for that dickhead Marcus Halberstram. Someone else mistook Marcus for that shithead Joe Cassano. And all three of us for that prick, Angelo the Weasel. It seems logical because we all work on Wall Street and in fact we all do the same exact thing, a slight variation of the exact same thing as everyone else on Wall Street, which, in this case, involves using credit default swaps to bet against retard schmucks with Down syndrome, with a hedged side bet CDO-squared against schmucks with Alzheimers. (These bets are all fully hedged with AIG, as well as 100 percent backstopped by the Fed, and the ultimately the schmuck US taxpayer.)

    And like me, Marcus-Doug-Joe-Angelo and all the 25-year old guys have this penchant for Valentino suits and Oliver Peoples glasses. We even go to the same barber, although I have a slightly better haircut than any of them.

  • 3. Homer Erotic  |  March 1st, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    @Woody: What happens is that I ask you, if you’re something more than just a bitter troll, to click the link in my screen-handle and read what’s written there. Apologies for linking to Daily Kos, as I know it’s just a big ol’ circle-jerk over there, but every now and then the circle-jerk produces some worthwhile spooge.

  • 4. SirEricBlair  |  March 1st, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Floarp, point taken.

  • 5. Victorvalley Villain  |  March 1st, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    A great way to gauge a crowd is to start up a “No Justice, No Peace.” chant and then see if you can’t morph into “No Justice, No Peace, Fuck.The.Po.Lice.”

    The thing with the 2010’s vs. the 1960s is that chanting “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh” today just doesn’t make a lick of sense anymore. Though the ISO seems to think that the PSL/WWP (A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition) is trying their damnedest to work up a catchy pro Gaddafi chant.( http://socialistworker.org/2011/02/28/taking-sides-about-libya )

    With out any luck at I have tried to start a few chants myself: “A phrase recited, should never be repeated.” and “Three.Word.Chant.Three.Word.Chant.Three.Word.Chant.”
    But leftist protesters just don’t make for good ironic hipsters. Maybe I should try to get the Tea Party folks to try their hands at chanting something other than “USA!USA!USA!”

  • 6. exploitedtimes  |  March 1st, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Yes, these rallies are lame. Read Chris Hedges if you want to hear a succinct plea to do it right. One thing that I keep reading, including here, is about these so-called layoffs of police and firemen. I’ve never been saved yet by a fireman or woman and I won’t go off too much here, but nor have I ever met one that didn’t retire at 50 with FULL pay (or 90%)and bennies for family til death, half of every month off and bored off his ass to the point of having a second job just to keep busy, with money coming out his ass. And I know many of these, not just one. No tears for firefighter jobs. As for cops, this is just bullshit. Law enforcement, including surveillance and prisons, has been a steadily growing industry in the US since 9-11 and is a huge stock play. Not enough cops? Tell that to a black man in the US. One more, as for these pussy rallies you see out there, don’t forget that if media described unemployment is 10% and really 20%, that still leaves about a quarter billion Yankees still employed, mostly by the man, sitting in front of the TV every night like the pussy hypocrites they are. They won’t rally; they ARE the core of the US, bred by and for the corporations these rallies are supposedly there to defeat. Rally on and dream on.

  • 7. Victorvalley Villain  |  March 1st, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Also, Eileen, it suck that the town that brought us “Workers rights are hot.” flash mob couldn’t come up with a better action to support the Madison workers.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-79pX1IOqPU

  • 8. Derp  |  March 1st, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    @17

    Derp derp derp! Wanna know more about gay niggers? This’ll teach you everything there is to know, derp derp!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAIRXFvKhMI

  • 9. Ramona  |  March 1st, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Torches are only good if you;re gonna actually torch something.
    How ’bout laser pointers ? If enough of them are focused at a particular banker’s window, will it explode ?
    Just wondering….

  • 10. jack kane  |  March 1st, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    What the fuck is this about going to Wall Street? What are you guys, vampires? Isn’t the eXiled about going into extremes to avoid participating in the rat race? Fuck Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Big Pharma, and the other parasite-infested shitholes. Watch Bill Hicks again, the part where he rants about the ad biz.

  • 11. az  |  March 1st, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    @43 if they like fucking themselves then who cares? Let them do it until they decide to stop, just don’t be condescending about it. Besides, rednecks though they spread after the de-industrialization of the 80s aren’t the whole working class, just the one that predominates in rural areas. Think more rust belt and less Bible belt. It’s really about choices: either people want to realize that they and everyone else has to work for a living or they can keep participating in the “work hard so your kids don’t have to” ponzi scheme. This isn’t about taxing the rich, it’s about how we can fix the situation we’re in, which is much more complicated than tax policy and labor rights.

  • 12. my talkative ringpiece  |  March 1st, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Sir Eric Blair – We don’t believe you. Go shoot some Zionists for us then we’ll believe you. Or go help out some Palestinian kids with their limbs blown off etc by your countrymen, then we’ll believe you.

  • 13. Flatulissimo  |  March 1st, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    @61 – “if they like fucking themselves then who cares?”

    Because, in their misguided attempts to fuck themselves, they fuck everybody who shares the country with them. I don’t want them dragging me down with them.

  • 14. Dave  |  March 1st, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    @ 58
    well played, Derp

  • 15. smedly  |  March 2nd, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Your problem is that you’re poorly informed. You should’ve gone to the US Uncut event targetting BofA if you wanted what you say you want: originality, pointedness, militancy, etc.
    http://www.usuncut.org/

  • 16. Ludd  |  March 2nd, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Good article!

    Some positive inspiration for better rallies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riftHEDpOtw

    I heard same shit about other rallies around the country. It’s sad state we’re in. We need more class war ideas, honestly. AFL-CIO bureaucrats, Democratic politicians and MoveOn are scared of class war because they know they are on the wrong side. That’s why they say “middle class” so much – we’re all middle class, right?

  • 17. Martin MacKerel  |  March 2nd, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    I’ve been to many a protest. However, I do have one rule: I never join in the hey hey ho ho chants.

    Occasionally I rejoinder with one of my own:

    Hey Hey
    Ho Ho
    HeyHeyHoHo has got to go!

    The BofA protest earlier in the day was much better.

    B of A
    Doesn’t pay
    Taxes in the USA

    That got a lot of attention from passers-by.

    When the cops came:

    We support the cops!
    Chop from the top!

    Apparently we also got the branch to close early.

  • 18. jamestown  |  March 2nd, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    these comments have devolved into what protest chants we think have a better ring to them. fuck us it’s all over, lets move to McDonalds Island.

  • 19. Tommo  |  March 3rd, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    I’m part of an anarchist collective and we absolutely dread having to go to rallies. We rock up to them from time to time to provide an alternative view to the Marxists, but under no circumstance do we try to hijack the event with phony by-the-numbers ‘this is what we’re fighting for’ speeches that always wind up with the promise that joining the party will ensure social change. Before I became an anarchist, I was in a Marxist group. We used to get people to sign petitions, but with no real intention of ever actually sending them. Instead they’d remain at the office to be used as contact lists. I know that this, and many other sneaky tricks, are still in use.

  • 20. Tommo  |  March 3rd, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    And by the way, the best chant I have ever heard was when one such Marxist leapt up with a speech on how socialism will free the tie-dyers of Kathmandu or something, the crowd started chanting ‘longer chains, bigger cages’.

  • 21. Homer Erotic  |  March 3rd, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    I’m on vacation from work this week, so I took a bus to Madison today to see if things were still going strong on Capitol Square. A few days after that huge rally of 100K people, today was just the usual suspects indulging the usual lameness in front of one of the entrances to the now blocked-off Capitol Building. I decided it was time to head back to Milwaukee when some homely-looking Sixties retread went up to microphone to read a poem she had written about a state senator who had made some derogatory comments about the demonstrators. Really quite dismal.

  • 22. Fred  |  March 4th, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Why is my life such a joke??? What should I hate? What should I know? What should I think? Please tell me. Please fucking please! I need you guys. No wonder I have been such a moronic losers all my days, all I’ve been doing is sucking up to rightwing billionaires and posting on people’s sites about how they cannot lead or organize protests or even protest worth crap. See look at me. You see how I’m protesting right now? Sitting in trailer home? It’s called tele-protesting, they way of the future man. I can be like on 100 different no brains liberal sites protesting at the same time. This is the way of the future, man. Ever see “lawnmower man”? That’s what I am and I’m coming to destroy all you liberals! Beware!

  • 23. CensusLouie  |  March 5th, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Yeah, one of the biggest detriments to protests for a while has been “tourist protesters”, the fucks who are just in it for “the experience, man” rather than being dedicated to the actual cause.

    Tourist protesters include:

    -Anyone who dresses up in costumes

    Whether it’s PETA in catsuits or Tea Partiers in colonial garb, if you see costumed peeps at your protest, KICK THEM OUT!

    -College age kids

    Nothing makes people seriously consider an issue like being presented with a worldview by kids going to school on their parents dime who have never had a meaningful life experience. Stoners or young republicans, KICK THEM OUT!

    -Aging hippies

    Is anything sadder than grey hairs trying to hold on to 60s hippie culture? Nobody is going to take you seriously if the cameras get a look at these guys. KICK THEM OUT!

  • 24. Derp  |  March 8th, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiEoJPQf0j0

    New link, old one got deleted, derp derp!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_niggers_from_outer_space

    This’ll help you find it next time them youtube fags delete it! Try to avoid spoilers in the summary because it’s an awesome movie, derp derp!

  • 25. Hacksaw  |  March 24th, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    This is a joke right? You want better protests and you can’t keep the CENTCON artificials off your comment section. Have you liberals really gotten this low.

    You aren’t going to beat the Koch brothers, Beck’s Mormon mafia, or the neo-nazi tea baggers with all this limp wristed stuff. First off you need to focus on one issue that will bring in the independents and true conservatives. For God’s sake stop harping on Bush, Cheney, Obama, unions, abortion, feminism,the environment, political parties or any of the old standbys. The enemy is the too big to fail bankers and corporatist, Walker and the rest of the Koch bribed stooges don’t give a crap about the unions. They care about deflating wages, the reason they are after the unions is to make it easier to deflate your pay.

    Focus on how the TBTF bankers and corporatist have declared war on the middle class and have been prosecuting that war for over a century now. Don’t go to places like Madison to protest, focus on New York and DC. March on Wall Street, chant, jump you fuckers and wave signs saying, don’t wait for the fuckers to jump, throw their ass out the window. Block all the exits to the Goldman Sachs building and don’t let anyone out. When in DC make signs saying things like, Republicans and Democrats, If you took the TBTF bribes we are going to run you out of here. You guys are on defense, you have forgotten, the best defense is a good offense. This guy has it figured out, read and learn. By the way, the next day after this transcript hit the web on a financial services blog a congressman named Jason Chaffetz sent a letter to Attorney General Holder demanding he send the FBI to investigate Stephen Lerner as a terrorist. If you really want to protest and make a difference here’s how you do it. If you aren’t ready to go to the wall then shut the fuck up and take the fucking the TBTFs are giving all of us.

    FULL TRANSCRIPT FROM THE BLAZE

    SPEAKER: Stephen Lerner. Speaker at the Left Forum 2011 “Towards a Politics of Solidarity” Pace University March 19, 2011

    Speaker Bio: Stephen Lerner is the architect of the SEIU’s groundbreaking Justice for Janitors campaign. He led the union’s banking and finance campaign and has partnered with unions and groups in Europe, South American and elsewhere in campaigns to hold financial institutions accountable. As director of the union’s private equity project, he launched a long campaign to expose the over-leveraged feeding frenzy of private equity firms during the boom years that led to the ensuing economic disaster.

    It feels to me after a long time of being on defense that something is starting to turn in the world and we just have to decide if we are on defense or offense

    Maybe there is a different way to look at some of theses questions it’s hard for me to think about any part of organizing without thinking what just happened with this economic crisis and what it means

    I don’t know how to have a discussion about labor and community if we don’t first say what do we need to do at this time in history what is the strategy that gives us some chance of winning because I spent my life time as a union organizer justice for janitors a lot of things
    It seems we are at a moment where the world is going to get much much worse or much much better

    Unions are almost dead we cannot survive doing what we do but the simple fact of the matter is community organizations are almost dead also and if you think about what we need to do it may give us some direction which is essentially what the folks that are in charge – the big banks and everything – what they want is stability

    Every time there is a crisis in the world they say, well, the markets are stable.
    What’s changed in America is the economy doing well has nothing to do with the rest of us

    They figured out that they don’t need us to be rich they can do very well in a global market without us so what does this have to do with community and labor organizing more.

    We need to figure out in a much more through direct action more concrete way how we are really trying to disrupt and create uncertainty for capital for how corporations operate

    The thing about a boom and bust economy is it is actually incredibly fragile.

    There are actually extraordinary things we could do right now to start to destabilize the folks that are in power and start to rebuild a movement.

    For example, 10% of homeowners are underwater right their home they are paying more for it then its worth 10% of those people are in strategic default, meaning they are refusing to pay but they are staying in their home that’s totally spontaneous they figured out it takes a year to kick me out of my home because foreclosure is backed up

    If you could double that number you would you could put banks at the edge of insolvency again.

    Students have a trillion dollar debt

    We have an entire economy that is built on debt and banks so the question would be what would happen if we organized homeowners in mass to do a mortgage strike if we get half a million people to agree it would literally cause a new finical crisis for the banks not for us we would be doing quite well we wouldn’t be paying anything.

    Government is being strangled by debt

    The four things we could do that could really upset wall street

    One is if city and state and other government entities demanded to renegotiate their debt
    and you might say why would the banks ever do it – because city and counties could say we won’t do business with you in the future if you won’t renegotiate the debt now

    So we could leverage the power we have of government and say two things we won’t do business with you JP Morgan Chase anymore unless you do two things: you reduce the price of our interest and second you rewrite the mortgages for everybody in the communities

    We could make them do that

    The second thing is there is a whole question in Europe about students’ rates in debt structure. What would happen if students said we are not going to pay. It’s a trillion dollars. Think about republicans screaming about debt a trillion dollars in student debt

    There is a third thing we can think about what if public employee unions instead of just being on the defensive put on the collective bargaining table when they negotiate they say we demand as a condition of negotiation that the government renegotiate – it’s crazy that you’re paying too much interest to your buddies the bankers it’s a strike issue – we will strike unless you force the banks to renegotiate/

    Then if you add on top of that if we really thought about moving the kind of disruption in Madison but moving that to Wall Street and moving that to other cities around the country

    We basically said you stole seventeen trillion dollars – you’ve improvised us and we are going to make it impossible for you to operate

    Labor can’t lead this right now so if labor can’t lead but we are a critical part of it we do have money we have millions of members who are furious

    But I don’t think this kind of movement can happen unless community groups and other activists take the lead.
    If we really believe that we are in a transformative stage of what’s happening in capitalism

    Then we need to confront this in a serious way and develop really ability to put a boot in the wheel then we have to think not about labor and community alliances we have to think about how together we are building something that really has the capacity to disrupt how the system operates

    We need to think about a whole new way of thinking about this not as a partnership but building something new.

    We have to think much more creatively. The key thing… What does the other side fear the most – they fear disruption. They fear uncertainty. Every article about Europe says in they rioted in Greece the markets went down
    The folks that control this country care about one thing how the stock market goes what the bond market does how the bonuses goes. We have a very simple strategy:
    · How do we bring down the stock market
    · How do we bring down their bonuses
    · How do we interfere with there ability to be rich

    And that means we have to politically isolate them, economically isolate them and disrupt them

    It’s not all theory i’ll do a pitch.

    So a bunch of us around the country think who would be a really good company to hate we decided that would be JP Morgan Chase and so we are going to roll out over the next couple of months what would hopefully be an exciting campaign about JP Morgan Chase that is really about challenge the power of Wall Street.
    And so what we are looking at is the first week in May can we get enough people together starting now to really have an week of action in New York I don’t want to give any details because I don’t know if there are any police agents in the room.

    The goal would be that we will roll out of New York the first week of May. We will connect three ideas
    · that we are not broke there is plenty of money
    · they have the money – we need to get it back
    · and that they are using Bloomberg and other people in government as the vehicle to try and destroy us

    And so we need to take on those folks at the same time

    and that we will start here we are going to look at a week of civil disobedience – direct action all over the city
    then roll into the JP Morgan shareholder meeting which they moved out of New York because I guess they were afraid because of Columbus.
    There is going to be a ten state mobilization it try and shut down that meeting and then looking at bank shareholder meetings around the country and try and create some moments like Madison except where we are on offense instead of defense

    Where we have brave and heroic battles challenging the power of the giant corporations. We hope to inspire a much bigger movement about redistributing wealth and power in the country and that labor can’t do itself that community groups can’t do themselves but maybe we can work something new and different that can be brave enough and daring and nimble enough to do that kind of thing.

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