Democracy: the right to strain your voice
Thrust n' Perry
Activism is the new “in” thing
sweeping through Hollywood, allowing celebrities to soapbox
and churn out thousands of brainwashed youth to support their
Students everywhere are lining up to argue about everything
from abortion laws to controversial movies, holding rallies
in the street and trumpeting their cause, trying desperately
to get the government to pay attention.
When will the demonstrators realize the government doesn’t
have to care?
The symbiotic relationship between politics and the media
puts every demonstration through the necessary spin cycle:
people show up, make a lot of noise, photo op, sound bite,
now on to the next item. Political activity + conflict = marketable
news, but like so many of the government stories that news
outlets run, the story is forgotten in a day or two.
Such limited engagement with the issues doesn’t allow
protesters — who do make the news — a chance to
meaningfully contribute to debate. In fact, more often than
not, protesters are depicted as troublemakers, a thorn in the
side of government, the nation and even peace itself.
Protesting amounts to doing half the job — sure, it’s
the legal half, but in terms of actual influence on policy,
the government “applies the formula,” like Edward
Norton’s character in Fight Club. If the amount of votes
won by listening doesn’t outweigh the amount of votes
lost, the government will tune protesters out time and time
The goal of power is power. Political parties do not exist
to bring better quality of life to citizens, but rather to
win elections and maintain control of the machinations of power.
The idea that a government will privilege public concern in
their policy at the cost of votes is a joke.
Worse, activists are not helping their own cause. So many
legitimate demonstrations, which actually have a chance of
drawing attention and getting a response, are compromised by
counter-demonstrations. Inevitably, the media shows up and
the conflict necessary to sell any story is no longer between
a disenchanted public and the politicos, but rather, between
two groups of troublemakers.
I’m not arguing for a grass roots rebellion, but the
freedom of assembly enshrined in the constitution is not a
catch-all defense against tyranny. Aside from one day every
four or five years, there is no way to hold the politburo responsible.
“What about the media?” you ask? The news media
record the activities and occasionally push an agenda, but
that’s not enough. News has become so much like entertainment
these days that anything worth learning is washed away by the
And entertainment is setting the agenda — Angelina Jolie,
Bono and Martin Sheen top the list of celebrities who have
jumped on various bandwagons, making protest a commodity and
devaluing it the same way the news media does. Protest, when
embraced by such “low-brows” as film actors and
rock stars, doesn’t gain influence in the “high-brow” world
of politics, but loses credibility.
The privileging of infotainment over responsible coverage
of political activity has turned the right to assemble into
little more than the right to strain your voice — but
you just might get on TV...