I got to thinking about an old piece of Saul Alinsky advice after reading the article cited below. Alinsky said that if you were sitting in at corporate offices and started running into comfortable chairs and snacks set out for the protesters, it was time to switch to a new tactic.
Lots of other examples. The Battle in Seattle in 1999 was very effective in calling attention to corporate trade agreements. What happened at subsequent meetings? The 1% caught on and started holding their meetings in comparatively inaccessible places.
When OWS started claiming public space by extended camping, the public conversation changed from the deficit to income inequality. However, it just isn’t possible to camp out forever.
Our side has most of the imagination–we just have to start using it more.
Cultural activists, like the Yes Men, keep challenging us to think more creatively. At a training I led for their Yes Labs program, Yes Men co-founder Andy Bichlbaum told me, “If an action doesn’t make you laugh or gasp, we have to throw it out.”
The RNC protesters took a shot at it by melting huge chunks of ice written as “the middle-class.” But it doesn’t make me laugh or gasp. If inspiring is a goal, ho-hum actions should be stricken from our toolbox.
Too often, however, activists are stuck repeating the tactics they know. They then begrudge the media, or their comrades, or potential allies, for not getting it. At a direct action workshop I co-led with George Lakey in South Korea, we heard young movement activists lamenting that the press stopped covering their movement’s tactic: public suicides in the middle of a protest. How could the media and their allies be so callous?
When it comes down to it, effective direct action doesn’t lie in tactics that are merely about expressing our minds and making a public spectacle; it is in our ability to organize people to break social scripts.