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Violence, Media & the RNC


As I write today, there are reports and photos of direct actions, and rallies in New York. In particular, today’s A31: A Day of Non-violent Civil Disobedience and Direct Action. Yesterday I did a series of 10 radio interviews for the CBC’s "Afternoon Show", across Canada, focusing on the Republican convention protests. If my experience was any indication of what the liberal media’s response to demonstrations against Bush and the Republicans will be, then I think it’s important for me to share a few lessons from what I learned yesterday.

The overall general theme of the interviews were the "maturation" of today’s social movements, technologies impact on organizing and activist communications, and violence. Really, I think that the first and last of these themes both boiled down to violence, and the focus on technology was almost trivial. Still, I tried to convey radical theory, critique and analysis. And the opinions I expressed were mine and represented no one else’s.

The question of maturation and violence in social movements was characterized by the hosts in their introduction to the interviews by saying "Protesters have come along way from breaking windows of McDonald’s and Starbucks in Seattle." When the hosts eventually turned to the issue of violence they would ask some variation of, "What about violence in today’s social movements?". Or, they would ask "Did you see any violence at the demonstrations in New York?" Well, I didn’t see anything I would classify as violence coming from demonstrators, and I would try to explain that. But, since the interviews would frame the issue of violence in the context of breaking windows I would try to respond by saying "It depends on what your definition of violence is… If you mean violence coming from humans directed at other humans than we enter a complicated ethical discussion. If you mean property damage, than we enter a tactical discussion." Then I would give my example, by using their example, of breaking windows:

"If breaking a window could stop the war on Iraq…"

"If breaking a window would bring the troops back home to their families, friends and loved ones…"

"If breaking a window would allow Iraqis to hold democratic elections without the CIA appointing neither their president, nor prime minister…"

"If breaking a window would force Bechtel, Halliburton and other corporations out of Iraq…"

"If breaking a window would allow Iraqis to reconstruct their own country…"

"If breaking a window did any or all of these things, than breaking windows would be a powerful and effective tool to achieve these goals."

However, I would try to explain, "If they do not achieve these goals than we either have to choose more effective tools, or more reasonable goals."

In both cases we need to be able to passionately and clearly articulate why we think the tools we use are effective and why the goals we’ve chosen are reasonable. This way, we can clearly communicate and persuade others to take side, and hopefully escape any false dichotomies corporate media try to impose. This may be especially important while media coverage covering the RNC protests unfold, as well as while reaching out to others, trying to convince them we can make change.

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