Saturday, July 21, 2007
Protesters are Stupid
If I had to pick one reason why conservative political organizations are 100 times more successful than liberal political organizations it would come down to the difference between lobbying and protesting. An oversimplification, to be sure, and I don't mean to ignore the ever-important economic factors that are always in play, but there has to be a reason why conservative extremists like the NRA can keep semiautomatic weapons legal and liberal extremists like PETA have a hard time correctly identifying which fashion designer to hit in the face with a pie.
Was that a cheap shot? Yes, it was.
Make no mistake - I have no love for the NRA, but when they're on my TV they're serious, focused, and usually effective at achieving their goals, while every time I see PETA (whom I also have no love for) on my TV there's some celebrity taking her clothes off to protest the fur trade.
My abhorrence for the ineffectiveness of the public protest was brought home again on Friday as PETA protested outside the offices of the NFL in New York City in an effort to get Falcons' QB Michael Vick suspended.
It isn't their desire to see Vick suspended that I take issue with (though I think the NFL has taken the correct course in not giving Vick a major suspension; right now the burden of what to do with Vick rests with the Falcons, not the league) nor their right to protest. If they want to make hollow displays of genuine outrage, I'm all for their right to do it.
I just wish they weren't so damn stupid about it all.
Honestly, while I take the political passions and issues of concern to PETA with the utmost seriousness (whether I agree or disagree with them), and while I believe that the bulk of PETA's membership takes those same issues with the utmost seriousness, I don't understand the always-present cutesiness that accompanies the public protest. Pies, clever phrases, nude celebrities ... it's not hard for me to see why some people think they're a crank organization.
Dog fighting is an incredibly serious issue, as I'm sure PETA would agree, so why are they standing outside the NFL offices carrying signs that read "Sack Vick"?
Are we trying to get things done or are we trying to be clever with words? When the group hits Atlanta on Monday they'll also be carrying signs that read "Tackle Cruelty."
It's this silly mix of perceived cleverness and desperate attention grab that absolutely drives me crazy about PETA in particular and protests in general. Signs and chants ... to take a deadly serious issue and boil it down to semantic cleverness, I just don't get it. I don't. You're not going to change the world through a neat turn of a phrase; or if you are it's going to be a bit more than "Sack Vick." Why would an organization that uncovers such serious issues as Columbia University's history of animal abuse bother sending 50 people to New York to carry signs that they know won't sway the NFL?
For the publicity?
The Vick story is hot right now, so PETA's protest gets them in papers and on TV sets across the country today. Maybe that's why they do it, but is "Sack Vick" the message they want to get across? If so, why? It's a generic message read on its own. I'd rather see them carrying signs that read "Vick Tortures Dogs" because then the focus of the message is on the issue. Such a message would help brand Vick as the bastard he is (allegedly ...) and keeps the victims of Vick's abuse - the dogs - at the fore of the story.
I simply don't see protests of fifty people with cutesy signs moving the needle. PETA would better serve their cause taking a cue from the takedown of Don Imus or the scare tactics of the NRA. It's not about getting your name in the paper, it's about getting your target's name in the paper, rebranded in such a negative light that no one wants to be associated with that target. It's not about winning the the hearts and minds of millions of Americans; it's about winning the select few hearts and minds that can get things accomplished.
PETA's form letter urging the NFL to suspend Michael Vick can be found here.
The Humane Society's letter can be found here.
The ASPCA's press release on the Vick indictment can be found here.