Are Townhall Protests The Effective Kind of Protest?

When I saved this post by Brayden, at Orgtheory, on protests, I knew it would come handy some day. I was right, especially in light of the current right-wing townhall protests taking place all over the country. The immediate goal of these protests is the potential health care reform being manufactured in the US Congress, but more generally, these are broad protests against the current government and all sorts of unfolding changes that right-wing extremists do not like.

Indeed, it seems that on the two points that Brayden outlines, the town hall protests have been largely successful. There is no simpler message than posters of President Obama with a Hitler moustache and invocations of socialism (a term that resonates in a specific way with American audiences). And the protests were equally successful in getting media attention and reporting of their message in a relatively unchallenged positive way (angry citizens with legitimate claims). Evidence surfaced in polls of the penetration of some of their claims to the larger audience.

Comparing these current protests to the anti-Civil Rights, anti-desegregation protests of the 1960s, Jay Livingstone makes an additional point:

I do not disagree with this but I don’t think this is the whole story either. I do think that the anti-desegregation protestors really did think that having black kids in school with their children would have negative effects (in addition to the symbolic defeat).  I also think that the town hall protesters have been fed a steady diet of Fox News and right-wing talk radio at the exclusion of any other source of “information” so that they really do believe things like death panels and other absurdities. The persistence of a segment of the population that believes the most absurd conspiracy theories about the US government is not just a matter of symbolism (although it is that, to be sure).

One has to admit that this segment of the population, which lives in its own reality and probably overlaps with abortion doctors killers, religious fundamentalists and paramilitary groups, is seditious.

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