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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How not to win friends and influence war policy

by folkbum
UPDATED below--twice

This is not helpful:
Officers were called to the 3100 block of Oakland Ave. around 8 p.m. [where] Iraq War protesters clad in black, carrying torches and wearing ski masks were reportedly setting off smoke bombs and throwing paint as they approached an Army recruiting center on the block, said Sgt. Eric Pfeiffer, of the Milwaukee Police Department.

Someone threw an object through the recruitment center's window and spread what appears to be human waste inside before running off, Pfeiffer said.

Four people were in police custody and nearly 20 more were being questioned nearby about their involvement in the vandalism, Pfeiffer said.
This kind of violence and vandalism is never appropriate, and those responsible should be punished.

But in addition, whoever organized this (and, no, it wasn't MoveOn or any of the respectable groups doing organizing for protests yesterday, but almost certainly some fringe group) was just stupid. It is clear that the sentiment of the American people is overwhelmingly for ending the war and bringing the troops home from harm's way, but actions like this will not win the anti-war movement any friends or allies among the vast mainstream of people opposed to continuing the war who haven't taken to the streets.

Worse, this incident--which was hardly representative of the movement as a whole, of the hundreds of thousands of people who protested and vigiled peacefully across the country and here in Milwaukee--will be the one siezed upon by the right when they talk about the protests. (As of this morning when I write this, there are already a number hits to the Journal Sentinel story, including Jessica McBride, and others complaining of "thuggery" by "moonbats.")

Not that I expect anyone organizing these kinds of activities to be reading this blog, but it's worth saying here: Actions like this will be the news, and not the peaceful protests or vigils. Glenn Greenwald's latest explains how this happens, and it's worth the full read. It's the idea that the right and the media will sieze on any small event if it is sufficiently horrific--even if it is not the least bit representative--and use it to tar and smear all of us on the left, to associate these despicable and offensive actions with legitimate activities, and to imply that these fringe actions are representative of the mainstream.

It's too early in the story to know yet who committed these crimes or why. It's possible that, for some reason, they wanted their story to be the news, either because they're idiotic narcissists or perhaps because without them the news would have to lead with how peaceful and extensive the events marking the anniversary of the war really were (which is hardly a sensational enough headline).

Whatever the case, rest assured that when the media--particularly the barking AM hordes--talk about the anti-war movement's Milwaukee protests, what they'll talk about is not the many who prayed silently but the few who smeared crap aorund a recruiter's office. And when the mainstream sentiments of this community and this country become deligitimized in this way, we all lose.

(Related: This was the best post I saw yesterday marking the anniversary. If it doesn't make you angry or sad, then your heart is too hard to be human.)

UPDATE: At about 2:30 this afternoon, the Journal Sentinel named the names of the adults arrested--18 of them; police also arrested three minors. (I'm not linking because I don't want to make it easier to find.) How long before we see their names, addresses, phone numbers, and vague instructions like "You know what to do" showing up on blogs on the right? I can only think of one or two Cheddarsphereans who would do that, but my money's on Michelle Malkin.

UPDATE II: A good look at the real anti-war protests can be seen at Milwaukee Renaissance.

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