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Obama: G-20 Protests Too Abstract To Make A Difference

First Posted: 11/21/09 05:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 03:05 PM ET

Protest Globalization

President Obama, in an interview with the Toledo Blade, cautions would-be protesters of the upcoming G20 Summit that while such protests are "are a sign of a healthy democracy," they're not likely to have much of a net impact:

"I was always a big believer in - when I was doing organizing before I went to law school - that focusing on concrete, local, immediate issues that have an impact on people's lives is what really makes a difference and that having protests about abstractions [such] as global capitalism or something, generally, is not really going to make much of a difference."

I'm not at all sure that an effective protest seeking more justice in the global economy will never "make much of a difference," but there is definitely something to Obama's admonition to be more concrete. For a long while now, I've despaired of the fact that protest assemblies have degraded into a constant spectacle of mixed-message and pointless shock. The best protests of yore were focused. By contrast, most modern protests are like watching a reality-show competition, in which everyone is out for themselves and there is an intra-protest competition to do the most property damage or carry the most shocking sign.

Your typical gathering of anti-globalization protesters these days isn't so different from what we've seen with the Tea Parties. Everyone's excited about what they've shouted, no one remembers what they heard. And so, their accomplishments are mainly logistical ones: everyone gets to the same place at the same time, it's a minor inconvenience to everyone else, and the content of their grievance dissipates just as quickly as it is amassed. No one is under any illusion that those who have gathered are anything but outliers -- electoral sunk costs to politicians and a liability line item on the balance sheet of global finance.

I have no particular expertise in how to mount an effective protest march myself, but I am pretty confident that if a slideshow of weird and shocking signs and puppets and costumes can be generated afterwards, you are doing it wrong.

RELATED:
Ex-organizer says he was never a fan of mass protests [Toledo Blade]
Obama Does Not Favor Mass Protests [Taegan Goddard]


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Filed by Jason Linkins  |