Good Demonstration, Bad Show

01/30/2007 10:44 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The anti-Iraq demonstration on the mall in Washington was all well and good. Not huge by historical standards, but it's always good to put some bodies in front of the capitol and show either support or rejection.

Since I was 3000 or so miles away, I watched it on C-Span. What I saw was both happily familiar and extremely discouraging. Happily familiar because I participated in many such demonstrations against the Vietnam War in the streets and on the Mall, and in Oregon during the weeks before the current war.

Extremely discouraging because what I saw on TV was a lot of people yelling into a microphone, and a lineup of various causes and factions that, while worthwhile to consider, distracted from the message of the day.

First, it did nobody any good to stand in front of a microphone and scream angrily. I'm as angry as anybody, as anyone who has read any of my postings here knows, but the series of belligerence that presented itself on my TV, while perhaps effective in a large outdoor gathering, trivialized the arguments against the war and the Bush administration.

Am I calling for more politeness? No. Well, yes. I count myself in with the angriest of the speakers, but I know how to use a mic and I know what works on TV and what doesn't. Yelling into a mic doesn't play well, except with the people who agree with you to the letter. Hell, I'm on their side and it annoyed me. Imagine how it played elsewhere.

You know what it's like? It's like watching a play performed in a theater, but shot for TV. The actors are playing to the balcony because they have to be heard, but to the viewer, it appears as though the actors are overplaying everything. Everything is exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness.

Thankfully, nobody watches C-Span.

And another thing. Stop with the chants. It was one thing to yell "Hell no, we won't go," even "Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, NLF is gonna win" in 1968. It's another thing to keep chanting the same things over and over and over and over. Get a new tune. Better still, don't chant. I don't care if it makes you feel good. It pigeon holes you. It dates you. And it annoys me.

And variations don't work either. It's old media. It's medium hot. All it does is get on people's nerves.

As far as allowing every group who has an axe to grind that might be the least bit close to the issue at hand? Keep the message simple. Yes, we'd all like the Palestinians to have self-government, but keep them off the podium at an anti-Iraq war demonstration. It only confuses the issue.

I took away this image from watching on Saturday: Somebody dressed in a big winter coat, standing in front of the microphone yelling, with steam billowing out of their mouth. Spit, too. I know they were trying to rally those in attendance. It didn't look that way. It looked like something I wanted to avoid.

These demonstrations need to be re-thought and brought into the 21st Century.