Protest in the smartphone age

Written By: - Date published: 1:34 pm, June 2nd, 2012 - 31 comments
Categories: activism, class war, education, internet, war - Tags:

In the middle of last century, conflicts turned on their head. Before, the object was to kill as many of the enemy as possible and parade the fact to break both their will and ability to fight. The US body-counts in Vietnam reflected this. But the Vietcong were of the new era, the communications era. They had no ability to really degrade a superpower’s ability to fight, but, thanks to TV, they could break its will by undermining the self-justification of its cause – in other words, by convincing the American public and its political elite that what they were doing was wrong and/or not worth the cost. For the first time, your own side’s dead became useful. Images of American brutality and dead Vietnamese did more to advance the objectives of the Vietcong than those Vietnamese could achieve alive and fighting.

Although the scale and seriousness is obviously lightyears apart, I was reminded of that watching the footage of yesterday’s second Blockade the Budget demonstration.

There seemed to be nearly as many people filming events on smartphones as there were frontline combatants. And that reflects the fact that the battle won’t be won by blocking a street for a while, or by even punching a cop or breaking some windows. Indeed, does far more to advance the students’ objectives to be punched by a cop than to punch one. Like the Vietcong, the students aren’t able to physically overcome the cops, but they can influence public opinion by being seen to be treated with unreasonable force by them.

That’s why the students (except for a few fuckwits who call themselves radicals but just don’t understand how to win) sit down when confronted with a line of cops rather than jostle with them. That’s what all the cameras are for – what the protest is ultimately for – to capture that moment of the agents of the State using unreasonable violence against a person with a just cause. And then beam that moment to the wider public to help convince them that the students’ are in the right and the government is in the wrong, with the final goal of forcing the government to backdown to avoid losing votes, or being kicked out of office and replaced with a friendlier government.

A demonstration used to be about demonstrating your numbers and passion (as a civilised proxy for martial potential). Now, it’s about demonstrating the abuses of power of the elite. That’s as true in Auckland as it is in Syria. It is the over-reaction of the elite (duly recorded and broadcast) that is the crucial ingredient and the demonstrators will continue pushing the elite’s buttons until they get it.

Like Dolan notes “effective guerrilla movements start out, a lot of times, with an attack that isn’t even meant to succeed in conventional military terms. It’s designed to create martyrs.”

The Syrian freedom fighters got it when the Assad regime unleashed the Alawite militia on Sunni civilians in Houla. The Auckland students got it when the Police reacted to the same protest they had allowed to occur without incident a week before by bringing in a hundred cops and the Paddywagons. (again, that’s not to equate the importance of what the Syrians are fighting for with the uni students’ fight, just the dynamic is analogous).

The Syrian freedom fighters look set to receive more international support. And public opinion looks to be strongly on the side of the students, thanks to the fact that everyone’s seen them treated unjustly by their opponents.

Mass media and, ironically, more accountable government, mean that, for the first time in history, being the underdog has serious advantages.

Just like the Vietcong and the Syrian freedom fighters, the students get the new battlefield, the media, in which they’re fighting, and the cops, like those Yank generals with their body counts, evidently don’t. The students are making a play to influence the opinion of group, the New Zealand public, that, unlike themselves, have the ability to exercise a meaningful degree of control over their opponents, the National government.

And the Police’s outdated tactics, like the body counts, play right into that strategy. Grabbing young people, shoving them to the ground, and giving them a bit of a boot maybe the traditional police response to student protests but it makes for ugly TV. Arresting 40-odd people only to release them a few hours later without charge looks like an illegal abuse of the Police’s powers of arrest. Threatening bystanders with arrest for documenting events looks like you’re anti-free speech. The Police have let themselves look like the aggressors (which they, in fact, are – not that the truth matters when we’re talking propaganda). That’s a big no-no in the modern era.

There are effective means to break insurgencies but those aren’t them (and I’ll be damned if I’m going to spell them out for the cops here).

So, what next for Blockade the Budget? Well, the membership will be swelling after the success last night and that brings with it a euphoric feeling. The danger is over-reaching. The Vietcong did it with Tet. The Syrian freedom fighters at Homs. They gave up their advantages and tried to fight on equal terms.

The worst thing the students could do now is try to pick a fight with the cops on their home ground. After the arrests last night, some 500 of them gathered outside the Police Station demanding their mates’ release. Luckily they didn’t try to break in. That would have been a tipping point where they would have gone from peaceful protestors, whom the public will side with, to a criminal mob, which the public will turn against. It’s not enough just to provoke a response from the State, it has to be an over-reaction and the students have to be seen as law-abiding for the message to sell to the general public.

So, choose next moves carefully. Remember that the cops are only proxies, not the actual enemy, remember what the objectives are (to force the government to change policy and/or damage its public support), don’t try to bite off more than you can chew, stick to a formula that’s working, and charge your batteries for those smartphones.

31 comments on “Protest in the smartphone age”

  1. socialist 1

    This is insane. Student protesters are not cannon fodder for your “insurgency” dreams. Also it was the radicals telling people to sit down on the demo, but we maintained some people standing in order to haul our mates in when the cops came.

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      So you’re the soggy give in ASAP kind of socialist?

      • ochocinco 1.1.1

        One of the strongest strains of socialist/communist thought is obedience to the state, Colonial Viper.

        • Murray Olsen

          That explains all those revolutions against the state then, 85. I always wondered what they were about.

        • Colonial Viper

          One of the strongest strains of socialist/communist thought is obedience to the state, Colonial Viper.

          That’s statism. Starts with an “S” but has no other similarities with “socialism”. And it certainly has nothing to do with democratic socialism.

  2. Bill 2

    Erm. The Vietnamese didn’t shoot video or camera footage and somehow get US networks to air it Michael. Interestingly enough though that is what the forces in Syria ae able to do. Y’know the one’s? The so-called Free Syrian Army, that rag tag conglomeration of Al Queda types, foreign mercanaries and what not? They put stuff on you tube or wherever and major western media outlets pick it up and show accompanied by the line fed them by the people who posted the footage. That’s the advantage afforded you when you are pitted against an ‘official enemy’. You’re lines will always concur with official attempts to demonise ‘the enemy’.

    And that is not what happened in Vietnem and it’s not what happens with regards popular domestic protests.

    Your further comparison that would have us believe it a good idea to provide cannon fodder to win hearts and minds in a propaganda war is kind of base. Dead Vietnamese were more useful than living Vietnamese?! A protester who receives a kicking is more useful than one who doesn’t?! And then you decry radicals because in your world view, radicals are given to violence??!!

    The sheer dissonance involved in the attempt to make the connections you try to make and the moral vacuity that accompanies it hurts my head.

    Is violence against the state usually a winning strategy? No. (That’s coming from a radical btw) Is the general public likely to sympathise with people being bullied and harassed? Yes. Does that justify supplying cannon fodder as some tactic to be pursued? Absolutely not.

  3. hellonearthis 3

    I hope the police have all got unique badge numbers and that they are not leaving bruises on these uncharged protesters.
    Having the Police inflict these painful form of justice for peaceful protests is very wrong.

    • ochocinco 3.1

      It’s called a QID not a freaking badge number. You’d think people knew this by now.

      • hellonearthis 3.1.1

        The QID is a number on a badge, ie A badge number. Why so uptight about symantics do you work for the police?

        • bbfloyd

          whatever it’s called… it is also common knowledge that each Badge number identifies each individual officer… hence calling it an id badge….. one of the first pieces of advice given when any contact with police is anticipated is to get badge numbers…. and that you have the right to demand it from any officer….. i find it strange to think that people would have forgotten that….

      • Murray Olsen 3.1.2

        Maybe it would help us remember that they’re called QIDs if your mates always wore them.

  4. weka 4

    Isn’t that whole argument predicated on the swing voters watching the MSM and seeing what you see? Is that what’s happening? I haven’t seen any of the TV coverage yet but I did see the Herald headline calling the students marauders.

  5. joe90 5

    “FILM THE POLICE”. (NWA’s classic “Fuck The Police” reworked)

    Intro (Sage Francis):

    Right about now, the SFR court is in full effect!
    Judge Sage presiding in the case of the People vs. The Police Department.
    Prosecuting attorneys are: Toki Wright, Jasiri X and B motherfuckin’ Dolan.
    Order! Order! Order! B. Dolan, take the motherfuckin’ stand.
    Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
    (Dolan: You goddamn right.)
    Then why don’t you tell everyone what the fuck they have the right to do?
    Verse 1 
(B. Dolan):
    Film the Police. Run a tape for the underclass!
    Get the face, name and number on the badge.
    They flash, we flash back when they act disorderly.
    React accordingly and capture all that we see…
    Nightstick, Zip-ties, and Tasers.
    Think they’re licensed for type vicious behavior.
    Make a tight fist with a video trained toward the Pigs,
    Like this. They trip & you make ‘em famous.
    Explain to a Judge the bounds you oversteppin’.
    2011 time to the change our method.
    We aim lenses at the State’s weapon,
    ‘Til they remember whose goddamn streets they’re protecting.
    They’d rather see me in a cell
    Than me and my cell with a different story to tell.
    Camcorder by the dash. Next time you get stopped,
    Reach for the celly if you wanna shoot a cop.
    On a public sidewalk, you can tape what you see,
    Or film from your window with a view of the street!
    Neighborhood Crime Watch, we police the Police.
    They can’t arrest the whole community.
    Because the streets clock. These cops occupying blocks,
    Harassing the homeless with batons, pulling glocks.
    They stop lawful protests and let off shots…
    Abuse prostitutes and misuse power they got.
    In memory of the victims who are never forgot,
    We’ve gotta’ exercise our right to shed light in the dark.
    There is an army on the march that doesn’t want you to watch.
    You’ve got a weapon in your pocket whether you know it or not.
    We, the people, are the only real media we got.
    Let’s protect one another from the fucking goon squad.
    Fascism’s coming to the U.S.A.
    Eyo, Sage, I got something to say!

    Verse 2 (Toki Wright):

    Film the police! It’s time to make it our priority.
    You see these fools are in abuse of their authority.
    Crack a fist or you crack a whip.
    But that ain’t power you coward, you beat a man with two shackled wrists.
    So put their names up on a list next to an asterisk.
    Next time you see ‘em blast a clip, then you flash a flick.
    Attach a video and pic to your master list.
    Be on the news at 6. YouTube views legit.
    The cops watch us, so we gotta have the Cop Watchers.
    Been in fear of law so long, so now it’s not awkward.
    But what is law when it’s wrong. When you slam us on the floor.
    Naw, this ain’t World Wrestling Entertainment Raw.
    This is Edutainment, y’all. Got a call from B. Dolan.
    You try to squabble with Johnny Law and get your meat swollen.
    Why you think Bobby and Huey P. were heat holding?
    You better load the footage up and get to key stroking.
    And while you at it, send one off to the administration,
    It’s indicating, all the physical intimidation.
    It’s been too long they said to “bear with us.”
    That’s when I run up on your caravan and rip off all your D.A.R.E. stickers.
    This here is near Hitler’s; weirder than some mere tickets…
    You feel privileged ’til your wife get her brassiere lifted.
    You disappear quick as Hoffa if you piss a copper,
    Off ya’ til you get a Channel 7 News helicopter.
    Violence hides in a code of silence, tyrants hide in an alliance,
    Quiet or be left somewhere, or get swept inside it.
    It’s Goliath vs. a bigger giant.
    Got us pulling over so far we ran a curb and hit a hydrant.
    It’s systematic how the system has its symptoms,
    Of the democratic law that’s been flawed since the pilgrims landed.
    So now tell me what you wanna do? Next time you see the boys in blue,
    You cock your camera back and point and shoot.

    Verse 3 (Jasiri X):

    Film the police! I got the Cannon 7D.
    Highest definition for when they try to arrest and lynch ‘em,
    Then lie and protest the whippin’, not serve and protect the victims.
    Their murders, threats and hitmen…observe ‘em and let the witness be
    The iphone. Never let bygones be bygones.
    Get your flip cam before they get in the whip and ride on.
    It’s vital ’cause our survival could depend on a video going viral,
    With more viewers than American Idol.
    Instead of having to bury a child who…
    The cops shot ’cause they thought they carried a rifle.
    Then the same cops will go to court and swear on a bible,
    And smile to show the teeth that they’re preparing to lie through.
    Whether Crips or Piru ,Vice Lords or Gangsta Disciples,
    Make sure your camera lens gets an eyeful.
    And they liable to try and confiscate it.
    Better hold on to that shit like you’re constipated.
    ‘Cause they’ll pretend them injuries are not related,
    Like, “When we arrived we saw him dive head first off the pavement.”
    So keep the mini cam stashed in the dash of your mini van.
    They’ll crash and smash on any man.
    Pull out your Blackberry ’cause cops will take a shot at your black berry,
    ‘Til we see another black buried.
    Don’t act scary, ’cause they’ll empty the gat on ya’,
    Stand over your body just to sprinkle the crack on ya’.
    Police attacking ya’. Don’t want to see they reflections like Dracula.
    But camera’s capture ya’.
    Too busy using your flashlight to batter us,
    To notice John Singleton was my passenger.
    So point, click and shoot they asses,
    It’s the only way to get the real truth to the masses.
    Jasiri X, I’m making movies like Spike Lee.
    I won’t be a law and order special victim like Ice T.

    Film The Police

  6. Thanks so much for this post.

  7. ochocinco 7

    The cops are only proxies?

    What world do you live in?
    Do you think cops wake up and say “oh, what aspect of the maculine-hegemonic-capitalist-state can I impose upon the vast lumpen proleteriat today?”

    The vast, vast majority of cops are good people who protect you from harm, who solve crimes every day, who help out in schools. You know, the guys tracking rapists from crime scenes with dogs and catching them before they can strike again. The guys pulling drowning boaties out of the water. The guys tracking stolen cars from the chopper then returning them to their rightful owners.

    The cops are part of the left.

    • Bill 7.1

      Oh, the cops do all those things you mention Ochocinco. And y’know, some of that is good stuff. But then they do a lot of shit that just ain’t that benevolent and a whole lot of shit that’s down right malicious. And as an institution they are certainly a million miles away from being anything remotely ‘left’.

      • hellonearthis 7.1.1

        I guess the police don’t need to get a postgraduate degree to become a police man, so there is no interest in it for them.

        • Bill

          And the WPC’s don’t even need to be men. Fuck you’re a complete jerk on so many levels. And all exposed by two short comments on this thread. Go talk with your willie…one bulbous head to another.

          • hellonearthis

            Why make it so personal Bill, it really degrades any impression of maturity.

      • ochocinco 7.1.2

        Not left?
        The police act as the enforcement arm of the state.
        They’re as far away from neo-liberal /libertarian / individualist rightism as you can get.

        Ask Stalin if the police (militia) were “left”

        • Colonial Viper

          LOLZ the wealthy elite and right wing fascist authoritarians rely on strong arm law enforcement.

          Check out how US media corporations illegally used NZ police to take down Kim Dotcom, and then how the FBI ignored NZ court orders to take Kim Dotcom data offshore back to the US.

          All on the calling of US corporate paymasters.

          You really are a dick.

          • ochocinco

            Wrong. Libertarians (Act-tards and Objectivitards) hate the police. They hate the thought that even the rich can be prosecuted for crimes.

            BTW, I know more about the Dotcom operation than you. Yes, it was a poorly executed investigation that may have involved some illicit tactics. it was run by a group with a dodgy rep in NZ Police.

            However, how does one dodgy operation invalidate the thousands (tens of thousands) f successful operations every year? They’re prosecuting a guy who made his mother in law body pack cocaine and who died from it. Doesn’t that count for something?

            As for being a dick – play the ball not the man. If we only had soft, liberal pinkos like you we would never have raised the hammer and sickle over the Reichstag. You show a disturbing lack of historical and political awareness.

            Being left-wing doesn’t mean you love everybody or think every type of deviancy should be allowed to thrive. It means you value the COLLECTIVE over the INDIVIDUAL. It’s not exactly hard to understand.

    • Murray Olsen 7.2

      Cops do all the things you mention, and if that was all they did I’d support them 100%. The problem I have is when they lie in court, fabricate evidence, use excessive force on people exercising their democratic rights, punch a young Maori in the head for lying when he says he has a job, proclaim loudly that sports stars can’t possibly rape anyone because all the sluts throw themselves at them and just want to be famous anyway, and arrest people then release them without charge. If they’re part of the left, it’s not any left that I want to be part of.

      • Richard Christie 7.2.1

        they lie in court, fabricate evidence, use excessive force on people exercising their democratic rights

        All of above as a matter of routine.

        And never admit any wrong doing, never admit error in judgment and above all never apologise.

      • ochocinco 7.2.2

        Do you think all cops are like that?
        Let’s posit there are a shitload of incompetent and useless cops (and I could name some Districts with a disproportionate number).
        However there are also a vast number of competent, passionate, and focused cops. The ones who lie in court are often dumb, young, and naive.

        Any organisation has its weak points. I think the current Police leadership is weak. But that’s beside the point. The good done by the Police far outweighs the bad.

        Stop thinking of them as the enemy and instead think of how you can convert them to OUR cause. Make them our friends. Because if we have the police, how can the government stand against us?

        • Richard Christie

          Do you think all cops are like that?

          Irrelevant to the truth of the observation.

          For what my opinion is worth, (52yrs no convictions, clean record and active interest in justice issues) I don’t trust anything the police say about just about anything without independent substantiation.

          I don’t automatically assume the police are honest or ethical.

          Until the police complaints authority is truly independent, until police take a zero tolerance policy to corruption within their ranks, both petty and and serious, they don’t merit my respect. I would hold them to higher standards.
          It would also help if imbeciles such as Greg OConnor, whose responses to any criticism is so predictable that it is risible, cease representing them.

        • SandFly

          I wonder what Dot Com thinks of the cops?

          • ochocinco

            I think a criminal like DotCom has no valid opinions.

            DotCom is also guilty of institutional rape. Would his wife have married him if he hadn’t had money and power? Having money and power in the contemporary, capitalist, masculine-hegemonic world-structure makes her consent far from informed and makes him as guilty of rape as any boss who tells his secretary she better “put out if she wants to keep her job”, only on a more theoretical level.

  8. hellonearthis 8 is failing in it’s antipsam system, when I post there is a box to get updates on new comments. If left untick, it still sends out the new comments, breaking NZ anti spam laws.

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