05 September 2011

How to really campaign against idiots.

There's been oodles of grandstanding idiocy over the last few days. Some really superb examples for us curators of far-right and far-left dim-wittedness.

First, we had those who wish to boycott, apply sanctions against, and divest from Israel taking their cause to the heart of the Genocidal ZioNazi American-Imperialist Death Machine by disrupting a rendition of Webern's Passacaglia. (No, me neither. If it's not been used in a TV ad or over the opening credits of the coverage of a major sports tournament, then classical stuff rather passes me by).

Brendan O'Neill has best articulated the unease felt by non-idiots at this.

Second, we had the English Defence League's protest in Aldgate. We're all familiar with EDL grassroots idiocy but I do just want to highlight what a fancy-dress wearingnot-quite-identity-hiding, tabloid myth-believing idiot their leader is. 

And finally, we had so-called anti-fascists reflecting the EDL's idiocy straight back at them, and celebrating the physical assault of a woman while particularly delighting in the fact that she was ugly. I would love to be a fly-on-the-wall when "Ben" and "Anthony" (Ed: "Anthony's a bit bourgeois isn't it? Are you sure he's not a "Tony"?) are next in a meeting with their Unite Against Fascism branch's Women's Officer.

Some wish to respond to such behaviour with various bans. Others, with counter-demonstrations. I've sympathy with the thinking behind both tactics. But I don't like banning things. And I don't like to get drawn into endless cycles of banner waving, slogan chanting barricade-manning. I'd much rather undermine Pretend Left idiots and Really Right morons by annoying and humiliating them.

The Freakonomics guys recently highlighted the power of reverse incentives. African-American comedian and activist, Dick 'Greg' Gregory appears to have been the master of such an approach:
"Last time I was down South, I walked into this restaurant...then these three cousins come in, you know the ones I mean, Klu, Klucks, and Klan, and they say 'Boy, we’re giving you fair warning. Anything you do to that chicken, we’re going to do to you.' So I put down my knife and fork, and I picked up that chicken and I kissed it."
"I enjoyed campaigning with him, especially when a street hustler would sidle up and ask what he could do to help. Greg would laugh and say, 'really be something else if the rumor got out that Mayor Daley’s precinct captains were paying $20 a vote this year, then, when they come around with the usual $2, folks be so mad they run him out of town'."
Not forgetting:
"...a heckler in the back yelled, 'Nigger!' Greg said, 'Say that again, please. My contract calls for fifty dollars every time that word is used'."
The principle has been put to good effect in the US by the Pledge-a-Picket scheme which annually raises funds for a family planning centre by having people 'sponsor' every picketer at demonstrations outside its clinic. More recently, a comedian has ended up donating $50k to a gay health charity in the name of the Westboro Baptist Church.

Reading through the comments at Freakonomics also turns up Pennies in Protest:
With sites such as justgiving making it possible to get a sponsorhip scheme up and running quickly and easily, I think we all know what can be done next time the Palestine Solidarity Campaign decide to block a shop, or a neo-Nazi groupuscule busses itself into the East End.

We could even take demonstrators' own, and often massively exagerrated, estimate of how many people they managed to get to attend.

Would UJIA or Hope Not Hate be happy beneficiaries?