I Protest Ineffectual Protesters

Reading through the commenters on Random Protest: Invisible Children, I am struck by the earnest supporters of this cause who think that they will really make a change in US policy, much less Ugandan politics, by having a purported “68,000 people in 15 cities across the U.S.” join the crew of protesters they had on the National Mall in making cardboard homes, watching videos, and then writing Congressmen.

Do you realize how many protests and protesters we see in DC each year, each day? From the imaginative, to the loud and transitory in massive marches, to the outright clueless with bad signage, we are overwhelmed with those long on passion but short on action who crowd Washington DC.

And because of that, we, the residents and the politicos, are now inured to the shouts, jaded to the causes, and generally annoyed at protests that lack imagination. We do give special credence to those who can protest for years, or even decades, but protests that are outright ineffectual, like those kids around the Washington Monument camped out for Invisible Children, unable to articulate US or Ugandan politics, are especially egregious.

While watching movies and writing letters were probably great for everyone’s self-actualizing ego and short-term fundraising, neither will garner even an afternoon coffee with a mid-level Capitol Hill staffer. In fact, the Invisible Children protesters had about as much effect on children in Northern Uganda as these three Disney-clad protesters at the White House had on President Bush:

16 Comments so far

  1. Mike (unregistered) on May 4th, 2007 @ 10:06 am

    1. “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” — Ghandi

    2. “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” — Robert F. Kennedy

    3. The chances of them in any way being effectual may be very low, but they’re still higher than they would be if they stayed home and didn’t make any effort at all. At least they’re trying, which is more than 99% of people can say.

  2. Wayan (unregistered) on May 4th, 2007 @ 10:14 am


    “They are only trying our patience,” 99% of people will say.


  3. Mike (unregistered) on May 4th, 2007 @ 10:23 am

    How do they try your patience? One of the best things about going to the Mall is there’s guaranteed to be something interesting thanks to protestors. It’s part of the city’s identity. If you don’t like it, move to Des Moines!

    The other weekend I was walking my dog by the Washington Monument and there was a Darfur rally. It was the definition of what you’d call and ineffectual protest. There were maybe a hundred college kids listening to some band. I stopped for a break and after the band was done a guy from Darfur told his story to the crowd. So that’s a hundred kids plus me who got to hear his story in person. It’s something I and others might think about the next time we’re in the voting booth.

  4. Tiffany (unregistered) on May 4th, 2007 @ 10:30 am

    “At least they TRIED” is the worst kind of platitude. Oh yes, we’re all very “aware” now, but what did the Displace Me people accomplish except teaching some 8 year olds that social justice is as fun and easy as playing in the grass with some cardboard for a day?

    Unless there’s some actual practical benefit that can be realized from it, it’s all sound and fury, signifying… well, you know. (speaking of platitudes)

  5. Mike (unregistered) on May 4th, 2007 @ 11:00 am

    That the Displace Me event raised awareness of the issue is a practical accomplishment. A higher level of awareness of something in a population tends to have long-term effects among that population’s politics and that can lead to eventual changes in foreign policy.

    Strange that the initial complaint was that they weren’t aware enough of the details of what the rally was about, but now there’s a complaint that making others aware is of no benefit.

  6. Bill (unregistered) on May 4th, 2007 @ 11:40 am

    Wayan, I could not agree more. Protesting is for narcissists.

  7. Mo (unregistered) on May 4th, 2007 @ 11:52 am

    Mike, I didn’t know you voted in Sudan. Who is running for elections over there this year? I missed the nationally televised debate last week.

  8. darpino (unregistered) on May 4th, 2007 @ 2:04 pm

    For ineffective protesters they sure are getting quite a lot of press-time devoted to them by you guys. Not only that but you have also disseminated their website with your photo (pretty effective if you ask me).

    If they are so pathetic and annoying then consider how pathetic and annoying you are being by revisiting the tired “protestor nuisance” issue so many times on this site.

    What is your desired objective? That your stories will put an end to protests? That seems just as “ineffective” as the people you complain about. And yet you still write them – “at least you tried”. Or is just to sound like a bunch of old farts?

    Mike – you’re officially my hero for today (nice quotes up top).

  9. darpino (unregistered) on May 4th, 2007 @ 2:08 pm

    “overwhelmed with those long on passion but short on action who crowd Washington DC.”

    What exactly does that mean anyway? The very thing you are complainging about is their action.

  10. Israel Kloss (unregistered) on May 4th, 2007 @ 7:37 pm

    You’re waisting my time.

    I should be spending time helping suffering children, but I’ll bite.

    You’re proving your own point here Waylan by speaking ignorantly of an organization that you clearly haven’t educated yourself about when you say the following:

    “In fact, the Invisible Children protesters had about as much effect on children in Northern Uganda as these three Disney-clad protesters at the White House had on President Bush”

    Do you homework, Waylan or just shut up. Invisible Children was started only 2 years ago but in those 2 years has engaged, met with and helped move Senators (Brownback) to draft legislation for the children of Northern Uganda.

    And in only 2 years, Invisible Children employs 200 people in the war-torn area of Northern Uganda and is putting 560 kids through school, with plans to see that number grow.

    Try reading how “in-effective” Invisible Chilren is some time here:

    Have you done that much with your inane, critical blogging, Waylan?

    You’re waisting my time.

    “We must become the change we want to see.”
    — Mahatma Gandhi

    Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them who suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. — Hebrews 13:3

    Israel Kloss
    Compassionate Action

  11. An Organizer (unregistered) on May 4th, 2007 @ 8:12 pm


    Your status quo mentality is the reason why things are so fucked up in the world. This posting shows how narrow minded and self-centered you really are. The reality is that few people in America, like yourself, will come to a protest unless it affects them directly. Your blog entry is excellent proof that there is little compassion for the struggles of others.

    Please understand that raising awareness to the multitude of issues that plague our society is the only way to go about changing things. You may say that it is a waste of time, but I challenge you to stand for something beyond the status quo. Only after you have stood up for something that you truly believe in will you see the impact.

    Until then, I recommend that you refrain from posting asinine blog entries that show your naiveté when it comes to issues that other people care about. Otherwise you’ll continue to show how mainstream and ignorant you are.

    Consider this comment a challenge, not an insult.

  12. Mike (unregistered) on May 5th, 2007 @ 11:07 am

    “For ineffective protesters they sure are getting quite a lot of press-time devoted to them by you guys.”

    Shhh, don’t ruin the magician’s tricks! The longer he can keep up the grouchy cynic act, the more attention he can draw to these causes.

  13. Kim (unregistered) on May 6th, 2007 @ 1:56 pm

    “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.” -Unknown

    Say what you wish, but you we are doing something.

    If you think we are “outright ineffectual” then isn’t it your duty as a compassionate person to try to help us to know what needs to be done to be more effectual? Isn’t the cause a big enough deal that you should want to help the kids in Uganda at the least? Also, politicians are here to help people get things done and if they are as deaf as you are claiming they are, then the Constitution is useless and they aren’t doing their job–which is to listen to their constituency.

    So I challenge you to prove me wrong and to say something useful and compassionate instead of something so focused on you and your supposed knowledge of our political system.

    Bottom line: If we are being “ineffectual” what can we do to be effective and to get our voices heard on Capital Hill–by a top level White House staffer?

    Put your money where your mouth is or I will be forced to resign myself to the fact that you don’t know any more about politics than a freshman in HS who just took their first Gov’t class.

  14. Don (unregistered) on May 6th, 2007 @ 10:19 pm

    I’m not weighing in on Wayan’s position here one way or the other, but the response of “then you do it” or “can you do better?” is a nonsense response to criticism. I don’t need to be a brilliant surgeon to be unhappy with medical malpractice and I don’t need to be a foreign policy expert to be unhappy with my government.

  15. Mike N. (unregistered) on May 8th, 2007 @ 10:52 pm

    “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.” -Unknown

    Evelyn Beatrice Hall actually said this in an effort to sum up the views of Voltaire (who is widely have thought to have said it) in her book “The Friends of Voltaire”

    I would be interested in Wayan’s opinion if i thought he had one worth considering about a more effective means of conveyance than Invisible Children. I do not believe this to be the case. My more extensive thoughts are posted on his original blog. Just thought I’d clear up the quotation question.

    –Mike N.

  16. Bart Scully (unregistered) on May 9th, 2007 @ 2:14 am

    I was in D.C. on the 28th. I drove all the way down there from Rochester, NY. Maybe you don’t think that it will make a difference… but there are thousands of people who know you’re wrong.

    Last year… Invisible Children did a similar thing to raise awareness. The Global Night Commute. In case you were unaware, as I’m sure you were, two months after the global night commute, peace talks started in Uganda… whether or not we will actually be heard by the Government is completely unknown. I don’t know… and neither do you. You can’t possibly say beyond a shadow of a doubt, that nothing will come of it. The fact of the matter is, we care… that’s all it comes down to. I don’t care if you don’t want to do anything to try to make this world a better place… but I do.

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