Rightblogger Protests Short on Protesters, Long on Hype
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, they traditionally take to the streets. One Liberty Belle announced such an event for last Monday in Seattle. Liberty Belle had begun as just another internet ranter, albeit one with a big idea -- a "solution revolution" which sought to gather "groups of 'educators'" and to employ various means, "like comedy, viral videos, and merchandise (i.e. 'agitprop')" to teach citizens that "Socialism," as practiced by the Obama Administration, is "the Rot that Never Dies."
Her fire banked low until she got the idea for a "Porkulus Protest" of the Obama stimulus bill. "Bring SIGNS!!" she told her comrades. "Just imagine that you are a left-wing college student with nothing else to do and that should help you get started!"
She quickly got the support of popular rightblogger Michelle Malkin, who front-paged it, crying, "There should be one of these in every town in America. What are you doing?" and promised to deliver pulled pork to the event as a come-on and, presumably, satirical gesture. Thus buoyed, Liberty Belle dreamed big: "There are tens of millions of us, if not more."
As it happened, even with Malkin's support Liberty Belle was able to attract, by her own estimate, "over 100 people." But she was undaunted, and with good reason. If she and her comrades couldn't be thick in the streets, they could, with the help of Malkin and others, multiply the force of their action via the internet. Thus her weak turnout, and that of like-minded protesters in other cities, would be transformed by imaginative, chair-bound scribes into a smashing victory, at least in Second Life. To paraphrase the old lefty slogan, their opponents have the numbers, but they have the blogs.
Directly after the Seattle event, Liberty Belle took another page from the left-wing college student handbook, and pestered local news outlets, questioning their lack of coverage of her protest and urging her comrades to do the same. As to the low turnout, she explained, "were not given very much time to organize large events -- remember, this all started only two or three weeks ago!!"
Liberty Belle had skipped a step. When the Bush bailout bill first emerged last September, liberals already had organizations in place like TrueMajority, which was able to organize hundreds of "emergency rallies" and gain press coverage for them, notwithstanding the short turnaround time. (And we saw what a lot of good that did.)
With conservatives in disarray and nothing like TrueMajority or MoveOn available to faciliate their action plans, rightbloggers have been trying to pick up the standard. RedState, for example, has created a "Strike Force" with which they hope to attract "Redstate activists," though they have been more successful at attracting ridicule.
But two top rightbloggers, Malkin and Instapundit, each with hundreds of thousands of readers, seem to have come up with an ingenious alternative. Rather than organize events, why not just post pictures and talk them up afterwards?
Malkin -- who has been aggressive in complaint against what she has variously called the Generational Theft Act, the porkulus bill, the Turbaconducken, and other funny names -- posted pictures of the event which, though they seemed to contradict her claims of a "big crowd," added color and cheerful human faces to a page usually devoted to Malkin's ravings and Photoshop caricatures. "Maybe, just maybe," she quoted Liberty Belle, "we can start a movement that will snowball across the nation and get people out of their homes, meeting each other and working together..."
Maybe, just maybe, it would only be necessary for a small number of people to get out of their homes, so long as thousands of others could luxuriate in the warm glow of protest pixels. Another protest was held in Denver -- "Colorado Says No to Obama's Package of Pork," said Looking at the Left, though his photos suggest a less representative population; the Denver Post reported "hundreds" of participants -- and Malkin herself turned out for the event, later brightening her page with pictures of children holding protest signs. She covered another protest in Mesa, Arizona, with photo spreads suspiciously thin on crowd shots (video of the protest here).
Instapundit started, as is his wont, tersely: "It'll be interesting to see if this catches on." But soon he was sticking photos onto his usually text-heavy page like a proud parent, from Denver and Mesa, too. He even threw in a Hoboken, New Jersey property tax protest. "I think we'll be seeing more of these," he commented.
These protests, taken together, involved at most three, maybe four thousand protesters nationwide, but the web coverage allowed many, many more web users to experience the events vicariously. "You can close your eyes to the protesters today," cried Wag the Dog from his home office, "but as the wave of discontent grows, so will the crowds and you will not be able to ignore them." "There's a change a-comin' all right, President Hopenchange," said Atlas Shrugged. "There's a movement afoot, and I want to be a part of it," sighed Nice Deb after a Kansas protest drew -- depending on whom you believe -- either 100 or 750 people. "Ughh! I would have loved to have been there."
No need, Nice Deb. The numbers aren't important. With thousands of blogs running photos and dreaming aloud of insurrection, even a tiny fraction of the population may give the illusion of massive resistance. And if it doesn't get the American People to storm the citadels of power, it will at least warm the hearts of politically disenfranchised rightbloggers.
Their best hope now, ironically, comes from the mainstream media. Last week CNBC shouter Rick Santelli roared from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade against "losers" who would benefit from the Obama housing stimulus program, and called for a "tea party" to protest. Suddenly malcontents who had been relying on photo-sharing had a new hero and a possible Senate candidate. Rightbloggers stopped talking about porkulus and Turbaconducken and started talking about tea parties. A TP homepage and Facebook page appeared, Instapundit and Malkin climbed aboard the bandwagon.
Even sympathizers have cautioned the prospective partiers that the Boston Tea Party from which the new fad takes its name was "neither spontaneous nor a mere lark," but a serious and dangerous business. But they miss the point. It's the post-modern protest era, and nothing of value will be put on the line. Some folks will eat some pulled pork. wave a few signs, take a few pictures, and then retreat to their computers and the permanent protest scene that is the blogosphere to commemorate the brave doings.
Meanwhile in Dublin, Ireland, about 100,000 people protested the state of their nation's economy. The event was organized by trade unions.