I don’t think it’s coincidence that the TV cable channels which specialize in history have been running documentaries about the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-War movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s – during the same couple of weeks that CNN and MSNBC have been hyping the Parkland students’ anti-gun movement, destined to climax in the “March For Our Lives” today. For anybody who had any real experience with those historic grassroots movements, the contrast is downright painful.
First off, nobody helped us organize any picket-lines or demonstrations, let alone big marches on the capitol. We had to learn the whole process ourselves, from the ground up. Before the age of the Internet, we had telephone-trees and community bulletin-boards to spread the word; newspapers, TV stations and radio stations wouldn’t touch us – unless we bought paid advertising. We had to learn for ourselves that any chapter of a reform group, no matter how small, needed at least one lawyer – to bail us out when the cops grabbed us up for “disturbing the peace” or “blocking a public thoroughfare”, and also to figure out what permits and paperwork we needed to file in order to march in the streets or rally in a public park. We needed to learn about transport, to find out where to rent busses, calculate how many busses would be needed, where they would pick us up, let us off, and park until we needed them to get home. We had to learn the hard way about getting extra garbage services, renting and servicing porta-potties, getting sound-systems set up, providing insurance for the same, and arranging for discreet medical tents and staffs. We also learned how to go to legislators’ offices and present petitions. We evolved a handful of standard slogans and symbols that were instantly recognizable. And of course we had to learn how to collect funds for all this. Even with the help of old and experienced labor union organizers, it took us years to learn all these techniques. It took still longer to get the media to recognize us as anything but “rioters”.
Eventually we produced an organization called the National Mobilization to End the War – the “Mobe” for short – which specialized in organizing big political demonstrations in
and nothing else. We timed our actions by the Mobe’s calendar,
experimented with new techniques locally and sent their descriptions to the
Mobe’s headquarters if they were successful.
The Mobe was certainly not a governing body for the movement – nothing
could be – but any technique or tactic that the Mobe disapproved of was left to
the local group that favored it, which was then completely on its own. I’ve often wondered what happened to the old
Mobe organization after the Civil Rights law was passed and the war ended. I doubt if those experienced organizers just
disappeared. Washington, DC
Considering all that, no, I don’t believe that this new March For Our Lives anti-gun movement was created entirely by some 700 high school kids, in less than a month. I don’t think the kids really organized any of it.
What I’ve seen, over the past month, was first CNN (and then MSCNBC) blatting the story of the school massacre – and carefully blaming gun owners and the NRA -- all over the airwaves, at least 12 hours out of every 24, supplying sympathetic Talking Heads to weep and wail over The Horror, staging interviews with particular kids from the school – even grooming and coaching and providing scripts for especially good actors among them (see David Hogge) – and carefully weeding out kids from the school who came up with different ideas about the cause of the massacre and prevention of any such future event (see Ariana Klein, Kyle Kashuv, and Colton Haab). Before the first week was out, they’d attracted some enthusiastic Democrat politicians and had organized the first demonstrations and marches on the
state capital – all thoroughly covered and advertised by CNN. Florida
This is strangely reminiscent of William Randolph Hearst using his newspapers to start a completely unnecessary war. I know that media professionals have regarded that feat with awe and envy ever since.
Of course, the media managers didn’t do it by themselves. Anti-gun-rights politicians, celebrities, corporate managers and certain labor union administrators were happy to jump on the bandwagon, providing funds and support. The mayor of
happily promised $100,000 to send local schoolkids to the march on , despite the
fact that her city’s school board didn’t have enough money to keep the schools
heated this winter. There are reports of
schoolteachers urging their students to join the protests, giving homework
assignments about “why I’m in favor of gun control”, and actually punishing
students who complained or came up with alternate ideas. There are a dozen corporations, including
Citigroup, which have come up with tricks for punishing firearms companies,
legal firearms dealers, and of course the NRA.
None of this, obviously, was organized by schoolkids. It certainly was not the students of that
Parkland high school who organized the anti-gun/anti-NRA marches, walkouts, and
demonstrations in all the other states in the Washington .
Neither did the kids alone come up with that list of “common sense” gun
laws which the campaign is pushing – blissfully unaware that some of the laws
they’re asking for are already on the books, and poorly enforced. Other laws that they’re thoughtlessly crying
for – because they’ve had the slogans handed to them – are plainly
unconstitutional, and are already beset with lawsuits. US
Right now, no doubt, the kids are thrilled at all the attention and flattery and TV time being given to them, not to mention the encouragement to Express Their Emotions – rather than think. Some of them have blissfully mentioned their dreams of going into politics. They seem to have nary a clue about how much they’re being used, or by whom.
Then again, the Salem Witch Trials – which likewise centered around a group of Afflicted Children – were orchestrated by adult political factions too. So was the original Children’s Crusade. Those did not end well for the involved children.