The group had chosen to talk about protesting for this session. Since the beginning of the pandemic a number of prominent protests were brought to our attention via media and social media coverage. Whilst we may or may not agree with a particular issue being protested there is a right for people to make their feelings of injustice known.
Firstly we considered examples throughout history of creative and effective protest, citing the 411 B.C play Lysistrata about a Greek woman who mobilises the women of Greece to protest against the long and bloody Peloponnesian war. The women went on a sex strike and denied the men until they lay down their arms. Although this account is largely fictional, group members believed that sex strikes have been used effectively to obtain women’s rights and end conflict at other points in history.
Group members discussed whether violence and disruption were justified measures to be heard and seek just political and social change. It was generally agreed that disruption certainly seems required in some form to effect change, though there were mixed feelings about violence. It was considered how anger is a momentum for change and how raw anger demanding law change around homosexuality initially sparked riots. However, LGBTQ have become peaceful demonstrations of visibility and presence through the now much celebrated Pride marches and events.
It was argued that without the measures of the suffragettes the vote for women and working class men may not have been secured.
It was discussed that the downside of activism and protest was that the original message could become lost if the method was unpopular, for example through violence or extreme disruption. Another downside is that protests can be hijacked by people or groups not interested in the cause but just looking to be destructive. Also, as we have seen over the last year, a protest for a cause can attract a counter protest against that same cause resulting in clashes.
When such things as above occur protests can backfire with negative media coverage. We discussed the role of media in protest. Sometimes the media and social media is the main vehicle for education, awareness and sympathy for a cause, at other times destructive, false and dehumanising propaganda may be disseminated. It was poignantly suggested that the democratic right to protest does not equate with the right to hate. This is reflected in hate laws.
It was suggested that sometimes the route to politicians ears is through media coverage of disruption-a bottom up approach. It was also noted that sometimes change comes top down and things are approved in government which the population of the time may not have chosen or supported such as the change in law in England in 1967 (1981 in Scotland) allowing homosexuality, and the abolition of slavery in 1834.
Some group members felt it was unfair when protestors passionate for a cause were imprisoned.
Passion alone may make a lot of noise and become unpopular as knowledge alone without a way to spread the message becomes impotent. It may be argued that passion for a cause and an intimate working knowledge of the issue together with just the right amount of disruption and helpful media coverage can create the most effective means for change.