How to effectively, intelligently protest warrantless wiretapping?
February 13, 2006 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Say you wanted to organize a protest re: Bush's warrantless wiretapping...

So I'm part of a group which is attempting, in the next two months, to put together a protest of the warrantless NSA domestic spying. I can't quite tell you what we want it to be, but I can tell you what we don't want it to be: your standard rally, i.e. trite, obvious, easy to ignore/eyeroll. Instead, we want something that'll attract attention (media or otherwise) to our group, the issue and what can be done about it in a reasonable, non-extremist manner...all while being creative, inventive, thought-provoking, preferably visually arresting, etc. To give an idea of the sort of event/conceit we're aiming for, it's generally agreed that the Frist filibuster at Princeton was downright brilliant, for all sorts of reasons.

So, any suggestions?
posted by Ash3000 to Law & Government (10 answers total)
Something I saw at a show this weekend was hilarious, and though it's not a direct idea that may help you - maybe it could trigger a brainstorm... The performance was a series of skits...

For this skit, a verbal "survey" was given to the audience at the theater where the audience answered by raising their hands if the answer to each question was yes.

Some of the questions:
- How many of you voted in the last presidential election?
- How many of you thought the election was bullshit?
- How many of you voted for Bush? [like, a total of 3 people with hands raised - this was Chicago, so...]
- How many of you voted for Bush and still think the election was bullshit?
- How many of you think that the warrantless wiretapping program is bullshit?
- Can we go back and have those of you who voted for Bush raise your hand again? Keep them up please?

At this point, every member of the theater group takes out a camera phone and runs up to the nearest person with a raised hand and snaps a few photos... The lights go off, and this "skit" is over...
posted by twiggy at 5:51 PM on February 13, 2006

You could set up a free messenger service for a day. Offer to deliver a message to anyone on campus (I'm assuming this is going to be on a college campus cause you tagged the post with "college") for free. Make sure it's visible and well advertised beforehand. Have pamphlets explaining the wiretapping and offering this as a free, privacy secured alternative. Have stationary ready with a little message to the recipient too, explaining the whole thing.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:10 PM on February 13, 2006

Living in Washington, DC and having developed the unique ability to filter out all sorts of protests, I can tell you that the only surefire way to stage an effective protest is to not make it look anything like a protest.

Ideally, you'd like to create a situation that would shake the onlooker out of his daily routine and force him to think critically about your issue. This is not easy because it's really hard to shake people. To get started, I'd check out the Situationist International webpage. In their text archives, you'll find a good amount of theory on how to create situations.

I can't offer any good specific ideas because effectiveness varies greatly due to environment. Broadly, go with the absurd, the humorous, and the shocking.
posted by The White Hat at 6:24 PM on February 13, 2006

gauchodaspampas: that idea is brilliant. I would be so impressed if something like this happened at my campus. It does exactly what The White Hat suggests - shake the onlooker out of his daily routine.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:35 PM on February 13, 2006

Violent ones always seem to get TV time ;) *ahem* WTO
posted by skEwb at 9:00 PM on February 13, 2006

Thanks arcticwoman. Unfortunately, even I must admit that this idea would be extremely challenging to pull off. You could limit recipients to only people who live in dorms on campus, of course (and maybe appartments very near campus?). It'd just be damn near impossible to track recipients down, even if the sender gives you a time and place they're likely to be found. By limiting it to just dorms, though, you're of course limiting the audience.

Anyway, good luck planning a successful, inventive, thought provoking protest, ash3000.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 1:45 AM on February 14, 2006

You could get 100 people together with large 70's earphone headsets and fake directional antennas. Have them all wear dark suits, then gather and walk around pointing the antennas and handing out informational flyers about the NSA.

Or put up fake NSA recruitment posters--

"Are you a REALLY curious person?"
"Are you concerned about protecting your country from people with brown skin?"

posted by craniac at 8:34 AM on February 14, 2006

"Or You could get 100 people together with large 70's earphone headsets and fake directional antennas. Have them all wear dark suits, then..." ...scatter them around campus, and:
1. Have them follow random people, taking notes about what they're doing and where they're going. If questioned, give the standard, "Well, you don't have anything to hide, do you?" (Bonus points for selecting local officials -- college dean, campus police chief, etc. -- as your target.)
2. Same thing, but have the target be a plant, an actor. You could step it up a notch, have a bit of outrage, even bring in some ringer supporters of the "survellience". (Then turn the tide on them, too!)

Good luck! Hope you don't go to jail, but if you do (assuming nobody gets hurt) I'm proud of you.
posted by LordSludge at 12:34 PM on February 14, 2006

If you're actually trying to persuade folks who don't agree with you (as opposed to just making those that already agree with you feel good), it is crucial to make sure you accurately describe what you're protesting, and to specify what you wish to see happening instead. Saying 'The NSA is spying on everyone with brown skin, and following them around with directional microphones!' will only produce the eye-rolling that you're trying to avoid. Think persuasion - not embarassment or intimidation (e.g, twiggy's skit).
posted by bemis at 1:31 PM on February 14, 2006

Well, I had some thoughts along the same lines here, from the Serbian protests that brought down Milosevic. Smaller country, smaller capital, smaller minority in charge of the government, but some of that could be applicable -- a lot is creative, anyway.

I've never been fond of the protest tactics used recently (say) against the G-8 and the Iraq war, and the inclusion of International ANSWER in these things is a real show-stopper for some people.

It's also important to know what your goal is. Look like there's a tiny slice of people who are furious? Or change the government? What about electing Democrats in November? These are all different goals, maybe contradictory.
posted by dhartung at 3:05 AM on February 15, 2006

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