There’s a patriot rally/antifa counter protest in Portland today. I decided not to go. As always, I support the right of Americans to protest and express their opinions -even in blue areas where they are not welcome. However, there’s currently a lack of the necessary supporting infrastructure and broader strategic vision that makes these events an effective tactic. If not done properly, these types of actions are more likely to provide experience and increase solidarity for the opposing side while undermining yours.
The reality is this. Activist factions exist partly to inspire their base by protecting them, standing up for their values in public, performing feats of valor defending against the other side’s militants (preferably on video) and in general creating the impression of a coherent, capable, and organized force. The base responds in kind by providing moral, institutional, and logistical support. The left does all this fairly reliably, the right does not.
Ultimately though, what is needed above all is a workable theory of power. Part of that is an understanding that we currently exist in something of a morality play, where each side attempts to coerce the other into striding onto its prepared stage and performing its assigned role as the bad guy. It doesn’t really matter if you manage to control a couple city blocks for an hour, what matters is if you can get your message out and if people watching can understand and identify with you and your cause.
2017-2018 was the golden age for this. The left was still very much stunned and on its back foot from the election, we had a healthy conservative media ecosystem, the tech companies hadn’t gone totalitarian, and many of our prominent leaders and inspirational figures hadn’t been targeted and destroyed. Those years were dominated by images and memes of people in patriotic gear battling black-clad anarcho-communist street gangs, the contrast couldn’t have been more stark. But, you can’t sustain such a thing when all your information and financial infrastructure in based in enemy territory. So, here we are.
I’m not depressed or worried though. You see, one thing I’ve learned is the right is original, the left is iterative. The former skill is harder to learn than the latter. The left tends to groupthink, which means they can obsessively focus on a topic and refine it -but they can’t really break from consensus and create novelty. Just look at the state of modern film and art for an example. The left can never create a Trump, and that’s why they couldn’t really see him coming until it was too late. But, they could iterate a solution and hamstring him until they successfully adapted. Did Trump ever really evolve? Did we? Maybe it’s time we begin.
Things we’re going to need to acknowledge and enact to move forward:
An understanding that tactics ultimately make sense only as long as they comply with your strategy, which is something you formulate to advance towards an objective. Your objective needs to be SMART.
People need a clear and compelling vision, and a belief that there’s a legitimate plan with a chance of success. It has to be worth their time to get involved.
We need to protect people that take risks for us, that includes inspirational figures and leaders. People that stand up publicly inspire others to stand up as well, and breaking those people publicly is deeply demoralizing. Reward your friends, punish your enemies. We have to impose costs on them. Lefties call this “who? Whom?” This ultimately leads to the following two points:
Not allowing leftists to bait our people into entering places or performing actions that put them as disproportionate legal risk, whether it means lawsuits or criminal charges. Lefties love lawfare.
Institutions and people with skills to protect and support our allies. That means an answer to the National Lawyers’ Guild, jail support, mutual aid and medic groups that protect people that take public action. This also means equivalent roles for protest marshals that can move people safely from point A to B, and groups that train attendees and activists in how to interact with and curb aggressive outside elements. We also need skilled press people: watch how leftist-aligned press carefully film and edit events for maximum effect.
We need to found and grow alternative, viable tech platforms for messaging and financial services. Not yet another shitty twitter clone.
Specific goals for government and politicians to work towards, and learning pressure tactics to be sure they follow through. We have to be capable allies to those that support us, and make life hell for those that don’t.
The ultimate goal of all this is building community for action. Robert Putnam noted the decay of legacy cultural institutions in his work Bowling Alone, those institutions provided the framework that allowed past groups to organize themselves to shape their world. A long term goal has to be replacing this.
I’m not saying I won’t be at protests or rallies in the future or that they’re useless, but I have to also acknowledge my work has made a target. I have a responsibility to all of us, and to be selective with the projects I do now. Events are critical elements in building a movement, but they only work as part of a larger system Ultimately they’re demonstrations of underlying capability and intent. This has to be the focus of our work moving forward. I will help you if you need ideas or encouragement, so feel free to reach out.
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