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Public Energy Is Misdirected

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What would happen if politically active progressive Americans suddenly stopped devoting their energies to drafting better sound bites, and instead directed all that time and passion into a serious and strategic campaign of civil disobedience?

I know, I know, we're constantly told that we're being out-framed and out-messaged. Horse sh*t. We're smarter than they are, wittier, pithier, more attuned to the perspectives of those we're speaking to. But we don't own the networks and the newspapers. They do. Mammoth corporations with an agenda that usually lines up with that of right-wing gangsters control the microphones. Stop the masochism! Break a frame over your knee. Spit out the sound bites. Ask not how you can save a political party that doesn't want your help in a single sentence. Ask what in your life you can sacrifice, what you can put at risk to force our government to do what we the people demand.

What would happen if leftists in America all in one instant ceased fighting each other over whether the only hope lies in stifling third parties and reclaiming the Democratic Party or must be found in destroying the Democrats and building a new party in their place? We all agree on our long term vision, and we agree on most short-term actions, including the actions most needed: impeaching, evicting, prosecuting, and imprisoning Bush and Cheney. What if we all decided to give absolutely no slack to war-mongering corporate goons with a big D after their names but absolutely no misplaced animosity to decent defenders of democracy who happen to be Democrats? What if we promoted the best candidates in every race, regardless of party, but focused our attention much less on elections and much more on forcing action out of those currently in office? Would the world stop spinning? Or might we build a movement worthy of our cause and its popularity?

What would become of us if we no longer spent our money on advertising in the corporate media: no more full-page ads in the pages of newspapers that sell wars and stomp out justice, no more hundreds of millions of dollars dumped self-destructively into television networks that protect plutocracy and disempower people every day? What would happen? Would we cease to exist? Would we no longer count as clever? Would our wits be wasted?

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Don't get me wrong. I like nothing better than crafting messages, writing speeches, and running my mouth. And I'll take a back seat on bashing the Democrats to no one. But these are not the most effective places for us to put our energy if we want to change our society. These are distractions and delusions. These are frantic repeated voting in online polls, panels for speaking to the converted, meetings with powerpoints, mass masturbation, means becoming ends.

What if we stopped imagining that propriety and respectability could win the day, that there was hope for bipartisanship, that lobbyists for peace and accountability are more effective if not tainted by association with protesters? What if we realized that pressure can be more powerful than politeness, and stopped putting our relationships with Congressional staffers ahead of the need to force their bosses to do their jobs or be harassed and humiliated and hounded out of office?

Movements that make change against great odds and great concentrations of power are movements that are united, focused, and composed of individuals willing to take personal risks. We should be shutting down recruiting stations and Congressional offices. We should be filling jails.

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Here are some ideas for actions you can take, large and small:

Here's a network of nonviolent activists:

We have the energy. We have the numbers. We don't have our priorities straight.


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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more...)

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