The traditional model for (left) political activism is that you go out with flyers, posters and so on to call for people to come to demonstrations in the streets. The goal is to get as many people as you can to demonstrate in a rally and/or march and/or picket line. Sometimes this includes civil disobedience, civil resistance, or other kinds of symbolic political acts. At some point, if you’re successful, these demonstrations become large enough that they force policy-makers to respond with policy-changes or perhaps some more radical outcome such as structural political change. Leaving out the international dimensions, this is essentially what happened in the 1960s.
The media play an important role in this process since their coverage of your demonstrations acts as a crucial transmitter of your message and elevates the action(s) into the public domain, thereby legitimizing it. Without media attention, even very large demonstrations in one or a few cities will pass unnoticed to the rest of the American people except for those who actually see the demonstration with their own eyes. Even then, if the media don’t cover your demonstration, the event in some ways “didn’t happen.” It’s like the proverbial tree that falls in the forest, but no one is there to see it.
It isn’t enough for an issue to be on the minds of a majority of people. It isn’t enough even for a majority of people to feel essentially the same way about an issue. For that issue to become a burning, insistent, public issue, it must be catapulted into the public discourse in the public arena of media and policy-makers. Otherwise, it remains a latent, widely felt sentiment without a focus and without policy-makers needing to do anything about it.
Policy-makers, it probably doesn’t need to be said, don’t reflect mass public sentiment. They do what they do based on who has the actual power – those with great wealth and influence. Policy-makers will only do otherwise when they are absolutely forced to. This doesn’t happen very often. On national issues it hardly occurs at all.
The Problem with Lobbying
This is an imperialist power after all. When it’s an issue as central as war and the interests of empire, then a change of course such as a troop withdrawal, or not launching a planned war such as on Iran, can only come about when the stability and legitimacy of the system itself are called into question. Policy-makers must be presented with a choice of either acceding to the demands of the people or risking much greater social upheaval, the consequences of which could turn out exceedingly badly for them.
There are some particular features to the present situation that need to be understood if we are to have a chance to win the battle to drive out the Bush Regime. These are features that are different in qualitative ways from what was the case previously. The nature of this we discuss in greater detail in Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, especially in the Preface, Chapter Two, Five, Ten and Fourteen. But these are the highlights: the media, while never true watchdogs for the public interest, have become much more, qualitatively more, the stenographers to power than they have ever been in this country.
The Washington Post, the shining example from the Sixties of crusading journalism (or so the hype goes) that released the Pentagon Papers, and broke open the Watergate story that led to Nixon’s downfall, today continues to blast Joseph Wilson as a liar and opportunist, even with all that has come out about the White House’s role in punishing Wilson for daring to expose their lies about WMD in Iraq.
The mass media and Democratic Party continue to claim against all evidence and common decency that the Bush White House has committed no impeachable acts. They are repeating the same role that they played in the run-up to - and justification for - the Iraq invasion with respect to Iran.
While media work by our forces needs to be stepped up and improved – anything we accomplish in getting covered or ads we succeed in getting placed will make a real difference as our message is potent - we cannot rely on media playing the kind of role that it did in the Sixties. We cannot stake our chances for success on this happening.
When the 2000 and then the 2004 presidential elections were stolen and when the Military Commissions Act and the Warner Act were passed without the Democrats opposing these things and without their even filibustering the bills, a Rubicon was crossed. The verdict by the Democratic Party and the mass media was that the Bush Regime’s program was going to prevail, come hell or high water.
While the New York Times has editorialized here against the Bush/Cheney presidency, employing some of the strongest language they have probably ever used about anything, they have been absolutely unwilling to call for the one thing that will actually mean something: the impeachment, conviction, and removal from office of these war criminals. Those people in the impeachment movement who continue to spend all or most of their time lobbying still cling to a faith in the system that the preceding events should utterly shatter. They are, unfortunately, wasting their precious time when they could be devoting themselves to activities that would help.
The media are not neutral parties and the Democratic Party is one of the two imperialist parties of the most powerful imperialist country to ever stalk the earth. We have to find a way to overcome the very big obstacle that they present.
Materially Interfering With Their Policies and Bringing Forth a Competing, Legitimate Leadership
This is why a counter-force leadership needs to be built, popularized, and the social base for it built. "Declare It Now: Wear Orange Daily" is a vehicle for manifesting the mass sentiment against Bush and Cheney and for building that social base for a competing leadership to emerge. What we are doing isn’t just trying to bring sufficiently large forces into political protest and thereby get the powers that be to respond appropriately. Our rulers will not do what must be done unless and until they are facing a situation that threatens to get out of their control and that threatens the very continued existence of their legitimacy to rule and their actual rule. How do we do that?