We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Guide to Effective Protests: Dress Code

Which picture shows people who are more serious?

The title was going to be "making demonstrations more effective" until I realized my previous titles increasingly began with ING suffix words. This reminded me that the trend of statements with ING suffix starters seemed to pick up pace under Bush. He would make many speeches in front of a background that would be endlessly covered with written tidbits like "rebuilding American families", "increasing opportunities", "making heartland strong", etc.

News organizations caught this propaganda flu as well. Since adding the ING suffix creates an action noun and conveys that continuous action is happening, it could very well be that GOP came up with very effective, psychological, and viral informational tool. Instead of definitive statements conveying a beginning and end such as "The act of 2006 caused this" we got streams of meaningless and cerebrally confusing "financing our future" which just told that vague action is happening nonstop. Perfect for 24/7 cable and do nothing politicians since definitive statements with an end would invite thought. Bush excelled at psych ops.

When talking about increasing effectiveness of protests, it is good to remember that the gathering of demonstrators is primarily a psychological propaganda tool for various media and apathetic middle class sections of the public. During the Bush era, the early Iraq war protests numbered in the hundreds of thousands. These protests were dramatically ineffective and not just due to 3 major media conglomerates deciding to ignore them. These anti-war gatherings were utilizing shockingly outdated methods (if they were ever that effective to begin with considering cultural backlash in 1970s).

The participants thought that the sheer numbers of people would be enough to catch the media's eye. Many of the baby boomer organizers have been using the same tactics that seemed to be successful decades ago and for which the establishment and society at large had developed a serious immunity. It may have been shocking and eye catching to have colorfully dressed hyper individuals in large numbers in 1960s in one place. In 2003 however, the insistence than protesters find their own unique way of expressing discontent became counterproductive since MSM was able to use it as a weapon of ridicule when it wasn't ignoring. It was easy pickings to zoom in on the strangest looking hippy or funniest paper meche statue.

Anybody who was exposed to this silly groan inducing spectacle could not have come away psychologically impressed. The actual target audience, politically dominant elderly and middle aged voters in the western world (majority of them were not on the side of earlier protesters in 60s/70s) were exposed to the wrong psychological marketing strategy and completely counterproductive anti-war propaganda.

The organizers would complain that just getting everybody organized enough to show up was an accomplishment. If they faced such critical organizational issues they should have spent serious energy on creating a perception of organization that was lacking. This is easily accomplished with a general agreement on what to wear and what color theme the demonstration should be.

It may sound silly but one just has to look back at US suffrage movement and the various CIA engineered "color revolutions" in eastern Europe in recent years. The green "movement" in Iran for instance was comprised of multitudes of various groups and previously unaffiliated individuals yet it miraculously became transformed into a monolithic "movement" with a simple color emphasis.

The effect of 2003 protests would have been multiplied dramatically if everybody showed up in their most formal wear and decided on a singular color. All it takes is for organizers to send a simple message to those attending such as "whatever you do show up in work pants/work skirt and a white shirt and wear a cheap blue headband or scarf, etc". When a reporter takes a picture of 50,000 people each dressed individualistically, it looks as you'd expect, just a horde of disorganized people. However a picture of 50,000 all dressed in office cubicle formal wear that also has blue headbands and occasional blue flags would be visually and psychologically stunning. It would:

1) Prevent reporters (both MSM and amateur) from singling out the strangest looking costumes and pretty much force more wide crowd shots since shots of so many people wearing the same are better photography in general (think psych ops of crowd shots in 2003 Ukraine and 2009 Iran). More media coverage is guaranteed.

2) Create the illusion of organization and "movement" which in turn invites giving the whole coalition of diverse groups an umbrella nickname (even simple tea bags can do this much less blue headbands)

3) Most importantly the psychological effect on elderly people (who see a crowd of crisp well dressed people of all ages) would go further in achieving the aim of the event in the first place. Even if the demonstration gets a derogative nickname like "bluebaggers/bluetesters" etc it would still give power to "movement" by putting it under one category. People like to lump things into categories.

Doing something as simple and seemingly trivial as coordinating color and asking everybody to wear a white shirt automatically starts a process of integration where common themes and slogans are developed. It may be asking too much to also coordinate 3 simple phrases such as "Telling to End Afghanistan War" to utilize propaganda of repetition as a voice of the crowd. It may also be asking too much to have everybody at a protest shut up and walk in solemn silence for a mile to create a psychological sense of gravity in onlookers. It may definitely be too much to replicate the simple parade formation walking that suffragettes showed.

But when people feel seriously enough about something to gather in a large crowd (knowing that the crowd itself is a marketing tool) then they should also take the next step to demonstrate their seriousness instead of treating the event like a giant Halloween party, music festival, or socializing opportunity. Until common tricks to multiply message are used, American protesters will not show they are serious no matter how they feel on the inside. Then again, in today's climate next time there are that many people in the streets the catchy nickname they'd get may be pitchforkers.

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