Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Sunday, February 03, 2002

On an ever so slightly more serious note, Glenn and Matt both had posts on Friday lamenting the declining state of anti-globalization protesters, saying, in effect, that they were spoiling the debate by making the "con" side look rather juvenile. Although I agree with them on this point, for this particular band of protesters, I think it is worth noting the crucial role that protest and "radicalism" have had in major social change throughout American history. I have to note here that I don't condone any sort of violence, against property or people, in this or any other context (save self defense). Throughout American (and world) history, radicals have led the way to abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, a social safety net, labor rights, a woman's right to choose, civil rights laws, and many other things. When I was a senior in college, I took a terrific class called "Radicals and Reformers in American History", and one major message I took away from that class was that it takes both radicals, to make an issue public, and reformers, to craft solutions within the system, to actually enact social change. This message, I think, is too easily forgotten, and ridiculing these protesters is far too easy (and fun!!), but it is worth realizing, as Matt does I think in his blog, that they really are necessary to the process of having a serious debate over the merits and pitfalls of globalization. As I was driving home on Friday evening, I heard a story on NPR's All Things Considered, about a young man who was a protester in Seattle, who is now an invited guest to the WEF forums in NYC. This type of persion is exactly what is necessary to the process, to allow these things to go forward. So by all means, condemn the ALF and ELF kooks/terrorists, but lets all remember that the vast majority of these generally upper middle class white college students are trying to help society in their own, naive way, and instead of just laughing at them and beating them with nightsticks, debate the merits of their cases with them. Who knows, we might even learn something.