Why I Don't Attend Protests

The 9/12 protests have been getting a lot of coverage in the liberal blogosphere. It's true that there are some real crazies out there and their behavior is at least a little frightening. On the other hand, some of the liberal commentary seems to be implying that conservative protesters are uniquely evil. Take a look at this photo which has been floating around, but first, read the caption:
This brave man walked through the anti-health care crowd with his large poster and was immediately set upon by the crowd. One person spit on him, while others pushed and tried to grab his flag until the police intervened. Most of the crowd around him turned on him like rabid dogs, yelling epithets and things like commie, why dont you leave this country etc. Impressively, he remained unflappable and had this little smile on the whole time.

(from flickr user foramenglow)

This man is indeed very brave. But I think the savage behavior he encountered is unfortunately the nature of large-scale protests these days. Can anyone honestly say they expected this man to be treated respectfully when he showed up with that flag? What would a group of, say, anti-Iraq war protestors have done if someone showed up waving a Dick Cheney flag at one of their events? I highly doubt the Dick Cheney supporter would have been treated with respect and invited to engaged in an intellectual fireside chart over the merits of the Iraq War.

Protests have a tendency to bring out the worst in people and reduce the debate to the lowest common denominator. This isn't to downplay the historic role that they have played in shaping progressive movements in this country and elsewhere. But these days, with all the technological progress we've made, with people now editorializing and twisting every little event to fit their ideological point of view, I honestly wonder if protests will ever be the useful tool of change that they once were.

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