In my previous post, I talked about how we need to think about activism as a rainbow spectrum, each color a different way of mobilizing, instead of looking at it through a hierarchical ‘successful’ vs. ‘failure’ idea.
For this post, I want to line up some of the possible ways to show how people can make statements, creatively or through pure power, and some examples. Using and citing Andrew Boyd’s Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution.
Let’s start with some of the more known tactics, Direct Action and Distributed Action. In my definitions, they do seem to be related or overlap a bit. But more importantly, these seem to be the more known and ‘idealistic’ ways of protest.
- Direct Action centers around organizing people to showcase opposition or support of an idea or problem through using mobilized people as leverage. They may not have billions of dollars to give to lobbyists or special interests groups, but with large amounts of people taking action, they use this to disrupt power dynamics and try to shift it in their favor. Mainly used to pressure change and showcase resistance or support (p. 32).
An example of this can go as far back to the Boston Tea Party (p. 32), which was one individual movement to show opposition to Britain. A more modern example is Occupy Wall Street, eventually turning into many direct actions in a distributed action like use, Occupy Wall Street started in New York to oppose the power and constant bailouts the rich banks and companies received despite a surge in foreclosures on American citizens. This is also the style of protest the civil rights movements used during segregation in America.
- Distributed Action is closely related to direct action, but instead of one major area, it is distributed across the nation, nations, or the entire world. This can heavily rely on social media since it is the fastest way to socialize and organize a distributed movement, also it becomes easy to clump these smaller movements together in the use of hashtags. This can be very beneficial to younger movements that have not had as much grow or support as direct actions, or beneficial to show the diversity and areas the movement does reach out to (p. 36). These can be used to present call out’s for people to enable direct actions (p. 37) or as stated before simply to showcase diversity and support across different areas. This also allows for participants to feel as if they are a part of something bigger, a movement that reaches across many people.
These movements are important and are acknowledged for getting needed change in showing the power the people have to pressure change, whether it be legislative change or discussion focus.
Now let’s mention other ways of protest and demonstration that tend to be more creative but still effective. These tend to be some of my favorites when it comes to activism, mainly because these use creativeness in ways that distort, alter, and showcase symbols and can be a simple way to leave a big impact.
- Banner Hang is when a group or person creates a big banner to hang over bridges, buildings, and structures. Can be complex or simple, yet needs to be simple enough to understand and read. The main point is to communicate to the people about a problem or bring into the people’s consciousness an action they should take (p. 12).
The most modern example of this is Greenpeace’s Resist banner, here is a link to a news report of the event. Meant to convey and rally resistance to Trump’s denial of climate change and seemingly blatant bigotry. Also, this banner symbolically placed over the white house tried to show the government a portion of the media’s discontent with the new government. Greenpeace has participated in other banner hangs about the Iraqi war and the global nuclear crisis. Greenpeace tagging on a hashtag also participated in the distributed action of #Resist, a nationwide and global social movement to show opposition to the newly elected president and the government as a whole.
- Electoral Guerilla Theater is a form of extreme satire where someone runs for office, whether it be local, nationally, or both, and develops a character and a platform meant to bring about criticism to other candidates. They do not run to win, in fact, most support a candidate closer to their realistic position and try to not take away votes from others. The act of running and the satirical content of their campaign is meant to point comparisons so the absurdity of other politicians.
The best modern example of this is Vermin Supreme. Having his own campaign Facebook and many memes at his disposal he has over the years used his persona Vermin Supreme and his weird platform to criticize mainly right-wing politicians. Supporting the legalization of marijuana is one of his more feasible, progressive views, compared to his mandatory tooth brushing, pony based economy, and using zombies and the latest giant hamster wheel technology for free energy. Known for his viral videos including his Jesus-given revelation to glitter bomb an anti-gay republican candidate to make him gay and his viral speech about his platform (glitter bombing at the end of the video).
He does talk about serious issues like dependence on foreign oil and changing over to renewable energy, but does so in with farce. It also forced weird questions like “do you still support your government assisted pledge to give ponies to every American?” to be asked at town hall meetings by people who need to keep a serious tone. But most importantly, gets people to look at other politicians and ask, “well he is not so far from some of these people we find legitimate.”
- Culture Jamming which is where a group or person takes a well-known cultural artifact or symbol and edits it to alter its known meaning into criticism or shock at another problem or critique. A new meaning that the people should be able to draw conclusions. Originally known as détournement which means “overturning” or “derailment” (p. 28).
The best modern example of this is casual pepper spray cop meme of Lt. Pike at the UC Davis protests.
I focused an entire post on this topic before reading Beautiful Trouble, linked here. Taking pictures such as paintings of the declaration of independence, the picture of the monk committing suicide, or the flag raising at Iwo Jima have very heavily emotion responses and meanings to American culture. Adding in a cop pepper spraying and practically assaulting those beloved artifacts creates a whole new meaning. It is no longer brave men raising the flag or a monk committing suicide to protest China, it is now an American cop assaulting and killing the monk and assaulting the men who fought for the island against the Japanese empire. The bigger picture is to then focus on the cop assaulting people he should not which comes back to the original UC Davis protest comparing the innocent and peaceful protestors who got pepper sprayed to the other artifacts who we would already believe did not deserve the abuse of the cop being inserted. It takes a cultural symbol and jams a new meaning and discussion into it.
This is my most favorite utility to activism but cannot be done alone and should be combined with other strategies to ensure it takes off (p. 30). But at the same time, I love throwing wrenches into everyday society and send around memes that do it for the mere pleasure.
There are many many more examples and tactics but I just wanted to give an overall preview of a few different types.
In my next post, I will wrap up and give personal examples of activism I have participated in.