A new Goldman State Podcast drops every Friday!

Jun 24, 2024

Protesting the Incomprehensible Protest: A Protest

Occupy this—at least for a few moments

By Ed Goldman

TThe nature and sometimes the value of protests continue to puzzle me. “Occupy Wall Street” at least made optic sense. It was, to quote the occasionally accurate Wikipedia, “to protest corporate influence on democracy, the lack of legal consequences for those who brought about the global crisis of monetary insolvency, and an increasing disparity in wealth.” 

The fact that it was staged amid the financial fiefdom whence came the movement’s title gave it a sort of clarity. Had it taken place at the Central Park Zoo, for example, it would have been purposefully disruptive but I’m not sure it would have won hearts and minds.

Edgy Cartoon

Broccoli rave

For history students or people like me, who’re old enough to remember it occurring in real time, Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963—delivered at the Lincoln Memorial and drawing a crowd of more than 200,000 as well as the world’s news media (a considerably smaller cohort than today’s 24/7 blabathon)—was a significant moment in the protest movement. Both its venue and message resonated, resulting in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

This may be why, last week when eco-terrorists (oops, environmental activists) sprayed parts of the historic monument Stonehenge with an orange paint-like substance, the phrase that immediately popped into my head was, “Your point being?”

What Stonehenge has to do with our global reliance on fossil fuels, the purported discussion topic of the vandalism, was lost on me. The best I could come up with is that because Stonehenge’s initial construction phase ran from about 3100 BC to 1600 BC, the protesters considered it a fossil and therefore must not be tolerated. (I personally consider it a contractor’s dream: with a project taking 1500 years to get to Phase 2, can you imagine how many change-orders had to be issued?)  

As I’ve mentioned here before,  I also continue to struggle with the ads run by People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). They depict glamorous, barely clothed movie stars as a protest against fur hunting. If the point is that these women look great even when they’re not wrapping themselves in the remains of cuddly animals like rabbits, ermine, otters and minks, I’m not sure the message is delivered with admirable clarity. I enjoy looking at the photos but I’m not sure they make me think of how abominably we treat our four-legged friends.

PETA says the ads use “controversial images to burrow a message into your brain, by way of nearly naked people, bloody animal corpses, or an intensely dark sense of humor.” Yet I don’t recall there being a single animal corpse in the first of these PETA ads, which featured actress Kim Basinger in the altogether. The idea was that she would rather go naked than be wrapped in the carcass of a dead animal. #MeToo, Ms B.

All of this has made me think I’m long overdue to open GSUMA (the Goldman State Unclear Messaging Agency). Here are two quick concepts I’m spitballing, as we say in the business:

  1. CARBON FOOTRINT AWARENESS. An animated ad featuring a sheet of carbon paper in a shoe store hoping to be fitted with footwear that won’t leave a trace wherever he wafts. “But Buddy, you ain’t gotany feet,” says the cheerful shoe salesman, Al Bundy (voiced by Ed O’Neill, his original portrayer on “Married …with Children”). “Problem solved!” says the perky paper, leaping out of his chair, hitting the carpet and crumpling into a lifeless wad. An announcer in a voice-of-doom voice intones: “But…isit?” Then we cut to a slide of the website where you can get more information and, more important, donate money for no particular reason. 
  2. VEGETABLE AWARENESS. Another animated ad, this one using fresh produce protesting their long relegation as mere side dishes. “VegLib” is a campaign whose time has come again, what with everything from plant-based Porterhouse steaks, plant-based sausages and plant-based plants determinedly making their way to the entrée aisle. Suggested campaign names: (a) Occupy Dinner; (b) Give Peas a Chance; (c) “Next on Okra!” 

Did you know Amazon has AMAZING Daily Deals?

From electronics to beauty to fashion to pet supplies and everything in between, Amazon has daily deals you don't want to miss.

See the Deals

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).