“Hello, and welcome to protest school.
“I’m your head instructor and media relations specialist. Over the next five weeks, we’ll discuss and practice various approaches to protesting. During that time you’ll learn everything you need to know about sticking it to the man.
“Who exactly is ‘the man’ you ask?
“Well, Jimmy, what an interesting question. However, the first rule of modern protesting is to never answer questions. Did the G20 protestors in Toronto stop their random vandalism and looting to answer questions from reporters? Not the good ones. The good protestors just kept on smashing and lighting things on fire, thus guaranteeing they made the television news.
“Some of you here today may be under the impression that the purpose of protesting is to increase pressure for social or political change. If that’s what you think, feel free to catch a Volkswagon van back to the 1960s, when that was last true.
“Today, there are 20,000 protest groups for every popular cause. We are all competing for donations from the same public, which is feeling the effects of a brutal recession. Without donations, you cannot achieve your dream of becoming a full-time protestor and will have to go back to a life of capitalist economic slavery. Can you imagine, working 40 hours a week – cold sober – to help some faceless international corporation rack up profits? That’s just crazy, man.
“So, if the goal of modern protesting is to bring in enough donations in order to keep protesting, the first rule must be to never answer questions. The second you stop trashing that shopkeeper’s storefront to answer questions, some other protester will take your spot. The donations go to the guy on T.V. sticking it to the man, not the guy offering opinions to the Globe & Mail’s Lifestyle Section reporter.
“The other problem with answering questions is that reporters tend to be interested in facts. Facts, ladies and gentlemen, really get in the way of a media campaign. For example, look at our European brothers and sisters’ efforts to ban the Canadian seal hunt. They had the ultimate media campaign complete with celebrity spokespeople and shaky handheld video of sealers clubbing cute, furry creatures. The crowning touch was a close-up shot of a cute baby seal. When the reporters starting asking the protestors about the fact that Canadian law bans the killing of baby seals, do you know what the protestors did? They shut up! Instead of facing the facts, these protesting geniuses managed to get hundreds of hours of free media.
“Those were the good old days, back before 2008, when protests had unlimited budgets. Nowadays, raising donations is increasingly difficult, forcing us to come up with more cost effective means.
“By far the most effective modern protest to date was orchestrated by San Francisco’s Corporate Ethics International. This group managed to raise millions without sending a single person out to freezing ice flows, recruiting a single celebrity or, you know, having to go outside and stuff.
“With virtually no overhead, CEI got some oily bird photos, avoided the extra work of research by using fact-like-sounding numbers and cooked up a splashy television and billboard campaign. Instead of targeting Alberta’s oil sands directly, the campaign urged Americans to boycott Alberta as a travel destination. The result was virtually thousands of hours of free media in Alberta and across Canada. So what if a hundreds of poorly paid service industry workers get thrown out of work? CEI managed to maximize profits, er, donations without paying for any labour.
“The outsourcing of protestors, downsizing of operations and maximization of profits – that’s the future of the protesting industry.
“At least until people start protesting us.”