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[UPDATED 20051008]
02 Oct 2005 by Simon W. Moon

The Anti-War Demonstration in DC
It was here and I was here so I figured that I may as well go and see what the hubbub was about. There's an off chance that it'd make some history and I wanted to say that I was there. I went w/ a press pass, jacket and tie, so I stood out from much the crowd. If you've wandered the streets of DC you know that a jacket and tie rarely make one stand out. However, it was a rare day.

The Press 'Pressing'
Why they say "The Press"

The demonstration was primarily organized by two different groups, the United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER). Apparently, these two groups have a history of antipathy toward one another. Take for example excerpts from this article in the SF Chronicle:

War protests make for strange bedfellows
... national anti-war leaders ... are trying to deal with one of the questions they've heard from both moderate suburbanites and conservative critics:
Is the movement too far left?
... the two main groups ... signed a three-page agreement covering everything from who will hold the lead parade banner to how big protesters' placards can be ...
... the pact ... also says, "Between now and the end of the demonstration on Sept. 24, each coalition agrees not to attack the other coalition."
... ANSWER insisted on ground rules for Saturday's demonstration allowing signage linking the Iraq war to "the colonial occupation of Palestine, the occupation of Haiti and other anti-imperialist positions."

[UFPJ] signage [focused] solely on the war.
"There's a feeling among some of our members that some of the more vocal people at these rallies are part of the far left and not representative of most Americans." "But this is such an important moment in history that we wanted to support the events."

[--Tom Matzzie, director of MoveOn.org]
"Support for the anti-war message is so important that we are willing to participate in a demonstration with others whose views we find obnoxious."
[-- Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine and a scheduled speaker for the 09-25 interfaith service]


I need one of those cool boom mikes
Sheehan and Jackson being Pressed.

Reuters went so far as to refer to two separate demonstrations:
Anti-IMF, anti-war protests coincide in Washington
Anti-globalization protesters will again descend on the U.S. capital this week to demonstrate against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, but this time they'll have to share the streets with anti-war activists.


Iran Already
One of the signs that caught my eye

The Rainbow Family's barefoot and angry spectrum was there of course. That's to be expected. But what I found more interesting were the numerous middle-America looking families- a mom and a dad replete w/ umbrella, water bottles and perhaps a couple of folding chairs with a kid in a stroller and a grade school tagalong- and the veterans from Korea and WWII and other folks of their age group for whom an all-day outdoor event was a commitment and a test of will and preparation. Surely, these folks weren't from the ANSWER crowd.

Then there was a plethora of journalists of various sorts from around the world. At various points, I stood next to a camera man from Japan, a South American TV crew, a Middle Eastern TV crew who held out some hope about a rumor that George Galloway spoke Arabic. [No sugar for that crotchety old bugger's porridge I'm sure.]

The event was everything I hate about bumpersticker logic combined with everything I ever hated about pep-rallies. I heard no informative speeches there. I saw no useful information being dispersed. I did hear lots and lots of sloganeering and saw a number of socialist/conspiracist tracts and rags. I left just before 1400 local time. The only newsworthy thing was that there were so many people there. That's it. There were no money quotes to be garnered, there were no groundbreaking actions to be covered all that there was was a whole hell of a lot of folks. Many more of them of suburbanite appearnce than I expected.

Last I heard, the estimate was 150,000 folks suffered (to various degrees) through that sea of hogwash to demonstrate that they held serious objections to our exceptionally expensive social-engineering experiment we've been conducting halfway 'round the world.

I learned a number of real-world lessons. I'll share a couple here.

Basicaly all that the demonstration was about was a show of power (of sorts). The rally wasn't a teach-in or some sort of informative event, it was purely a show of how much support the ant-war sentiment could draw. The rally took place on the elipse and the march was in and around the White House area of DC. The entire goal was to see how many folks could be persuaded to show up. Then there was an attempt to keep them entertained for the duration of the process. That was that for the demonstration. Pure politics crude and simple.

I also realized that I covered the event all wrong. I failed to cover the story "on its own terms." I've got to go back and re-examine the teachings of the irreverent master . The next outdoor event I'll cover geared out as a participant rather than as a spectator.

Cynthia Sheehan
Sheehan

[UPDATE 1003 Photos added]
[UPDATE 1008 Coding]
25 Sep 2005 by Simon W. Moon

Whence and Why 'Irrationally Informed'?
Debunking the Myth of Sheeple

A favored meme among some students of politics, intelligentsia (pseudo and otherwise), and various conspiracists, is the idea that the majority of folks belong to a sub-group of humans (which almost always manages to successfully exclude the present company) who are easily misled. The theory often is that this tendency to be more easily misled is why the various unwashed masses have not come 'round to realizing the "painfully obvious" truths being averred by the particular proponents of the sheeple meme.

The meme necessarily implies a misleader of some sort- the Illuminati, the Bilderbergers, the politicians , the Reptilians, or the Mainstream Media. While it's true that there are any number of entities in the world who seek to mislead folks and it's true that there are, (almost by definition), folks who are more easily misled than others, the idea that most folks are inherently more gullible than the assorted multitudes of the sheeple meme proponents is bunkum. The sheer volume of sheeple proponents and the fact that many of these people who're pushing the idea of this underclass of humans are themselves laboring under misapprehensions acquired through being misled, rule out this possibility for most pragmatic intents and purposes.

Nor is it such that there must necessarily be a hidden force (or forces acting in occult collusion) to cause the wide spread dissemination of erroneous beliefs or to prevent the widespread acceptance of various truths.

What is often at work in cases where there appear to be large groups of people who are misled or mistaken in one fashion or another is not so much the existence of a sub-group of folks who are more easily misled than others so much as it is the result of busy people living in a complex world. A term that allows for some constructive understanding of the phenomena is ' rational ignorance'.

Many of us are just way too busy making a living, raising children, etc to spend enough time wading though voluminous NGO and governmental reports, spending bills, news accounts etc to "find the facts" or get to "the real story" in every instance. There's only so much time in a day and we have to spend at least some of that time performing the more mundane activities of human existence- eating sleeping, getting rid of food once it's been eaten, etc. In addition to these there're the requirements of work, family and social lives that impinge on our ability to absorb relevant information. Then, there's just the plain old wanting to. Many very informative items are just not that interesting. CSPAN is a case in point. Chock full of governmental goings on that have potential impacts on the lives of the electorate, yet it induces fits of yawning in many subjects.

Rational ignorance is the greatest single threat to democracies and republics everywhere.

Basically, it is much more advantageous for a select group to educate themselves, form a PAC and lobby a legislature or a governmental executive than it is for the average member of the electorate to oppose them. What this means in practical application is that as far as the X lobby is concerned, it's well worth their time and effort to spend hundreds or thousands of man hours and tens of thousands of dollars to lobby a legislature. To the X industry, their lobbying efforts have the potential to produce rewards well in excess of what was expended. However, to the average member of the electorate, the costs of taking the steps necessary to counter-act the X lobby's efforts far outweigh the costs of ignoring the X lobby's efforts.
Perhaps the X PAC's efforts enable an extra ten cents to the price of item X, maybe by putting a tariff on imported versions. A relatively small cost on the part of the average consumer. However, when that extra ten cents is accrued by the members of the X industry, the increase in profits may well outweigh what it took to acquire acquiescence from the governmental body that was lobbied.
In some cases, lobbyists even go so far as to write bills for legislators to submit to their legislatures.

These phenomena have impacts and implications that exceed merely additional expenses for US consumers. they effect all aspects of governmental policy from local zoning regulations to foreign policy. Committed and funded groups of foreign nationals and recent immigrants have played formative roles in US foreign policy.

Whatever the will of the American electorate as a whole is, was or would have been is rendered moot in these instances where the interests of a small group has been able to bring influence to bear at certain precisely chosen leverage points of the legislative and executive branches of our governments. For those who take to heart the idea that the just powers of government are derived from the consent of the electorate, this is a disturbing state of affairs.

Rational ignorance is what allows governments local and national enact policy and legislation that runs counter to the interests of the electorate as a whole. It fall upon those of us with either a taste or talent for it to undermine the rationality of ignorance where possible.

This is the foundation for the title of this humble blog, Irrationally Informed. The Irrationally Informed crew have endeavored to become informed to a degree that outstrips the relatively slim chance of accruing a benefit that will match or outweigh the expense of time, effort and money.

My friends, welcome to Irrationally Informed featuring Simon W. Moon.



24 Sep 2005 by Simon W. Moon

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