Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Chicago '68 Revisited 

Eric Alterman showcases a Nation article by Todd Gitlin and John Passacantando:
As thousands of Republicans gather to nominate Bush for re-election, and as many more protesters--perhaps fifty times more--gather to express themselves against the damage Bush is doing, Americans of all stripes will be watching. Fair-minded people can understand dignified opposition even when they disagree with it. Rage in the streets is something else altogether. Protesters who spell "Bush" with a swastika, who smash windows, fight the police or try to block Manhattan commuters might as well stay home and send their contributions to the Republicans.

It is, or ought to be, so obvious that violence and chaos in the streets works to Bush's advantage that not a few oppositionists worry about the Republicans planting their own provocateurs in the protest. Such a scenario is not farfetched. Provocateurs know some history, too. They know that disciplined handfuls can start riots amid turmoil. In 1968 a substantial number of the toughs who surged through the Chicago streets, inciting the police to riot, were later revealed to be police and intelligence agents. They urged violent actions, pulled down American flags, led taunts and otherwise triggered police attacks. Afterward, demonstrators exulted, equating their seduction of the cameras with victory. But most spectators who watched the clashes on TV sided with the police. Richard Nixon's people knew what use to make of the footage. They strengthened their hold over the law-and-order vote . . . .

Now, in a precarious time, every force in America is being tested. The Bush Administration plainly flunks. The Bloomberg administration has proved its small-mindedness. But we who oppose Bush face our own tests. If, as the whole world watches, rioters hijack the protest, the fine intentions of millions will have been canceled by the behavior of a few. Let dissent with dignity win the day and let us get on with a more perfect chapter of American history.
Also at Altercation: if you've been wondering how or whether well-known anarchist Ursula K. LeGuin is planning to vote, just click on the above link and scroll down.

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