Activists alienate the public
I have recently noticed a rebirth of activism on a scale that has not been seen since the 1960s.
According to the BBC, in 2003, six to 10 million people worldwide actively protested the war in Iraq, which was the largest protest in history.
While I welcome public participation in current events and call for a better world, I feel that many social movements harm their own credibility and ultimately their supportability by promoting or endorsing concepts and methods that range from humorous to disturbing.
Simplifying their message and dropping some of the more outlandish or extremist ideas would aid the way these movements are perceived and increase participation in them by the general public.
One of the most illustrative examples of this is environmentalism, which I would love to support but find it difficult to do in its current state.
While environmentalism has taken on a more mainstream appeal and has experienced corporate involvement – with movements that seek to diminish the use of plastic bags and packaging – the main problem is the extreme environmentalist demonstrations, which often alienate the public.
Take, for instance, the wave of airport protests in the U.K. on Dec. 8, 2008. According to the Guardian, a large group of environmental protesters broke into Stansted Airport and caused dozens of flights to be canceled. Around this time last year, a group called “Plane Stupid” barricaded the entrance to Southampton Airport and attempted to prevent people from entering.
There are similar examples of environmentalists blockading gas stations or parking lots all throughout Canada; I appeal to the environmental movement to stop, or at least distance themselves from protests like this.
Inconveniencing people does not win support, it just alienates the public and makes the whole movement look bad.
More recently, over-reactive protesting and public alienation came in the form of the anti-Olympic riots that focused on the violations of Native land claims by VANOC.
While watching the riots on TV, I was shocked at the random violence and property destruction.
While there are legitimate concerns, rioting doesn’t seem to be a good way of dealing with them.
In the end, it results in media coverage focused on the negative events instead of public education about the issue.
The most noble of movements can lose credibility or be undermined by a few bad decisions by a select group of people.
Therefore, it is important for all activist groups to promote a simple, united, clear message for the public that is not buried in syntax or associated with extremists.
The public, despite their flaws, are a largely reasonable people who will listen to a cause if its message is properly conveyed.