July 17th, 2010

forums, me, non blog

[FORUM] Is the mass street protest dead? If so, what's next?

One of the most unimpressive elements of the local opposition to the recent G20 protests in Toronto were the protests, fragmented along different single-issue lines without having much to do in common with each other and decentralized to the point where some leaders accepted a "diversity in tactics" that apparently accommodated the Black Bloc types.

I don't think that any of the single protest groups convinced anyone. Even if the Black Bloc hadn't been there to complicate things with its violence, I've a sneaking suspicion that the different groups might not have made many converts among local Torontonians, who by and large don't share deeply in the specific concerns that prompted people to march by the thousands. Without any reason to care, particularly or personally, about fairly abstract issues like global poverty, I wonder if the protesters might have been representing themselves to themselves, if the marches were more demonstration of in-group solidarity than not.

Thoughts? Is the mass street protest fundamentally limited as a vehicle for engineering social change, to occasions where a general pressing need is felt? Or am I being (as I worry) cynical and quietist?