Extreme protests leave viewers unaffected, annoyed

By SpencerRoush

Activism can be carried out in many ways, from giving monthly donations to the National Rifle Association to someone strapping themselves to a tree to avoid its demolition.

If someone is willing to donate money in this struggling economy or face humiliation by chaining themselves to a piece of bark, they are an activist who truly cares for their cause.

Lately, it seems like there is an activism group for every cause imaginable.  For example, actor Woody Harrelson’s first effort was saving ants from crusty elementary school kids who enjoyed stepping on ant beds.

Because there are a plethora of groups that ask for donations or support, the causes often blur together. While walking down State Street on Columbia’s campus, within two blocks someone asks, “Do you have any time for the Earth today?” Another few steps down and a person asks, “Would you like to save an abused puppy?”

However, there are activists who don’t blend in with the rest of the crowd—extreme activists. These are radicals who count on turning heads and making a scene, like the newest activists to join the crowd on Columbia’s campus who hand out magazines with President Barak Obama sporting an Adolf Hitler mustache.

Anyone who watches Glenn Beck or listens to Rush Limbaugh understands why some consider Obama’s tactics to parallel Hitler’s, including his personal army, eliminating important people in new textbooks and having children pledge to Obama in school with creepy phrases and gestures.

These observations may deserve some discussion. However, the activists are burying the issue in the image of Obama’s face vandalized by a stigmatized mustache.  The image turns many people off immediately.

Instead of possibly having a valid point, these activists just look crazy and any passer-by will be sure to pretend-chat on their cell phone in order to avoid them.

Many other radical activist groups use similar tactics. Some shout profanities while others provide disturbing displays or graphics to persuade people to follow their cause.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals consistently use models and displays during protests for effect. PETA has been involved in many controversies since it was founded in 1980. The group is difficult to take seriously because of their radical activism, especially when they place a nearly naked model inside a cage of plastic to emulate packaged meat.

The models just look crazy, not like someone with a new perspective.

Pro-life groups commonly use this tactic when displaying pictures of aborted babies on signs. Some groups post the pictures on vans and drive them around cities.

Do the pictures of aborted babies really change the minds of supporters of pro-choice? Probably not. Instead, the pictures are disgusting, not motivating. It makes one question the sanity of the protestors.

According to the Pro-Life Action League’s Web site, being looked at as insane is exactly what they want when they carry their grotesque signs around. The action league considers the images as a reminder of the cause to the United States.

Their Web site reads: “If in the wake of our Truth Tours, a thousand conversations begin with ‘I saw a bunch of anti-abortion wackos today’ and end with a frank, and long overdue, discussion of abortion, we consider our image worth the sacrifice.”

Whether the conversation goes further than ‘I saw a bunch of wackos’ is doubtful. People have strong convictions about major social issues, such as abortion, and seeing radical protests probably won’t change the way they feel or how they vote.

Extremists will almost always be the activists at whom people laugh and whose motives are questioned. They will not be the people whom others join in protest. The extravagant displays and grotesque images dilute the meaning of the protest.

Their points may be valid or worth considering, but when it’s covered up by controversy, it’s nothing more than radicals who look ridiculous and annoy everyone around them.

Activists make a difference when they inform people by handing out literature and talk with others about their cause and why it’s important.