Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pie fight and bad faith

It's hard to have a civilized discussion when someone has just thrown a pie in your face.
The Olympics protestors are finding this out.
The Tyee seems to be just about the only press outlet reporting on the Olympic protest movement. The latest is that they tried to have a meeting on Wednesday to discuss next steps, when someone threw a pie in the face of BC Civil Liberties Union executive director David Elby.
I would imagine it highjacked the debate.
Elby, you see, had spoken out against Saturday's violence and this offended other protestors' sense of decorum and proper behaviour:
it violated an agreement -- tacit or not -- that no group should publicly criticize the actions of others.
Gee, isn't this exactly the kind of corporate orthodoxy and groupthink that the anti-Games protestors had found so objectionable about the Games themselves?
Oh, I know, when it comes to politics, any expectations of consistency are bound to be disappointed. But it seems that protest organizers are also frustrated by the difficulties of solidarity:
The divisions and anger created by Saturday's riotous protest threaten to destroy a social movement years in the making, [Chris Shaw] fears, and those types of marks don't come out easily in the wash. . . .
Many observers agree the past few years have seen a remarkable trend. A diverse collection of civil society actors, critical native voices and more-militant activists have united against the Games. In a city known for fractious politics, this was quite a feat, Shaw said.
But as the events of Wednesday evening showed, those alliances might be more fragile than they appeared. "I saw fractures starting to form again," Shaw said. "My hope was that we'd built a nascent civil/social justice movement that would last beyond the Games... Otherwise we're back to fighting our own lonely little battles."
This quote inadvertantly points out, I think, one of the basic problems in the anti-Olympic protest -- was it ever actually about the Olympics?
They convinced a lot of good people that the Games themselves were awful -- that it was impossible to negotiate any positive changes with the Games, they were too expensive, too elitist, too corporate, too objectionable.
But did the anti-Olympics protest leadership ever attempt to work in good faith with VANOC to improve the Games, to make them more socially and economically responsive?
Or was it bad faith from the beginning? Where they actually trying to hi-jack the international visibility of the Games to develop a political or ideological agenda?
If so, this was not only wrong, but doomed not to succeed -- however laudable these long-term social justice goals are, such bad faith would result in a gaping hole at the core of the anti-Games protest, a hollowness which was bound to be exposed.

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