Civil Dissent: A Method of Persuasion?

Civil dissent is part of the United States history, and uses this method of persuasion to communicate value in the upholding of our civil rights, such as the First Amendment. Scholars, politicians, and government agents, at least on the surface, agree that citizens have the right to civil dissent where there is “conflict between the populace and the ruling power”, as defined by Oxford Dictionary. Bloggers are apt to be empathetic to activities involving civil dissent more so than corporate journalism, which relies on advertising.

Media uses persuasion to frame its own perspective; unfortunately, unbiased viewpoints are diminishing due to ownership by a few super-powers in the gigantic global media machine. As readers scan items, also as known as info snacking, the depth of research of pertinent issues, or what is real news versus entertainment, perhaps intentionally, gets left out or misrepresented in articles. As an element of persuasion, civil dissent can rapidly hit the downward slope to its own demise when the cause is lost to anarchic chaos.

This article focuses on three incidents located in the west coast cities of Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco. Many people reading this article do live or have lived in one, two or all three of these cities, as has this writer. This is a national election year and it also is an election year for the mayor in Portland. Recently there was an online article on Fox 12 Oregon, dated February 28, informing us about Tre Arrow’s decision to run for mayor in Portland. Tre Arrow, as some may know, is an advocate in environmental civil dissent.

In the Fox 12 article’s first sentence, Tre Arrow immediately was described as “a man once convicted of firebombing trucks at a logging company” and it was noted that he had “filed paperwork to run for mayor in Portland.” Tre Arrow’s employment and community service wouldn’t generate much support; however, I was inclined to continue reading.

What was more of a surprise than Tre’s decision to run was the stinging response to it by the other readers who posted comments. Fox is thought to be on the conservative side of reporting and naturally would attract a similar readership. Some may read an opposing or slightly different media viewpoint to gain insight, or to be annoyed with the content, and or at times to be sneeringly thrilled to not be on that side of the issues’ equation.

This writer was a little surprised by the comments posted following the Tre Arrow article. BadRooster stated in three posts: 1) “Look at that crazy eyed f… Somebody hit him with a fresh cut 2×4.” 2) “AHHHH the smell of fresh cut timber. I think I’ll go hug my Stihl and whip up some spotted owl hot wings.” 3) “Will someone take one for the team (real people) and get rid of this oxygen thief. Three more feet to the right and he would have nailed that stump and gone splat when he fell from that tree during that useless protest years ago. Too bad he’s not Tre Stain.” The least derisive comment was posted by mtdho who stated, in part: “He’s a narcissist. Don’t stroke his little ego by giving him attention.”

Another media portrayal of civil dissent is what occurred in Seattle in opposition to the World Trade Organization. These riots occurred downtown on November 30, 1999. It was only a matter of destiny that this writer had moved away that city only a few months before. While a resident in Seattle, I had completed a two-year commercial photography program and immediately thought, after seeing a Time magazine cover of the incident: I could have been there with my camera! It’s doubtful that getting as close to the situation as the photograph in the scene below illustrates really would’ve been that desirable.

Steve Kaiser Photograph/Seattle, WA, USA

Steve Kaiser Photograph/Seattle, WA, USA

Police officers fired pepper spray and rubber bullets into the huddled crowd. Protestors included environmentalists, labor unions, religious groups, and an anarchist group who formed what is called a black bloc. These protestors wear black clothing, ski masks, and motorcycle helmets to conceal and protect their identity. The black bloc was a part of the group who damaged property at Starbucks, the Gap, and Old Navy.

Another incident of civil dissent took place on July 8, 2005, in the charming city of San Francisco. The Anarchist Action group were in the streets and were in solidarity with those “marching in Gleneagle, Ireland” to protest the “G8 Summit that was going on at the time.” Josh Wolf is a political blogger and a videographer using freedom of press as a persuasive method to inform the public. His blog is The Revolution Will Be Televised.

Josh Wolf was covering the march that day in San Francisco when a policeman was injured and a police car burned as a basis for civil dissent. The protest is included in a four-part Frontline presentation, titled News War. (Link below; What’s Ahead, Part III, Chapter 7). Wolf videotaped the protest but he did not capture the injury of the policeman or of the police car burning. FBI agents would later want this videotape for evidence. Josh told the FBI agents that the videotape did not contain the incidents, and refused to testify in front of a Federal Grand Jury or hand over the videotape for a “fishing investigation.” Wolf was arrested and served time in the Federal Corrections Institute, in Dublin, California. Possibly his act of civil dissent was an effective, but high-risk method of persuasion.

Diva Livingston



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