Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2004]
National Anti-War Boycott
It doesn't really matter that everyone will be out spending what they didn't the next day — a point or two will have been made: Since our religious leaders will not speak out against the war in Iraq, since our political leaders don't have the moral courage to oppose it, Inauguration Day, Thursday,
On "Not One Damn Dime Day" those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a
On "Not One Damn Dime Day," please don't go to the mall or the local convenience store. Please don't buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter). For
"Not One Damn Dime Day" is to remind them, too, that they work for the people of the United States of America, not for the international corporations and
"Not One Damn Dime Day" is about supporting the troops. The politicians put the troops in harm's way. Now 1,200+ brave young Americans and (some estimated) 100,000 Iraqis have died. The politicians owe our troops a plan — a way to come home.
There's no rally to attend. No marching to do. No left or right wing agenda to rant about. On "Not One Damn Dime Day" you take action by doing nothing. You open your mouth by keeping your wallet closed. For
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Origins: Evaluating e-mails urging people to participate in some form of protest is always difficult, because (except in the rare cases where a hoax or a joke has been taken seriously) they can't be "true" or "false." The protests may succeed, fail, or achieve some intermediate result, but whether to participate is a matter of individual choice. We don't know who came up with the idea for the Not One Damn Dime! protest (it is often falsely attributed to newsman Bill Moyers) or what level of participation it might achieve; all we can do is offer an opinion about its likelihood of success. In this case our opinion is that someone has taken the futile concept of slacktivism to a new extreme.
Some protests are functional; they involve people taking direct action to achieve the desired result, such as chaining oneself to a tree to prevent its being cut down. Other protests are symbolic; they seek to inform the public or call attention to an issue through activities such as holding marches or making speeches. Sometimes protests are a combination of the two: chaining oneself to a tree is a functional but necessarily short-term solution, yet such an event is usually covered by the media and thus helps to publicize the cause of conservation.
So which form of protest is this supposed to be? Its ostensible purpose is a symbolic one — to "remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal" — which leaves us wondering how this form of protest is supposed to help effect any change in circumstances The merits and conduct of the U.S. war with Iraq have been endlessly debated, in every medium, since the U.S. invasion of Iraq nearly two years ago. The war in Iraq was the primary issue in a long, contentious, headline-dominating presidential campaign that ended just a few months ago. The war is still one of the lead stories in the news nearly every day. Many different polling organizations and major news outlets regularly survey public opinion on the issue. If the result desired by those who would engage in this protest hasn't yet been achieved, it's not because the issue hasn't received enough publicity or those "in power" are insufficiently aware of it.
All that aside, the suggested scheme is one of the least effective forms of symbolic protest one could devise: it literally proposes that people do nothing, and doing nothing generates little, if any, publicity or news coverage. Massing thousands of people in one place and engaging speakers to make rousing public speeches provide vivid, well-defined images for the news media to pick up on, but pictures of people not spending money just don't make compelling fodder for newspapers and television. (Images of normally bustling malls, restaurants, and airports standing eerily devoid of human traffic might make for a good news story, but public opinion on this issue is far too divided for this protest to be able to bring all business to a grinding halt.) Even worse, when you call upon people to do nothing, how is anyone supposed to gauge the success of your efforts? There's no way to distinguish those who are doing nothing out of principle from those who are simply doing nothing out of
As a functional protest, this one is equally off the mark. Although a boycott can be an active form of protest (even though boycott participants are in effect doing nothing, they're following a course of action that directly affects the object of their protest), boycotts succeed by causing economic harm to their targets, thereby putting them out of business or at least requiring them to change their policies in order to remain in business. But the target of this boycott isn't an entity that has the power to bring about the desired resolution (i.e., the government) — those who will be economically harmed by it are innocent business operators and their employees. These people have no power to set
Whether the desired goal is laudable or not, a protest that has little chance of succeeding at its purpose but a high likelihood of harming innocent parties does no one any good. As we always say about these kinds of things, results are generally proportional to effort: If the most effort one is willing to put into a cause is to do nothing, then one should expect to accomplish nothing in return.
Last updated: 14 January 2005
Graves, Rachel. "Inaugural Protest Ideas Sprout Across Internet." Houston Chronicle. 10 January 2005. Moscoso, Eunice. "Internet Campaign Urges Economic Boycott on Inauguration Day." The Palm Beach Post. 12 January 2005. Richmond, Alex. "Protesting? Do Something, Not Nothing." The Trentonian. 12 January 2005. Wilson, Craig. "On Jan. 20, War Protest Will Turn on a 'Dime'." USA Today. 13 January 2005 (p. D1)