Political Animal


September 14, 2012 2:56 PM Protesters and Their “Message”

By Ed Kilgore

While watching the events unfold in the Muslim world and beyond today (check out this handy explanatory map charting all the disturbances, via Aljazeera), I kept wondering how many of the protesters were actually protesting what their leaders said they were protesting?

I recall participating (as a member of the High School Mobilization Committee To End the War in Vietnam) in a demonstration in Atlanta in 1970 targeting the appearance of Vice President Spiro Agnew at a downtown Republican fundraiser. As we began marching around the Marriott, the ever-resourceful Trots of the Young Socialist Alliance (the youth wing of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party) deployed Viet Cong flags at both ends of the column, along with bullhorns held by their sparse but well-organized comrades who drowned out the peaceniks trying to sing “Give Peace a Chance” with such catchy chants as Ho, Ho, Ho-Chi-Minh! The NLF is gonna win! Presto change-o, a crowd of a few hundred middle-class antiwar kids was transformed into a disciplined cadre of dedicated Marxist-Leninists.

I suspect there’s some of that dynamic occurring today.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Speed on September 14, 2012 3:13 PM:

    The Socialist Workers Party and its rival the American Communist Party were both targets for infiltration by one Lee Harvey Oswald, probably on behalf of the FBI.

    Lots of false flag actors, agents provocateur, and informants in the history of the last 60 years or so. Americans should learn more about NATO's Operation Gladio in Europe.

  • neil b on September 14, 2012 3:24 PM:

    I wonder how many of those supposedly leftist demonstrations etc. were actually false-flag events designed to discredit bourgeois Eugene McCarthy followers just saying, negotiate and bring the boys home?

  • c u n d gulag on September 14, 2012 3:41 PM:

    Ratf*ckers aren't exclusively American.

    History if full of ratf*ckers whose purpose is not the same as the people around them.
    They either have their own agenda's, or agenda's for others who are in, or want, power.

  • emjayay on September 14, 2012 3:45 PM:

    Or in this particular case it's maybe a whole ball of anti-modernity, religious fundamentalism, medievalism, anti-western resentment and jealosy, status-quoism (ie. women must stay in their totally subservient role to men) and on and on that is conveniently focussed by the (I think this is a right wing term, sorry) Islamofascist leaders on this film no one has seen or will ever see, in order to do what they were planning to do anyway.

  • Joe Buck on September 14, 2012 3:48 PM:

    I've listened to some coverage of the protests from Arab reporters on the ground, and it seems that the blasphemous film is just a trigger for all of the built-up resentment against the US. For example, in Yemen, the real issue that has people pissed off at teh US is the drone strikes, which have killed a lot of civilians, and also some nonviolent activists who oppose Yemen's government (which then tells the Americans that the activists are al Qaeda). And the Libyan assassination looks like it was pre-planned and the demonstrations provided a convenient cover.

  • Mitch on September 14, 2012 3:54 PM:

    As always Gulag hits the nail on the head.

    Ratf*ckers will ALWAYS manipulate others. The easiest way to get what you want is to convince others to fight for it in your stead. If the others think they are fighting for something else, then so much the better.

    Kinda like how my Fundamentalist family thinks they are fighting for American/Christian values by supporting the GOP, when they are actually fighting for corporate welfare and tax breaks for those who worship Mammon.

  • Bob M on September 14, 2012 4:07 PM:

    Great point. But I wonder what would happen if pro-American demonstrators tried a counter-protest. At least the Trots didn't shoot people (though, Lord knows, they had their lists ready for the Revolution.)

  • @TeaPartyCat on September 14, 2012 4:20 PM:

    I'm sure those Trotskyites weren't COINTELPRO either.

  • dervin on September 14, 2012 4:35 PM:

    Here's why this is the second day of Riots, if they know enough about the film, then they know enough about the killings and violence. They are choosing to take part in this with the full expectation of violence.

  • Rand Careaga on September 14, 2012 5:08 PM:

    @ Bob M: I was slightly acquainted with some YSA types about four decades ago. One in particular sincerely believed that (1) the Revolution was imminent and (2) on that day and going forward he, Henry C., would be in a position to have people shot. He warned me on more than one occasion that he would personally see to it that I went up against the wall after the people's victory. I wasn't particularly worried, since his shit list was so lengthy (he was a lot of fun at parties) that there'd be plenty of time for me to head for the tall grass before he reached my name.

  • Mitch on September 14, 2012 5:12 PM:


    There are certainly many people who fit that description, but not everyone at the protests is playing a part in the destruction. This picture says a thousand words:


    Those who ARE committing the violence, however, are responsible for their own behavior. No amount of provocation (by "offensive" videos) or manipulation (by those who seek to profit from the chaos) excuses violence, destruction and murder.

  • emjayay on September 14, 2012 6:56 PM:

    Here's the really big gross generalization picture:

    The Muslim world never went through the Reformation, where half the people went more modern and less corrupt and started to get religion to be separate from government. Resulting in the Council of Trent, where the remaining half got a bit more modern itself. Followed by the Enlightenment, a very secular and rationality and unmagically based way of thinking. Which spawned our country. Lots of killing and revolutions and world wars and genocides and things along the way.

    Somehow, the Middle East/Muslim world stayed stuck in some time warp of a millenium or more ago. Today they love their cell phones and HDTV's and internet and Toyotas and Range Rovers, but they are going beserk over the rest. They will keep going beserk until they actually join the modern club.

    Dog bites man, not news. Middle Eastern Muslims yell about Death to America and burn stuff down and kill some of us, also not news. In the really big picture.

  • Harold Maxwell on September 14, 2012 7:45 PM:

    Let us not forget that the NLF and Uncle Ho did in fact win. A whole lot of the psycho-crazy right wing politics we have today can be traced to the exposure of America's vulnerability in Vietnam.

  • markg8 on September 14, 2012 8:14 PM:

    emjayay Egyptians consider themselves a proud old civilized country that has been made subservient, colonized, and impoverished by stronger powers for decades, if not centuries. In their eyes we propped up Mubarek's government til the very end and subsidized his government with $3 billion every year since Cairo made peace with Israel which he spent a large chunk on to suppress opposition and keep himself in power. The IMF came in years ago and lent money to raise education levels which is all well and good but without natural resources or other investment it's now a country with more educated people who still can't find work. One of the last straws that sparked the Arab Spring was the price of wheat. Two summers ago Russia, the third largest exporter of wheat stopped all exports in the wake of their global warming drought induced fires that severely damaged their crop. That sent the price of wheat soaring, especially in poor net importing countries in the Arab world. Nothing much has changed since the revolution. While we here in the US are hurting in our relative prosperity during the Great Recession we don't take into account what the economic upheaval - and global warming is doing elsewhere.

  • Steve P on September 14, 2012 9:40 PM:

    Ah, the Trots. This one's for you, Ed.
    When one tried to sell me a copy of Workers Weekly on the street, I channeled Woody Allen and said no thanks--I subscribe!
    She was genuinely astounded. "You SUBSCRIBE? To WORKERS WEEKLY?"

  • yellowdog on September 14, 2012 11:19 PM:

    Good grief - Spiro Agnew... Ed, you do go back a way.

    Judged against modern Republicans, Agnew looks like Henry Clay.

  • emjayay on September 15, 2012 12:36 AM:

    markg8: Thanks for your response. It's what I was really trying in part to provoke - more particularly knowledgeable information. I'm sure that in each country there is a galaxy of more immediate issues. I was just trying to step back and contextualize in the really big picture.

  • markg8 on September 15, 2012 11:24 AM:

    emjayay Thanks for your comments. I'm going to read up on some of the things you mentioned in your first posts. BTW much of what I got in mine came form a Brookings commentator on NPR yesterday morning.

  • Rabbler on September 15, 2012 1:25 PM:

    You didn't have to be a Commie to chant that in 1970.In Madison, it was a favorite. Considering that the war was one for national liberation from colonial oppression, the chant was not inappropriate in the least.

  • Al B Tross on September 15, 2012 5:55 PM:

    Ever wonder if any petty-bouguoise liberals had more of a back bone, stood up for Workers and Peoples rights back then, we wouldn't have the Corporate-Fascist government we have today?

    Just sayin'.....