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"The conventional view of power is that it is something some people have and others don't. Power resides in soldiers, authority, ownership of wealth, and institutions. The nonviolent theory of power is essentially different: rather than seeing power as something possessed, it argues that power is a dynamic social relation. Power depends on continuing obedience. When people refuse to obey rulers, the rulers' power begins to crumble"

"Nonviolent action is not simply any method of action which is not violent. Broadly speaking, it means taking action that goes beyond normal institutionalized political methods (voting, lobbying, letter writing, verbal expression) without injuring opponents"

- Bob Irwin and Gordon Faisal - Why Non-Violence? - Introduction to Theory and Strategy

Many of us have become increasingly frustrated and anguished about how our opposition to this administration's policies and concerns about the state of our nation has been blocked from public view and discussion.  Despite well attended mass marches, our views in letters and articles in the media and on television have been under-reported or outright ignored and disparaged.  Even the objections of our leaders have been drowned out or watered down.  In denying coverage to our dissent and the reasons for it, the current establishment are in effect limiting the public's opportunity to know the scope, rationale and nature of our opposition and importantly, to be changed by it. It is clear that we must solve this problem if we are to reach the hearts and minds necessary to bring our country to a new direction. I do not see this as the task of our formally elected leaders or of just the Democrats per se.  This must come from US, the people, from the grass-roots - the source of all real and legitimate power.  I believe that the theory of non-violent citizen action can help us spark new ideas and approaches to increase the power and effectiveness of our opposition.

"The typical structural conditions leading to resort to nonviolent struggle are that more conventional political and legal channels appear blocked, yet people are unwilling to abandon their goals...It does not rely on the good will of the opponent but instead is designed to work in the face of determined opposition or violent repression." Ibid

According to Irwin and Faisal (see link above), who are the source for much of this diary, there are three main forms to non-violent action: 1) protest and persuasion, 2) non-cooperation and 3) intervention.  For a complete discussion of all the forms, please read the provided link.  

I am focusing on non-cooperation, which according to the authors, is used when in the face of institutional injustice, people "choose not to behave normally" or to "obey" by not buying, paying, withholding payment and other civil disobedience including draft resistance. In my opinion, economic non-cooperation provides intriguing possibilities to empower and energize our opposition if we can identify the right target consumer goods or services and if we can be flexible and creative in implementing this in combination with other forms of opposition.

Nonviolent economic non-cooperation has been successful in transforming society here in the US as well as across the rest of the world. Economic opposition to the Stamp Act in 1765 was followed by the Boston Tea Party and culminated in independence for the United States. The non-violent economic boycotts used by Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement, Caesar Chavez' economic boycott of non-union grapes and economic boycott of South Africa spearheaded by Nelson Mandela were all successful non-violent economic non-cooperation.   They not only improved the lives of all citizens but built their strength and social/political awareness.

It is my belief that economic non-cooperation can provide us with a strong lever to accomplish the impact that we seek. It seems particularly suited to the peculiarities of this period when our political, media and social institutions have become insensitive to other forms of opposition but are exquisitely influenced by financial and consumer behaviors that control their life's blood - money. The potential power of such an economic boycott was demonstrated recently in the successful action against Sinclair Broadcasting during the election.  Our action cost Sinclair millions and resulted in desired change of behavior by the entity. Imagine the impact of several Sinclairs and the message that it would send.

I believe that we could and should use a variety of approaches targeting multiple products with overt links to our target issue/s.  Our tactics could be highly decentralized, arising from local, grass roots pods using low tech methods including word of mouth.  As supported by the response, actions could be expanded to include several regions at a time and ultimately across the nation, but a national level of organization would not be necessary to begin.  This decentralized strategy would make it difficult to stop or to hold one leader responsible but would allow for energy and information to disseminate locally to capture more participants.  As with all such actions, persistence and resilience would be necessary - this is not a quick fix in-and-out strategy but a sustained means to increase awareness of, cohesion within and social identity for our opposition.

I am very interested in hearing your reaction and getting your ideas on ways and means to do this and if you think that it can or should be done.  Without a doubt, there is much that needs to be organized. This includes identifying the targets such as the war, social security or other high impact issues and the selection of the right target products and services.  One slogan for the action occurs to me: DON"T BUY IT! (The products or the lies and corruption too)

There will also be downsides to this proposed action.  An effective buyer's boycott will surely elicit aggressive attacks labeling our actions as "anti-American" and that we want to destroy the American economy.  However, to mitigate the impact of the action, the opposition will have to pay or buy the targeted services or goods to negate our effect - so either way it costs the opposition, whether directly or indirectly. We must also remember, nonviolent economic action is like war - "a means of waging conflict. It requires a willingness to take risks and bear suffering without retaliation. On the most fundamental level, it is a means by which people discover their social power".

What do you think, fellow Kossites?

Originally posted to SwimmertoFreedom04 on Wed Feb 09, 2005 at 05:19 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Target O'Reilly Factor (none)
    The secret to making the action work, I think, is to make it very specific.  Also, make the outcome very desirable.  Like with Sinclair action, we need to be able to see our efforts pay off.  Visibility to all is important.

    Since I saw "Outfoxed" a couple of weeks ago, I've been noodling this thought (modeled on the Sinclair Broadcasting action taken successfully last fall):

    Phone/write/meet with businesses purchasing advertising during the airtime of O'Reilly Factor.  Ask them to consider moving their advertising budget to some other show, because O-R Factor traffics in hate messaging, inaccuracies, disrespect of others' views.  Basically, O-R Factor is modeling abusive language and treatment. [Underlying framing is "bad dad, wife-beater"]  Stress that their business is above sponsoring this kind of abusive messaging.

    Start local, spread virally.  Keep the focus on O-R Factor only.  Yes, there are many other hatemongers out there, Rush, Hannity, etc., but the point is to choose ONE BIG ONE. We're not trying to shut up the big mouth through censorship.  We're activating community norms and values. We're asking advertisers to be responsible in their choices of what kind of public discourse they sponsor with their (and, by extension, our) dollars.

    If a business is non-responsive, then it moves to non-violent picketing.  Will get more visibility.  We picket companies with unfair labor extension, we picket companies/businesses with bad advertising choices.


    •  I like this (none)
      ---high visibility in some ways but not others but certainly could pack a punch - which is what we want. Next steps?  Develop a pod to do this...Anyone can start it but I think that whoever does has to begin with people in his/her sphere.  Locally, you could find your people and then meet.  DFA is another avenue.

      As you can see, this is still forming and evolving. My hope is a decentralized tactic that allows maximum flexibility but still retains some cohesion with a stated goal - We need plenty of ideas on tactics and strategies....

      Dreaming of clear streams, clear skies and our hearts clear and free from hate...

      by SwimmertoFreedom04 on Wed Feb 09, 2005 at 05:50:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I like this... (none)
      I commented later down the chain and one of my suggestions was FOX News, but it's obviously too big to take on. O'Reilly, on the other hand seems doable. Especially given his loofah screw ups, etc...:-)

      I've got a take down of his 'Price of Freedom' Essay here if you want to take a gander. He really is everything that's obnoxious about the hard right. Taking him out would be a pleasure. Good suggestion.

  •  Direct Action (4.00)
    I have a long background in community organizing using the principles of non-violent direct action.  These techniques can be used for anything from antiwar action to fighting redlining and utility rate increases.  In my experience, the thing to recognize about boycotts is that they are a long-term tactic, the product being boycotted nees to be something that people can easily do without or that has easily acquired substitutes.  Otherwise a boycott tends to break down after a while.

    The keys to successful direct action organiziing are set out in Saul Alinsky"s Rules for Radicals, drawn from his 40 years of community organizing, as the Rules of Tactics:

    1 ) Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.

    2 ) Never go outside the experience of your people. It may result in confusion, fear and retreat.

    3 ) Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear and retreat.

    4 ) Make the enemy live up to his/her own book of rules.

    5 ) Ridicule is man's most potent weapon.

    6 ) A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.

    7 ) A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.

    8 ) Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.

    9 ) The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.

    10 ) The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.

    11 ) If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside.

    12 ) The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.

    13 ) Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.

    I've been discussing these ideas at some length in my series, Talkin' Organizing, over at Liberal Street Fight.  Here are a couple of the posts:

    Vol II

    Vol III

    •  These are great.... (none)
      --but how do we enact this practically? I am less mired to rules than to a workable, flexible and decentralized approach.  I expect to get outside of the experience of my people...most don't know anything about opposing stuff - they are shy and hesitant to take "the establishment" on.  We have to work through that...

      Dreaming of clear streams, clear skies and our hearts clear and free from hate...

      by SwimmertoFreedom04 on Wed Feb 09, 2005 at 05:53:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Fuck that (none)
      I'm punching somebody.

      hinky dink

    •  The difficulty is that (none)
      ---this is difficult to implement in the sense that you have to have real motivation.  Secretly, I am concerned that most people don't think that things are bad enough to deprive themselves of anything as an expression of outrage.  In Poland's Solidarity period, they were on their last legs and felt that they had nothing to lose.  For us, maybe not so --- yet.  I'll keep mulling this and will also check out your diaries and comment and question if you don't mind.  It is hard though - very hard.

      Thanks for your support!

      Dreaming of clear streams, clear skies and our hearts clear and free from hate...

      by SwimmertoFreedom04 on Wed Feb 09, 2005 at 06:18:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think... (none)'s a great idea, but the devil will certainly be in the details one of the most important of which will be choosing the target. This has to be something which we can successfully boycott (is vulnerable) and whose targeting contains in and of itself a progressive message that will not need extensive explanation.

    A short list of possibilities:

    a) Wal-Mart --

    Advantage of this target: a variety of sins, contributing massively to the Republican party, screwing their workers with substandard wages (even using the welfare system to offset their lousy wages and non-existent healthcare plans), and demanding their vendors outsource so they can drive their own costs down.

    Disadvantage of this target: Poor people actually buy stuff there for the obvious reason that it's so cheap. Something of a vicious cycle.

    For my money, so to speak, it's still the best target, but we'll need to think about how to offer residual support to blue poor folks who will be left out in the cold with the boycott.

    b) FOX NEWS (advertisers?)

    Advantage of this target: sins to numerous to mention in terms of toting Rightwing's water, visceral appeal for all good blue kids. Propaganda coup for a victory would be wildly fruitful.

    Disadvantage of this target: how effective would it really be? Can we even begin to think about crippling FOX News whose life support is ultimately Murdoch's media empire? Rupert will die before he sees FOX crash and burn.

    c) Sinclair (redux)

    Advantage of this target:
    We know it can be done. Furthermore, these guys are to the right of FOX even.

    Disadvantage: been there, done that. It might be hard to rally the troops. Advertisers might just get tired of these Kos kids crying wolf all the time and ignore us...ouch.

    d) Exxon

    Advantage: Low level boycott already begun, we can piggy back off the efforts of environmentalists still outraged over Valdez and Exxon's other sins. If we can put Exxon away, a great propaganda coup.

    Disadvantage: Needs to be coupled with blue state activism. In other words, we need to get back on the environmental backwagon again. Something that does not seem to be catching fire.

    Of all these, the last now actually seems more probable because the disadvantages are not nearly so bad as the other ones. Exxon has a lousy track record. They fucked up Alaska. Targeting them should be as easy as never buying Exxon. The only thing we need to make clear is that backing off of oil companies (that pollute and add to Global Warming, to boot) and looking for alternative energy sources (i.e., screw Exxon)is infinitely more patriotic than pouring billions into subsidies for Nuclear energy, or ANWAR drilling etc...

    Other thoughts? suggestions?

    •  Yes (none)
      ---but again, Murdoch would have to pay a lot of money to keep his Fox News intact if we staged this would cost him as it did Sinclair.  The idea is to put them on the defensive and assert OUR power. We don't necessarily have to ruin them - just make 'em hurt and get the attention of the stock market and then by extension, the media. This can be coupled with local information sharing - why are we doing this - what are facts that most people don't have...we keep the pot boiling and Fox and others off balance.  It also warns the other wannabe networks - "you could be next"...

      Dreaming of clear streams, clear skies and our hearts clear and free from hate...

      by SwimmertoFreedom04 on Wed Feb 09, 2005 at 05:59:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  What about the O'Reilly Suggestion... (none)
        ...upstream...? Now that I mull it over, seems as if there are two possibilities here. If we take out Bill, which seems doable (he already seems vulnerable) it might work, but would it be as effective, message wise, as taking on FOX News? The problem with FOX is that it masquerades as News. Clearly labeling it as a propaganda vehicle may be more important and more useful ultimately than taking out Bill. I think most folks--even on the right --are well aware that Bill is just a mouth piece. If we go after Bill, why not go after the Moby Dick of all Right blowhards... Rush?

        Ultimately, I think taking on FOX NEWS qua NEWs may be the most effective tactic... That means figuring out who advertises, in which markets, and then going after them that way, right? In addition perhaps we start a campaign to get all restaraunts/bars ... that keep the channel on constantly to turn it off. We call it the OUTFOX campaign or something...your thoughts...?

        •  I like it very much (none)
          ---you are right....need to do some research but am pretty much in agreement. Will get back in separate diary to provide possible targets...

          Also, just so you know, if the war was a target issue - link on the Peroni corporation - they are contractors involved in over 200 milliion dollars worth of investment in Iraq.  Coincidentally they also built a number of resorts and casinos...more later.


          Dreaming of clear streams, clear skies and our hearts clear and free from hate...

          by SwimmertoFreedom04 on Wed Feb 09, 2005 at 06:27:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

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