What role mass protests (and movement politics) have in our decentralized, spontaneous, cell phone era is a conundrum for both the Radical Left and the Alt Right. Though naturally focused on various Marxist scholars’ analyses, this New Yorker piece is an instructive one for anyone thinking themselves part of what might be called the Alt Right vanguard (“Is There Any Point to Protesting?”)
One of the authors profiled cites as a paragon ‘success model’ (wherein optics were carefully orchestrated by vanguard leaders for maximum effect) the arrangement of a now-iconic incident:
Tufekci describes weeks of careful planning behind the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott, in 1955. That spring, a black fifteen-year-old named Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on a bus and was arrested. Today, though, relatively few people have heard of Claudette Colvin. Why? Drawing on an account by Jo Ann Robinson, Tufekci tells of the Montgomery N.A.A.C.P.’s shrewd process of auditioning icons. “Each time after an arrest on the bus system, organizations in Montgomery discussed whether this was the case around which to launch a campaign,” she writes. “They decided to keep waiting until the right moment with the right person.” Eventually, they found their star: an upstanding, middle-aged movement stalwart who could withstand a barrage of media scrutiny. This was Rosa Parks.
The piece has some other fascinating details about MLK’s March on Washington, which similarly involved careful planning and concern for optics.