Respectful Insolence

The stupidest protest idea ever?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The war in Iraq has to be the worst foreign policy mistake the U.S. has made in my lifetime. Certainly it’s the worst foreign policy mistake that I can remember (I wasn’t old enough to remember the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that got the U.S. more deeply involved in the fighting in Vietnam.)

That being said, though, this has to be the stupidest idea for a protest against the war that I have heard of in a very long time:

Hollywood stars Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon are to join a fast protesting against the Iraq war.
Protestors will each give up food for 24 hours, with the “rolling fast” due to last until International Peace Day on 21 September.

The protest has been organised by CodePink, a woman’s anti-war group who are concerned at the loss of life on both sides of the Iraq conflict.

Other celebrities due to take part include Willie Nelson and Danny Glover.

Around 150 protestors began the fast outside the White House on Tuesday morning, including leading anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son died in Iraq.

A “rolling fast”? What the hell is that? So each star will fast–be still my beating heart–ONE WHOLE DAY? Geez, Lindsay Lohan probably goes longer without food than that when getting ready for a role. Heck, I’ve gone longer than 24 hours without food on several occasions during my residency. (OK, it wasn’t willingly or planned, but it certainly didn’t do me much harm.) And who wants to bet that a few stars who could use to miss a meal or two won’t be participating?

One of the organizers even seems to think that this is a major sacrifice that will impress the American people:

“We have been continually sheltered from the actual cost of war from the beginning,” said Meredith Dearborn, of human rights group Global Exchange, explaining how anti-Iraq war protests have stuttered.

While 2,526 US soldiers have died since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to an AFP tally based on Pentagon figures, the impact of the deaths has rarely dominated headlines.

While it is not unusual to see an Iraq-war veteran or amputee in an airport for instance, or newspaper features on horrific injuries inflicted by roadside bombs in Iraq, the United States hardly feels like a nation at war.

Some protestors and experts in public opinion put that down to the absence of the Vietnam War style conscription draft, which means only professional soldiers or reservists can be sent off to war.

“We have done everything we could think of to end this war, we have protested, held marches, vigils … lobbied, written letters to Congress,” said Dearborn.

“Now it is time to bring the pain and suffering of war home. We are putting our bodies on the line for peace.”

Yeah, that’ll show ‘em. I’m sure Bush will be bringing the troops home long before September 21.

What I’d like to see is for these pampered stars to emulate a few of the more hard core protesters:

The hunger strike will see at least four activists, Sheehan, veteran comedian and peace campaigner Dick Gregory, former army colonel Ann Wright and environmental campaigner Diane Wilson launch serious, long-term fasts.

“I don’t know how long I can fast, but I am making this open-ended,” said Wilson.

Other supporters, including Penn, Sarandon, novelist Alice Walker and actor Danny Glover will join a ‘rolling” fast, a relay in which 2,700 activists pledge to refuse food for at least 24 hours, and then hand over to a comrade.

If you’re going to launch a hunger strike, then launch a hunger strike–like Wilson. Otherwise, don’t bother. After all, if you don’t take the concept of a hunger strike seriously enough to do an actual hunger strike, then why should anyone else take you seriously? I can see the right wing blogosphere practically salivating at the comic possibilities this “protest” offers.

Only in Hollywood…

(Hat tip to my sister, who sent me this!)

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Comments

  1. #1 Clueless
    July 5, 2006

    Well, Kollywood (the cinema industry from South India) had done Hollywood one better even in the 1980′s. The chief minister of the state of Tamilnadu, an estwhile matinee idol of Kollywood, decided to protest some actions of the central government of India and went on a much-publicized hunger strike from 9am-5pm one day. (I am not sure if a lunch break was included:-)) Of course, all local editorial cartoonists had a field day.

    Clueless.

  2. #2 M
    July 5, 2006

    I knew people at school who did 24 hour fasts for charity. It was a regular event, once a year – can’t remember now which charity was behind it. It was a 12 hour fast for younger kids, 24 hours for older. And of course when Ramadan fell in the summertime, because of being northerly there were people who were spending 14-odd hours without food everyday for a couple of weeks.

    Hollywood stars – can deprive themselves for about the asme amount of time as a 13 year old.

  3. #3 decrepitoldfool
    July 5, 2006

    I often fast for several hours at a time. I do it to protest the fact that my stomach is full, or that my blood sugar is at a steady level from having eaten in the last 4 hours. Or that I am sleeping and it is difficult to eat while sleeping.

    Any chance I could apply that to the war? You know, as a protest?

  4. #4 Roman Werpachowski
    July 5, 2006

    As a protest against stupid protest, I will fast from now on till my wife makes me dinner :)

  5. #5 CaptainMike
    July 5, 2006

    I’ve never understood why hunger strikes work.

    Protester: I’m going to go without food until you change your policies or I die!
    Government guy: ‘Kay. I’ll tell the coroner to keep some time free.

    I remember learning in public school history class that when Emma Goldman and her chums tried it, the government forced tubes down their throats and poured oatmeal down the tubes. A number of people died because the tube wound up in their lungs rather than their stomachs. A lot of effort could have been saved by simply letting them die on their own.

    Hunger strikers have always reminded me of children trying to coerce parents by holding their breath, with the added ridiculousness of being adults.

  6. #6 BigHeathenMike
    July 5, 2006

    From Patton Oswalt’s No Reason to Complain about his hatred for hippies and their useless protests:

    Hippy: “I know how we can stop the war – we’re gonna knit the world’s smallest pair of hemp pants, and put ‘em on a mouse, and hide the mouse in a cupboard. But which cupboard is it in, man?! People will be so busy thinkin’ about that, they won’t have time to go to war!”

    Celebrities need to just act in their little movies and keep their mouths closed about the important stuff. Does anyone take Sean Penn seriously? Man….

  7. #7 Greg P
    July 5, 2006

    Perhaps we can come up with some other grueling protests:

    * Staying in a Motel 6 in rural Arkansas for a weekend.
    * Not bathing for a week
    * Having a PortaPotty installed in the backyard
    * Drinking white wine with a filet mignon
    * Sunbathing without sun block

  8. #8 Evil Monkey
    July 5, 2006

    This actually isn’t the stupidest tactic I’ve ever heard. The effect of a rolling hunger strike will be to keep the issue in the news i.e. “and Danny Glover is fasting today… up tomorrow, Britney Spears’s fetus!”

    Unfortunately the media will focus on the people in the strike, not the reason they’re doing it.

  9. #9 Roman Werpachowski
    July 5, 2006

    Protester: I’m going to go without food until you change your policies or I die!
    Government guy: ‘Kay. I’ll tell the coroner to keep some time free.

    Surprisingly, even non-democratic governments do not *like* to come out as indifferent bastards. Margaret Thatcher was an exception ;-)

  10. #10 Grumpy Physicist
    July 5, 2006

    Yeah, it is a pretty dumb idea. Perhaps not as dumb as dousing themselves with gasoline and setting themselves on fire, but still dumb.

    What they *should* be doing is setting up concerts/comedy improvs/dramatic performances, with the proceeds going to anti-war candidates in the upcoming elections.

    But if all you want is an iota of publicity without having to work too hard..

  11. #11 Catherina
    July 5, 2006

    But what would you expect? That they starve themselves to death? People would still only talk about the celeb in question not what they are doing it (whatever “it”) for.

    Take it as a (not very innovative) sign of solidarity, it is *ok* for that purpose.

  12. #12 Jack Foy
    July 5, 2006

    It actually isn’t a crazy idea for a protest — Orac, you (as a Catholic) should be familiar with using a one-day fast as a personal act of witness. I agree that describing it as “putting [their] bodies on the line” is overblown and out-of-line.

  13. #13 Opiwan
    July 5, 2006

    Maybe they can do it on the campus of PCU instead and get co-opted into the protest which protests protestations!

    “WE’RE NOT GONNA PROTEST! WE’RE NOT GONNA PROTEST!”

    Now THAT would be the stupidest protest ever…

  14. #14 Emily
    July 5, 2006

    “Does anyone take Sean Penn seriously?”

    Yes. Sean Penn takes himself very, very, very seriously.

  15. #15 BigHeathenMike
    July 5, 2006

    True enough, Emily. True enough.

  16. #16 Roman Werpachowski
    July 6, 2006

    Yeah, it is a pretty dumb idea. Perhaps not as dumb as dousing themselves with gasoline and setting themselves on fire, but still dumb.

    I don’t think Jan Palach or Ryszard Siwiec deserve to be mocked of.

  17. #17 quork
    July 9, 2006

    My own idea for a stupid protest was to get some friends together and protest in favor of higher taxes.

  18. #18 christine
    July 20, 2006

    I agree with Roman. The sacrifice Ryszard Siwiec and Jan Palach made should NEVER be trivialized. Their names should never even enter the same conversation as other “protestors” like Sarandon and Penn.