Inactive Action: Political Protests in Austin
What can be said about a Trump protest that hasn’t already been covered? There was nothing really provocative about Austin’s attempt to show these Kim Davis look-alikes that they weren’t welcome. It had everything you’d expect at an Austin Trump counter protest; a low turn-out, a (possibly) unlicensed Trump merch stand, people of Wal-Mart thanking cops for their service, police chief Art Acevedo shaking their hands in return, about 4 ski masked anarchists, and 15 clowns. Okay, that last thing was unexpected, but not really. Their message, as I understand it, was to demonstrate that Trump is a joke and that his presence and his xenophobic discussion with Sean Hannity regarding immigration were unwelcome here.
They are correct in their assertion that he was a joke. I don’t see anyone laughing anymore. Bill Maher is one of many talking heads telling us that Trump is one terrorist attack away from the presidency. He is enabling racists and bigots into violence with impunity and the best response Austin can muster up is an underwhelming and embarrassing clown show. Furthermore, Infowars sent Owen Shroyer to interview them about specifically why they were against Trump and I’m sorry to say that their answers were vague and uninformed. I suppose that credit should be given where it’s due though. Showing up is better than not showing up, and granted, this wasn’t an official Trump rally. It was a live taping of an interview with Hannity followed by a benefit dinner with the usual suspects like Rick Perry and Dan Patrick. His appearance wasn’t really meant to draw out the hordes of local supporters, it was intended for network TV viewers in swing states and for Texan donors — the best direct contributors to his campaign. There’s no way he would waste time in Austin, let alone Texas, for a major speaking event this late in the game anyway. We’re not close enough to purple yet.
Nonetheless, the people of Wal-Mart were thirsty enough to drive in from surrounding Wal-Mart towns to visit the big city. Meanwhile, no one from any of the Pride events happening down the street could be bothered to walk a few blocks to protest against the same guy who said he would “strongly consider” appointing judges to overturn the same-sex marriage decision.
I suspect that Trump’s audience members felt pretty relaxed going in and out of the same theater where ACL Live is taped, regardless of a thin blue line between them and the protestors. They were heckling the clown protesters as they passed them by, but there wasn’t a lot of edge in the air. I really had to ponder if they actually felt so threatened that they were compelled into thanking police officers for their protection and service. No one should ever feel unsafe, but how can you expect these people to take their opposition seriously if it’s represented by a handful of clowns? What message can possibly be conveyed from someone in clown makeup yelling “go home racists?” That’s exactly what they’re about to do anyway. They’re on their way to the paid parking garage after they pick up their bootleg Melania T-shirt. I don’t think they’re going to Uchi for dinner after this. Their worldview isn’t going to be changed by a clown.
But that’s just the problem with this town. Austin caters to anybody that has money underneath a veneer of white liberal nonsense. It’s conceivable that someone in a “Make Amerikkka Great Again” hat could walk into Uchi or Franklin’s and everyone else might raise an eyebrow, but they wouldn’t be able to decide if it was ironic or not. We’re still not sure if Trump’s candidacy is ironic either, but sure he can have his show here because it’s just for the money, right?
That same week students had to face the prospect of going back to school with their alt-right bro peers who may or may not be armed with a deadly weapon since Greg Abbott said they can conceal carry now. UT’s answer to this was Cocks Not Glocks. For those unfamiliar with the movement, CNG was a demonstration protesting Senate Bill 11, otherwise known as “campus carry,” whereby students brandished a dildo rather than a live firearm. The secondary intention was to raise awareness and to “fight absurdity with absurdity” in reference to UT’s prohibited expression rule regarding obscenity as defined by the Texas Penal Code. Just like Chase Trump Out of Austin, it grabbed a few headlines in local and national media. Nothing of any major consequence happened, except for the sad fact that self described “freedom fighter” Brett Sanders produced and directed a short film depicting one of the CNG organizers, Ana Lopez, graphically shot in the head by a big scary black man in her home because she defended herself with a dildo.
The video is nauseating and misses the point of the protest. Do I even need to mention that no one is advocating that you should arm yourself with a dildo? There is one scene that was very striking and its significance flies under the radar. As Lopez’s character is watching actual TV coverage of the CNG protest, reporters are interviewing the organizers and one of them remarks that they are fighting absurdity with absurdity. One of the only pronounced responses Cocks Not Glocks received was the most asinine and unrealistic video I’ve ever seen. Absurdity begets absurdity and in the end there will still be a gun in the classroom and Trump’s influence is still gaining momentum.
These kinds of protests where there’s a gimmick involved are shallow and ineffective at best. Why couldn’t Cocks Not Glocks get anyone to at least sign a petition as they were handing out toys? Maybe they did and there just wasn’t any news coverage about it, but there was nothing of the sort on their Facebook page and nothing past a donate button and a few informative videos on their website. They did not return a request for comment so I can’t be sure of the full extent of their activism, but it doesn’t make someone like me who actually cares about the issue pleased to see the only available representation selling CNG branded merchandise but nothing to offer as far as future events, meetings or any other methods of direct activism.
In fact, I’m not sure what kind of activism this is. It can be described as an attention-grabbing stunt, but I would hesitate to call it guerilla-style political activism because it lacks the tone and strategy necessary to engage the other side into discussion. It only serves to confirm the view that you already believe in. Not that humor can’t be used as a tool, but honestly it’s not like these people haven’t seen a dildo before. Shock value doesn’t haven’t to be defined by sex and violence.
I want these movements to be successful, even if they don’t permanently change anything concrete because it is at least possible to change hearts and minds. There have to be standards though. I expect more outrage, organization and direct action because the bar historically is set so high. It’s hard to say if any kind activism is effective because so much of it is either corrupted or expires prematurely. We have to stop allowing ourselves to be fooled by symbolic gestures and know the difference between activism as an industry and a playground and activism as a means to direct advancement and development.