Brain Pickings

The Art of Protest


Control vs. chaos, democratic deficits, or why modernity breeds toothless anarchy.

We stumbled across The Art of Protest by filmmaker and illustrator Temujin Doran almost randomly, only to discover a cunning and insightful mini-documentary. The film makes a simple yet powerful cultural observation: Today, protests have become their own ideological antithesis. The meticulous planning, orchestration and coordination are robbing protests of their disruptive anarchism, making them appear contained and controllable in a way that completely erodes their capacity to jolt the status quo out of its plateaus.

This becomes a democratic deficit and is a self-fulfilling process. For a public unable to effect real change by acting only as spectators means they will only ever be seen as such by those in power.

A reaction to how little was accomplished by the global antiwar marches against the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the climate discussions that took place at COP15 last December, the film offers a sober and accurate criticism of “consume and spectate activism,” exuding an urgency to revive or evolve the art of protest.

If we are ever to escape the snare of ineffectual resistance, the art of protesting needs to break free from its current condition, which blocks almost all meaningful expression and participation and allows activist organizations to become as giant and as unanswerable as the states they seek to contest.

Food for thought.

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