As a connoisseur of the genre, I’ve established a strict protocol for ranking the quality of left-wing protests. This protocol has evolved through decades of observing leftists marching, shouting, attacking opponents, weeping, waving banners and cheering speeches from people you’d ordinarily find on a housing rental warning list.
Not all leftist protests, you see, are pitched at the same qualitative or creative level. They may all initially appear, before an inexperienced onlooker, to be of equal pointlessness and stupidity. But to an expert, every individual protest fits into a clearly defined and differentiated hierarchy of pointlessness and stupidity.
Tim Blair’s Sweetness & Light column appears in every Quadrant.
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The next time you witness or read about a left-wing protest, please do not immediately dismiss it as a nonsensical indulgence committed by work-shy whiners whose collective contribution to cultural or civilisational advancement is less than that of a solitary day-old dust mite.
Instead, first consider where that protest qualifies under the rigorous and scientifically-sound Blair Protest Ranking System.
And then dismiss it. Let us begin.
Placed on the very lowest rung are protests that never happen. These are typically proposed during Australian and US federal election campaigns in which a conservative candidate may be victorious, and involve threats to move overseas if the conservative is elected.
Canada and New Zealand are the standard options, but there are others. During the 2016 US election, celebrities Chelsea Handler, Bryan Cranston, Chloe Sevigny, Barry Diller, Lena Dunham, Jon Stewart, Neve Campbell, Samuel L. Jackson, Amy Schumer, Miley Cyrus, Omari Hardwick, Keegan-Michael Key, Eddie Griffin, Ali Wentworth and Cher all vowed to flee if Donald Trump won. Their destinations included Spain, Canada, “another planet” (Jon Stewart), Africa, Italy, Mexico, Sydney and Jupiter (Cher). But then Trump easily defeated Hillary Clinton and not one celeb phoned a removalist. What’s the difference between a Trump-hating millionaire leftist and Donald Trump? The President keeps his promises.
On the next level we find the one-person protest, such as John Howard’s shoe-throwing foe during a 2010 ABC appearance or any number of screechy stage invaders over the years. These incidents are generally quickly resolved by security and then forgotten, although one recent solo protest made a greater impression—at least upon a patch of now-regrown Brooklyn grass.
In April, New Yorkers strolling through Prospect Park discovered the charred remains of lawyer David Buckel, who had incinerated himself to protest climate change. He used fossil fuel to accomplish this grim task, presumably because an attempted solar-powered immolation would still be under way even today.
Further up the leftist demonstration ladder, protests that double as displays of moral superiority are always good value. Whenever Fairfax staff or ABC tax drains are moved to take some time off, they often wave signs proclaiming the unique and irreplaceable values of their organisations.
Why, the ABC and Fairfax are not just places of work. They transform all those on their payrolls into Australia’s spiritual guides, kind of like extremely pale, mostly Sydney-based, witless and wealthy versions of Aboriginal elders. I don’t exactly know how this process works, but even journalists who join Fairfax and the ABC from other media outlets are quickly granted sainthood.
Global protest movements that fail to move anything are a special delight. In mid-September 2011 I was walking through New York’s business district to meet a friend when I was forced to negotiate my way around a horizontal collective of common street leftists. They were camping there, which seemed odd, so I later mentioned these layabouts to my business mate.
“They’re Occupy Wall Street,” he explained. The Occupy movement, such as it was, subsequently set up shanty towns across the Western world. Nobody ever clearly explained what they were doing or what their aims were, but left-leaning media loved the whole show. Right up until 2012, when the Occupy movement became rigid with inertia.
Now we’re getting to the really good stuff: protests that go wonderfully wrong. Early in 2006, Ipswich meatworkers arrived at their abattoir to find animal rights activists had chained themselves to the facility’s killing area. Rather than abandon their day’s labour, those resourceful Queenslanders quickly obtained angle grinders and began slicing through the protesters’ chains.
“The workers, they were standing around cheering and whooping and yelling and making lewd comments,” protester Angie Stephenson told the ABC. “We had to call the police.”
What began as an animal rights protest quickly became a beautiful bonding moment between workers and management. Protester Patty Mark was outraged when the abattoir’s owner joined his employees against the deadbeats: “They were yelling and screaming, and he got the angle grinder himself and started to cut right near where we were chained.”
The poor dear. Still, Patty got off lightly compared to the dozens of screeching Greenpeace protesters who invaded London’s International Petroleum Exchange in 2005. “The violence was instant,” protester Jon Beresford told the Times. “They grabbed us and started kicking and punching. Then when we were on the floor they tried to push huge filing cabinets on top of us to crush us.”
By now more red than green, the Greenpeacers were startled when the oil traders pursued them even as they tried to escape. “They followed the guys into the lobby and kept kicking and punching them there,” Beresford reported. “They literally kicked them onto the pavement.”
At the utmost peak of the protest pile are movements that actually enhance those they seek to destroy. In 1968, US hippies raged in the streets in such numbers Richard Nixon won thirty-two states out of fifty in that year’s November election. In 1996, unionists stormed Parliament House in Canberra to rage against John Howard’s March election victory, thereby setting a tone guaranteeing Howard’s further eleven years in power.
And in 2016, Donald Trump—shrewdly realising the positive power of negative protests—encouraged every Democrat crank and crackpot in the land to rally outside his campaign stops.
It is wrong to say leftist protests never deliver results. They do. But rarely for leftists.
AUSTRIAN racing driver Niki Lauda won three world Formula One driving titles, more through strategic brilliance than outright speed. Other drivers were faster, but Lauda’s tactical genius gave him a definite advantage. After quitting Formula One after the 1985 season, Lauda devoted himself to running Lauda Air, bringing his race-winning attention to detail to the world of international jet travel.
Early in his airline’s life, Lauda noticed the time and expense involved in cleaning his jet’s toilets between flights. This was eating into turnaround times and costing him a great amount of money.
Examining the issue, Lauda came to an outstanding commonsense realisation. All aircraft toilets are unisex, used by both men and women. But men are notoriously messy in any bathroom circumstance, let alone one involving turbulence, and therefore create greater cleaning requirements.
Lauda’s solution was to introduce separate in-flight toilets for men and women. This meant that toilet cleaning between flights was largely limited to the men’s facilities, while work in the women’s toilets mostly involved simple re-stocking. With that decision, Lauda basically halved both the time and expense of between-flight cleaning. The bloke’s a genius.
There may be something to be learned from Lauda’s astute observation down here at terrestrial level, where debate continues over genderless bathrooms and such. Argue about it all you want, but why on earth would women ever, unless absolutely necessary, want to share such facilities with men?
Please. We men are disgusting. This is a well-known fact. And women are reminded of it every time they travel on an international flight, none of which these days feature Lauda Air’s visionary gender-division policy. Come to think of it, nowadays it would probably be illegal.
Forget side issues such as gender justice or whatever other meaningless phrase is being thrown around. The important point is that around 50 per cent of the population deserve protection from male toilet incompetence.
And so do, for that matter, the lowly-paid people whose job it is to clean toilets in offices, factories and public areas. At the moment, senior toilet cleaners are appointed to or give themselves the easier task: cleaning female toilets. Newcomers to the toilet-cleaning caper, however, are invariably directed towards the men’s zone. God, and a military-level stockpile of disinfectant, be with them.
Once unisex toilets are universal, however, the standard of pre-cleaned toilets will be universally abysmal. Men will drag everything down to our dreadfully low and liquid-surplus level. No cleaning staff will be safe.
Lauda had the right idea all those decades ago. Instead of embracing the unisex ideal, we should be storming away from it, on economic, aesthetic, sanitary and wage-fairness grounds.
If you doubt this, just ask around until you find a woman who has returned home one day early from a week-long work trip. Her early return means that her husband has not yet had time to restore their house to its previous condition.
Just ask her about it. Unisex argument over.