Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes; The folly of protests |

Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes; The folly of protests

A few months ago, the media world was ablaze with antigovernment protests in England. But as expected, that turned out to be little more than anarchist-wanna-be’s waiting patiently to smash and grab through store windows while the cameras rolled.

A few weeks ago, passive crowds began to collect around Wall Street (in New York City, not the one running parallel to Bridge Street), shouting canned slogans about their displeasure with corporate greed and the general state of worldwide financial markets.

Carrying witty signs and, on a few occasions, apparently searching for Bourbon Street-styled beads, at the beginning it looked more to me like Phish had ended its summer tour and these people were looking for something to do.

It quickly evolved into those once again attempting to prove their individualism through mass conformity.

Either way, I am not idealistic enough to believe anything big would come out of it but am just cynical enough to believe probably nothing would come out of it.

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Once the media were involved, however, things began to change.

Rubber-necking and shear curiosity drove hundreds more to stop and watch, taking pictures with New York’s finest and wondering if there was some novel way to join the exciting fray.

Next thing you know, they were suddenly being painted nationwide as anticapitalist and nihilist, their emotion-based reactionary movement nothing more than the same ol’ song and dance of the disenfranchised during tough times and somehow connected with the Bolshevik wing of the Democratic Party (as if such an entity actually exists).

Opportunists came out of the proverbial woodwork (or perhaps rose from the sewers) but none more so than union leaders, such as the president of the United Union of Teachers proclaiming for the national cameras last Friday that the protests were, “Not political but social in nature and intent.”

Um, sure, yeah, whatever you say. But then, why was he there?

Such a shame. The right to peaceful assembly, while rarely effective in any long-term meaningful sense, is still a popular piece of the liberty pie. To see it hijacked and abused for political gain is akin to the solar industry suddenly being represented by Exxon.

But concerning their now somewhat apparent objective about being the 99 percent rising up against the 1 percent, a little reality check is in order.

Wall Street is not evil. Evil implies malicious intent. However, Wall Street is greedy, and greed not just implies, but confirms, highly narcissistic selfishness.

Big difference. One is illegal, while the other is merely immoral.

Yet none of that truly matters, as by the time you read this, the now-proclaimed members of the “liberal version of the tea party” will have reached their individual points of diminished returns. Protesters eventually become bored, tired, hungry or, sadly, violent, and reality rears its rational head. The weather is changing and coats will soon be needed, leaving cold, wet air as their largest single deterrent to continuing.

No system is perfect, and sure, there are plenty of arguments over capitalism breeding oppression in a democracy. But it is our system, and the best (dare I say only) way to change it is through the ballot box.

Besides, witty sign slogans will do little more than prove the Herman Cains and Eric Cantors of this world right, and that’s the last thing the 99 percent should want, right?

Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at

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