The art of the protest (5×8- 9/30/11)

Political street theater, the hilarity of science, the coming robotic takeover of orchestras, cleaning Minnesota’s water, and signs you’re spending too much time on the computer.


The Spirit of Truth Faith Community protested at the Woodbury office of Rep. Michele Bachmann on Wednesday with a skit invoking its religious principles and the Obama jobs bill.

Street theater is the forgotten component of protest, but you have to make sure you’re delivering the message properly. Take the Occupy Wall Street effort in New York, which was joined — sort of — by professional pilots this week. This image has been widely circulated in the last 24 hours, even though the protest happened almost 48 hours ago.


About 700 pilots from United and Continental airlines protested their stalled contract negotiations. Full uniforms was a nice touch; nothing suggests solidarity like everyone looking alike. Discipline, symmetry, and organization contrasted with the protest pioneers.

“Street theatre has a long tradition in protest culture. The right melody, beat, or image can get into people’s heads and spark a revolution,” Campus Progress’ Emily Crockett writes. “But any responsible and engaged artist knows that you have to first consider your audience.”

She says that’s the challenge facing the Occupy Wall St. protesters, who are upset that the mainstream media isn’t reporting on their efforts.

“It’s not fair that a number of people, and much of the mainstream media, tend to dismiss anything that strikes them as ‘leftist’ or ‘hippie.’ But it’s true, and it’s a fact activists need to compensate for,” she says, offering a series of tips for a protest makeover.

And that might happen next week when more organized labor unions get involved.


As we’ve noted a number of times this week, science doesn’t have to be boring. Last night the “Ig Nobel” prizes were awarded. They acknowledge the work of scientists who make hilarious contributions to science.

Take the prize in medicine, for example:

In the past year, two separate groups studied who having the urge to pee can affect a person’s decision-making. The first group found that people are less impulsive, and thus make better decisions, when they sort of have to pee. The second group found that when people really, really have to pee, their cognitive abilities break down, and they get a lot worse than they normally are at being able to recall simple sequences of playing cards.

“I think it’s an upside-down U-shape,” said Mirjam Tuk of the University of Twente and the Insead Business School in the Netherlands, who was part of the first group. She thinks people make good decisions when they sort of have to urinate, and then their decisions get much worse when they really have to urinate.

Scroll ahead here to 27:49.


It had to happen sooner or later: Sheet music — you know, on paper — is disappearing from America’s orchestras. Well, one orchestra. Ada-Borup’s school band. The director has tossed out the music stands and brought in computer monitors to display the music the kids are playing, the Fargo Forum reports.

“I think this is where things are going eventually,” Richard Tuttle said. “Last year, the fifth and sixth grade and the junior high pretty much didn’t use paper sheet music.”

This is where it leads…

If you’re a fan of the old ways, MPR presents a live broadcast of the Minnesota Orchestra’s season opener tonight.

Oh, and Beethoven’s lost sonata has been found.


MPR’S Ground Level has been exploring Minnesota’s efforts — or lack of them — to protect its “water heritage.”

Research suggests that farming in Minnesota is contributing to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. MPR’s Ground Level invites you to participate in a live chat at noon today to discuss what’s being done to clean up water in Minnesota.


Mark Bradford, 46, was playing the online war game, Call of Duty, when a 13-year-old kid snuffed out his character. So he went to the kid’s house and beat him up. He said yesterday: “I’d been playing the whole day and he was baiting me and just would not shut up.”

Related: Conspiracy theories and propaganda are entering the classroom because young people are not being taught how to judge between truth and misinformation on the Internet, according to think tank Demos. The BBC has the story.

Bonus: China’s space mystery. Why did China launch a satellite while playing America the Beautiful?


Hundreds of people have signed up for SlutWalk Minneapolis, a march to protest the view that women bring sexual assault upon themselves. Some critics think the march and its name work against women’s interests. Today’s Question: What do you think of SlutWalk?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour:The young and the jobless.

Second hour: The sharp rise in health insurance costs.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: MPR education reporter Tom Weber answers questions about the latest report cards on Minnesota schools.

Second hour: Syndicated political columnist Mark Shields, who gave the annual Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture at St. John’s University on Wednesday night.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Sir David Attenborough joins Ira Flatow to chat about his latest nature show.

Second hour: What scientists are learning about empathy.

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  • Heather

    Bob, I thought of you when I saw that photo of the pilots on FB last night. Why do you think the Occupy Wall Street protest hasn’t gotten more serious coverage? It seems that the WaPo is mostly addressing it via blog posts, and you’ve made more mentions of it than I’ve seen on the “front” screen of most of the major news sites. They’ve been out there for two weeks; it’s not like there hasn’t been time.

  • David

    I posted this article Join Salon in our quest for a new “Spring” it has an interesting take on Occupy Wall Street by David Talbot the founder of Salon.

    It’s a little but heavy on self congratulation, but interesting nonetheless.

  • Bob Collins

    //hasn’t gotten more serious coverage?

    I think the writer addresses that in the link above. Because there’s always a protest somewhere with “kids wanting to end capitalism.” And because the protest hasn’t had any effect yet.

    The women had to get maced to get the thing covered, which provided something to cover.

    That’s not to say their grievances aren’t important or valid — and it’s not to say they are — but sometimes you gotta do more than beat drums and shout “down with the man.”

    That may not be what people want to hear. But that’s the reality behind the lack of coverage.

  • Jim Shapiro

    My experience with strategy and tactics in street politics in several countries is that – while well intended and often extremely well done – street theater is usually art for art’s sake, or for the pleasure of protest participants and any like-minded viewers, rather than an effective persuasive tactic.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Regarding “Why did China launch a satellite while playing America the Beautiful?”

    Did we sell our great and venerable Chinese overlords the rights to the song?