Tell me what this is about again?

Note to self: buy some newspapers today.

So far as I can tell, we’ve had surprisingly little press in the UK about the protests around the Republican National Convention in New York. For example, we’ve not seen reports of the Critical Mass cycling meet (New York Times – free registration yadda yadda), nor stories of the subsequent arrests. And we’ve certainly not had reports of the more bizarre protests, such as John Perry Barlow’sdancemob‘ initiative, which… well, have a look.

In fact, all I can find in the UK press – at least online – is a single picture from the Guardian. Which reminds me of a recent discussion with a local political hack: are mass protests a remotely efficient form of political engagement?

They are a perfectly reasonable means of bolstering group spirit and cohesion, I’ll admit. But in terms of expected impact it’s surely too easy to dismiss an entire protest outright, rendering the exercise a monumental waste of collective time? One suspects that Amnesty got it right years ago with mass letter-writing campaigns, which are both more personal and harder to deal with.

Disclosure: I’ll admit to having been jaded about mass action for a very long time. Ever since the particularly nasty experience that was the original Gulf War protest march, back in 1991. Hint to first-timers: don’t go to these things if you’re not affiliated to an existing group. You’d be surprised at how personally dangerous they can be. And no, I’m not talking about the police being heavy-handed.

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