Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Messenger Does Matter

The numbers seemed impressive – and irresistible:

Sydney Australia registered more than 100,000 to start things off. Paris matched that, with Amsterdam claiming 70,000. The larger European countries turned out more. Barcelona, and Berlin each rallied more than 500,000, Madrid hit 660,000, London came in with 750,000 while Rome police said a cool million turned out to protest George Bush’s drive toward war in Iraq.

Other northern European capitols, wrapped in the bitter cold of February 2003, mustered a few thousand for anti-war rallies. Across the Atlantic in the U.S., Washington and San Francisco were said to have had the largest gatherings. Organizers in New York said 500,000 attended that city’s protest while in Los Angeles they said 100,000 came.

Still, a month later, war came, courtesy of the three B’s – Bush, Blair, and (rhetorically) Berlusconi – aided by Australia under Prime Minister John Howard, Poland under Prime Minister Leszek Miller, and (rhetorically) Spain under Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

There have been protests since, but the numbers attending have been lower. At the same time, various anti-war groups have become more adept at using technology to communicate among themselves and with grassroots and “grasstops” (activists) across the country and internationally. While the technology of the Internet, instant messaging, Ipods, Blackberries and – for all I know – Blueberries has made disseminating information as content (the message) easier, it may well have created the perception that the bearer of the content (the messenger) has become irrelevant. Or if not irrelevant, that volumes of electric messages on the same subject to the same electronic address is as effective as the presence of an assemblage of living, breathing, humans outside the official residences of political leaders.

In the technologically developed world, modern warfare seemed to be on a technological path that eventually might see the end of direct warrior-o-warrior contact. For air forces and naval forces, this indeed is the future as stand-off ranges for missiles extend further and further. But as Iraq has proven, wars are won or lost in the end by the presence of living, breathing people.

Perhaps the anti-war movement needs to look at itself again – both for its message and at the choice of the messenger.

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