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February 26, 2003

Blinding Them With Science The

Blinding Them With Science

The Win Without War phone-in protest tied up the phone lines on Capitol Hill today, at least the ones whose numbers are given out to the public. Senators have lots of phone lines, so I doubt that too much sand was thrown into the Congressional gears. Not that we'd be able to tell. Deliberative bodies are.....deliberate, after all. Sloths are models of haste in comparison.

If senatorial offices are anything like the pizza place I used to work at, once they got too busy the phone lines were just put on hold and ignored.

I could smell the tips in the air on those nights, long ago. I wonder what the interns who normally answer those lines smelled in the air today? Probably journalists, poor things.

Yes, interns. You think Trent Lott took all of his protest calls personally? You think Tom Daschle did?

I've had a couple of readers write in and suggest a pro-war phone and e-mail campaign, which is a great idea. But if you're going to do something like that, you don't want to call a Senator's office. If you get lucky and actually manage to reach a human, it's just going to be a secretary or an intern, and they are paid to be nice, to take down your message, and then roundfile it.

A Senatorial office has a lot of staff, a lot of organization, and a good bit of both is devoted to shielding the Senator from whatever the shitstorm of the day is, to insulate the wise and learned elected official from the hoi polloi, unless of course a polloi has come bearing his checkbook.

Without your checkbook, it's hard to get traction when calling a Senator. Lots of phone lines and lots of staff tend to grease the issues up like a pig on the 4th.

If you want to phone in a protest, you should target organizations that can't hand you off to a drone. You want an office without a lot of money, or the multiple phone lines and staffers that come with access to lots of money. You want an office run on a wing and a prayer, one where tying up a staff member on the phone keeps them from doing work more important to the mission of the organization.

You want to call a protest movement.

Suppose for a moment that war supporters just spontaneously decide to call Lynn Erskine, the listed contact for Win Without War, at her phone number, which by the way is 202-478-3429, to let Lynn know how they felt about the war, or left her a voice mail detailing their views on tying up Washington's phone lines during a time of crisis? How many calls do you think it would take before that number was rendered useless for the purpose of organizing the next protest?

How many voice mails, (long, polite ones, mind you, because war supporters are a genteel, reasonable and extremely slow talking folk when it comes to leaving voice mails), do you think Win Without War would wade through in order to hear ones more supportive of their cause? How many voice mails before someone reaches the tipping point and decides to just hit the delete button until all the messages are gone?

Would that tipping point be higher or lower for Not In Our Name, if war supporters also called their national office, at 212-969-8058?

Is either tipping point the same as the one after which spokesmen for those groups would use the phrase "suppression of dissent" when speaking to NPR about said phone calls?

How much interference from a counter-protest movement can a protest movement take before it collapses?

I wonder if I could get a grant to study that question? Purely in the spirit of scientific enquiry, of course.

Update: Rumor has it that the Not In Our Name voice mail boxes filled up on Thursday. Purely in a spirit of scientific enquiry, I wonder how many days this might go on, or before the second number, 202-478-3429, is in the same condition. Or the third, for Artists United to Win Without War, 310-204-2581.

Posted by Bigwig at February 26, 2003 11:15 PM | TrackBack
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