To which I can only say, well, duh! But apparently this obvious tendency is not so obvious to hardcore activists, who assume that more is always better. I have seen signs of this on my side. Somewhere I saw an article lamenting that the more extreme, attention-getting measures like blocking traffic merely created hostility, so what can we do. (Um, maybe not block traffic?) Others have expressed outrage at Republican state legislatures enacting tough measures against protesters who block traffic. And accused them of attempting to criminalize protest. No, they are trying to impose perfectly reasonable "time, place, and manner" restrictions to limit the disruption caused by protests. Ditto Trump prosecutors taking tough measures against Inauguration Day rioters. Taking tough measures against this sort of disruptive behavior will serve to discourage it and limit our side to peaceable and lawful activity. We should thank Republicans for their help here.
On a more personal level, I recall my aunt (an old hippie from the sixties) expressing pride in her daughter who has joined Black Lives Matter and took part in blocking traffic in the Bay Area. I pointed out that blocking traffic will not make people love you. She said that if you want to get people's attention, what alternatives are there. She also said that many people have expressed understanding and said that the inconvenience is worthwhile for a worthy cause. I was too taken by surprise to have a good response, but looking back on it, I should have said that there is nothing to stop Black Lives Matter protesters from getting a permit and marching on the sidewalk or in the park according to the terms it allows. That will get plenty of attention, without making enemies. And if people were willing to accept traffic blockages in the interest of a worthy cause -- well, that's the Bay Area for you. It is not typical.
And to me the most surprising part of the article is not that extreme measure create hostility, but the strange blindness on the part of many activists to something so obvious:
The problem is, the extreme protesters didn’t realize this would happen. When Willer and his co-authors surveyed people about the causes they believe in and what they would be willing to do for the cause, the truest believers were willing to go to the most extreme lengths—and they thought the tactics would help gin up support.
“It can be really difficult to take the perspective of a bystander who has not yet joined a movement, when you’re interacting mostly with other activists,” Willer said.Head -- wall -- bang!
I suppose I should think of Bill Ayers, the 1960's terrorist who supported Obama for president. Asked about his terrorist past, Ayers explained that he was strongly opposed to the Vietnam war, but peaceful protests were not stopping it, so he decided to resort to stronger measures. He still seemed to think that "stronger" measures were both justified and effective and, in fact, that the stronger the measure the more effective. And I just wanted to scream at him, "Seriously, dude! You couldn't convince people to oppose the war by marching and protesting, so you figured that throwing a few bombs would make them see the error of their ways?!?! What were you thinking?!?"