"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Protests" and the Silent Majority

Patrick McIlheran of the Journal Sentinel got national attention yesterday with his column, "Unions want to overturn election result."   A minor point in the article deserves a little more notice, because it provides needed perspective on the so-called "massive" protests in Madison by public employee unions.   McIlheran writes,
Union activists in Madison Tuesday spoke apocalyptically of "class war," hinting wildly at general strikes and takeovers of the Capitol. They correctly see their control of the state slipping and must figure that if they bring 13,000 shouting people to Madison, they can overrule the election.
Any worried legislators should keep in mind that Walker drew about five times that many votes in Dane County alone in November
Exactly so.   Newspapers and media often report what they see and use adjectives like "massive" to describe what they see, but they rarely report what they don't see.   For example, if you want to get your faces in the paper, get together 10 or 12 students at Marquette University here in Milwaukee and do a pro-choice "protest" outside of Jesu Church on campus.   Bring your signs saying things like "Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries," and you'll be certain to get on the local News at Six.  But meanwhile there are thousands of students at Marquette (a Jesuit university) who go to Mass at Jesu every week and who, if asked, would give reliably Pro-Life opinions, but who generallly just go about their lives working and studying without feeling the need to publically announce those opinions through something called "protesting."   They don't get press, because they aren't doing something that registers within our culture's conceptual biases as "news."  

With regard to the Madison protests, it is well to remember that there are thousands of teachers in Wisconsin who haven't walked off their jobs, and there are millions of Wisconsin residents who aren't protesting, and who, in fact, voted for Governor Walker and the new State Senate precisely because they wanted them to rein in spending without raising Wisconsin's already too-high tax burden.   The news media doesn't report on that "silent majority," but they are out there.  

To put it in somewhat more concrete terms, if the news reports are accurate, something like 13,000 people came to Madison to protest yesterday.   The news media calls these protests "massive" routinely, as shown by this Google screen shot. 

Search Results

  1. News for massive protest madison

    Washington Post (blog)
  2. Wisconsin gov.: GOP emboldened by protests
    2 hours ago
    ... emboldened by massive protests against his controversial budget plan. ... the demonstrators who filled the state capitol building in Madison and the ...
    The Hill (blog) - 3996 related articles - Shared by 10+

  3. Hearing day in Madison: Hundreds come to testify on budget bill

    Feb 15, 2011 ... Related Galleries. PHOTOS: Local groups organize bus trips to Madison: (5) Photos. PHOTO GALLERY: Massive protests in Madison: (17) Photos ...
    www.journaltimes.com/.../article_7fbefd44-391e-11e0-b9eb-001cc4c002e0. html - Cached
  4. Collection : PHOTO GALLERY: Massive protests in Madison

    Feb 15, 2011 ... The majority of the group was protesting Gov. Walker's ...
    www.journaltimes.com/.../collection_99e99a92-3943-11e0-9aad- 001cc4c03286.html - Cached
  5. Live Reporting from the Massive Protests in Wisconsin -- Over ...

    Feb 17, 2011 ... 4:20pm Eight year old Cleo Johnson joins her teacher Mr. Marks from Lapham Elementary School at the massive protest in Madison today. ...
    www.alternet.org/.../live_reporting_from_the_massive_protests_in_wisconsin _--_over_30,000_assemble_at_the_capitol
  6. 40% of Madison Teachers call in Sick, Schools Shut; Video of ...

    Feb 17, 2011 ... 40% of Madison Teachers call in Sick, Schools Shut; Video of Massive Protest in Wisconsin Capitol Building; If Jackasses Could Think ...
    foreclosureblues.wordpress.com/.../40-of-madison-teachers-call-in-sick- schools-shut-video-of-massive-protest-in-wisconsin-capitol-building-if- ...

But guess how many people came to Green Bay to celebrate the Packers' Super Bowl parade less than two weeks ago?   50,000.   These people are the silent majority in this state:

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