Leave the Fringe at the Door

If you’re anything like me, it is likely that you’ll be attending some sort of rally this weekend. Likely subjects of protest are the Federal Reserve, foreign wars, the national debt, and the nanny state.  Perhaps you’re boldly opening an unlicensed lemonade stand, or maybe you’re dancing in tribute to Thomas Jefferson. These events serve a couple of primary purposes: they raise public awareness of the issues and they let us vent our frustration (a popular Rolling Stones song comes to mind).

Sadly, you’ve likely also experienced the pain of public ridicule resulting from these rallies. It’s a tragic truth that liberty-minded people are on the fringe of the political world — we are certainly portrayed as the fringe, at any rate. 

This mischaracterization is the product of two factors. First, there are certainly those in the mainstream of politics that recognize the threat that is inherent in our movement. They seek to sway the public from our views, and to steel them against our arguments by portraying us either as unhinged and morally bankrupt youth who are lashing out against convention — or else as senile old men who ramble about the nuances of monetary policy.  They’ve been devastatingly effective in sidelining us so far. 

But there is also self-inflicted damage to our image.  The uncomfortable truth is that we enable our detractors. The last rally I attended featured a panoply of sideshows. The rally was organized to protest the Federal Reserve. Among the protesters, the Federal Reserve certainly was the common enemy. But many who joined us seemed unable to concentrate. They sported shirts declaring the “truth” about 9/11 (there was a complete lack of agreement about what this “true” story really entailed: I left uncertain if it had been a CIA plot to start a war, a Federal Reserve plot to steal all the gold from the vaults of the WTC, or whether Godzilla had escaped area 51 and hurled the planes into the Manhattan skyline on the instructions of Alan Greenspan). There were activists with assault rifles strapped to their chests and sun-glasses on their eyes.  I was a little frightened — and I was on their side. There was also a completely deranged couple loudly shouting various conspiracy theories; they were probably homeless and almost certainly high. 

If I had seen this assembly without the knowledge I have of the Fed, if I didn’t understand its immoral and insidious design, I would have dismissed the rabble without another thought. The group looked too unkempt, their messages too disparate, and their presentation too incoherent. Most people did just that: we were dismissed.

We certainly vented our frustration. We didn’t sway the public.

How can we fix this? 

Fortunately, it’s not too difficult. Allow me to suggest four steps we can take to completely alter the effectiveness of our rallies and protests. 

1.Present yourself professionally. 

People take you seriously when you take yourself seriously. Cut your hair, shave your face, take a shower, and wear nice clothes. When I go out this Saturday, my hair will be neat. I will have shaved the scruff that currently graces my chin. I’ll be wearing slacks, a button-up shirt, and a tie. Dressy casual is a minimum if you want to be taken seriously ESPECIALLY if you’re going to be talking about monetary policy. I’d be wearing a suit if it weren’t July in Atlanta.

2.Stick to the message.

These rallies are organized around a specific point. People who pass by will only gain something if the message is quickly discernable. Otherwise they’ll ignore you and turn up their iPods. 

I can’t refute any conspiracy theories with 100% effectiveness. I can’t prove to you that Osama Bin Laden was the mastermind of 9/11. You are free to promote your version of events. But guess what? It’s irrelevant.  Few, if any, people will be convinced of that perspective. Most, like me, will think it’s farfetched and irrational. It will turn them off to your message. How does that further the cause? 

We can logically and through sound economic principles demonstrate that the Federal Reserve is a menace and a threat to our nation’s well-being.  Give me two-minutes speaking from that perspective, and I can have the audience convinced enough to attend the next rally.  

Which is the more effective approach? 

I want to protest the Fed. It isn’t fair for you to mitigate my effectiveness because you want to focus on the “Illuminati.” They may be controlling the world, but you won’t convince 95% of us. Focus on what you can actually accomplish.

3.Be clear and concise

It’s great that you can quote George Washington’s farewell speech, but someone stopped at a red-light won’t know what you’re talking about. They’ll be gone long before you reach the profound warning about entangling alliances. You’ll come off as slightly erudite and significantly out of touch with reality. Instead, stick to something digestible.  The wars aren’t constitutional.   Victory is ambiguous and therefore impossible. There have been astronomical numbers of civilian casualties. Someone might be convinced. 

4.Remember who and what you represent

Our message is the greatest that exists:  Man ought to be free. Human life has inherent worth. Slavery and oppression are the ultimate evils. 

Our intellectual heritage is unparalleled. Mohandas Gandhi, Henry Thoreau, Thomas Jefferson, Jesus Christ, Immanuel Kant, Galileo, William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Raoul Wallenberg:  These lived, fought, and died for the causes we are championing today. Don’t be sloppy. Don’t dishonor the heritage they created. Present and conduct yourself as becomes one of that intellectual lineage.

Incorporating these four behaviors into your rally, protest, or demonstration will dramatically alter the effect, and therefore the worth, of your efforts.

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