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Uncivil protest

I agree with the sentiment, but absolutely oppose Greenpeace's methods on this:

Greenpeace Takes On Nobu Source: New York Times

How utterly self-aggrandizing, disrespectful, and selfish. Their intentions may be to spread awareness of overfishing, but the message that comes through is, "Me-me-me, pay attention to me, I'm a zealot, my beliefs are valid, yours aren't, I'm very important, I could not possibly care less about you and your dining experience this evening."

My husband and I are still in the process of planning our ten year anniversary. If we had happened to make a reservation to celebrate that special night at Nobu and Greenpeace had ruined it, I would have been livid. It's not like we could have returned easily for restitution, given that the nearest location is several states away. What totally rude and inconsiderate behavior.

It is possible to engage in activism without alienating a lot of people in the process. Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch pocket guides are a great example, and I do try to order sustainable sushi choices when it is practical to do so. If informed consumers decrease demand for overfished sushi by not buying it, fewer restaurants will carry it because it isn't profitable. Writing a polite letter informing the restaurant of sustainable sushi options and asking them to alter their menu is acceptable as well. Create YouTube videos. Go on talk shows. There are more ways than ever to disseminate information.

However, this is a classically libertarian situation of "Your rights end where my nose begins." Leave the innocent bystanders - the patrons - alone.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 8th, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC)
First of all let me say that I understand your point of view completely, and I'd be pissed too if someone turned an important event for me into a circus. Actually, my wedding day comes to mind :)

But speech that pleases everyone doesn't need protecting. I'm torn because anything meaningful you might do to curb things like this would have important and unforeseen implications for all of us, including issues less trivial. As a real world example, I have a real problem with the special exception to free speech and freedom of assembly rights that has been granted to abortion clinics. It doesn't matter that I disagree with abortion protesters; I've deeply concerned that we've created special exclusion zones on public sidewalks - for one narrow issue, no less - just because they'd identified an effective and legal protest technique.

While it's an order of magnitude less obnoxious, I kind of feel the same way about the sushi protesters. From the article it seems they were very clever - they posed as customers, and they left when asked to do so, so by any measure they weren't trespassing. Aside from, I dunno, maybe littering, it's hard to see what law they even broke. I guess I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't some 'pamphleteering without a license' law they broke, although that's about as obnoxious constitutionally as a sidewalk exclusion zone. My point, I guess, is that while it crosses emotional lines, it's exactly the sort of civil protest that is effective and that a strong society should tolerate.
Jun. 8th, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC)
I'm not suggesting that there should be any specific legal measures (indeed, just your basic causing-a-disturbance-in-a-private-business-and-we're-calling-the-cops measures should cover it). Most restaurants reserve the right to decline service to any patron (You've seen the no shirt, no shoes, no service signs). There are public areas for this sort of thing -- if PETA tried to stage a protest inside my Dad's shoe store for selling leather shoes, he'd be perfectly within his legal rights to call the police for them interfering with business, and current laws cover that. So, I'm not suggesting any sort of specific anti-protest measure or special legal action against Greenpeace. Speaking of existing laws, if a fish becomes endangered, then it is covered by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. If folks want to write their Congressional representatives and encourage greater enforcement, then I'm all for that.

No, if I have any sort of recommendation, it's that their parents should have spanked them more often as children. :)

The primary behavior I'd like to see curbed is that they stop being ill-mannered, needy attention whores and start channeling their energies more effectively.

  • Have any of them offered to take their neighbors' children on a group outing to the local aquarium?

  • Have any of them offered to be guest speakers at a school? Doesn't have to be during class time -- could be the school's after-hours civic group. Boy Scouts? Girl Scouts?

  • Have they raised funds, perhaps offering to pay for part of a local sushi restaurant's reprinting of menus as long as the reprinting includes a labeled division listing sustainable sushi offerings? Great PR release for them: "Greenpeace works in cooperation with Ru San's to spread awareness of sustainable seafood ..." Good publicity for the restaurant. Everybody wins.

  • Have they utiilized the local food community? There's no time like the present to ride the wave of food awareness. Host a food fair that educates people about sustainable consumption. Contact local food bloggers directly to spread the word.

Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head. Like I say, I'm not suggesting any sort of legislation curbing their speech, only perhaps advising them to grow up so that more people might take them seriously.

(Edited to fix a bad HTML tag.)
(Edited again to move an apostrophe.)

Edited at 2009-06-08 11:00 pm (UTC)
Jun. 8th, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
No, if I have any sort of recommendation, it's that their parents should have spanked them more often as children.

Thanks for this. It made my whole day :)

Jun. 9th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
*hugs* I'm 39. I am almost old enough to start making hey-you-kids-get-outta-my-yard statements, so I'm practicing. :) :) :)
Jun. 9th, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
Here's another example of someone doing something impossibly irritating and increasingly pointless, but you basically have to put up with it:

Jun. 10th, 2009 12:42 am (UTC)
Now you know that I think some of the most egregious violations of civil liberties occurred under Bush's watch and that I have almost no respect for him whatsoever, however, even I think this is bordering on harassment, and it is certainly a nuisance to his neighbors. Also, given the fact that he's, y'know, out of office and can't do anything about our military presence there, it seems like it would be more effective to try to *prevent* further deaths (since you can't bring the ones lost back) by rallying in Washington and trying to get President Obama's attention.

I am trying to be kind, and I am truly sorry for her and the loss of her son -- I think her grief has bent and deformed her mind in a way from which she may never recover, which, from some perspectives, makes her a proximate casualty -- but can she or any of her supporters answer the question "How is this useful and productive?" Other than perhaps making them feel better (and are they more entitled to that temporary mitigation than Bush's neighbors are entitled to live in peace), what good is it doing? As you say, pointless.
Jun. 10th, 2009 01:05 am (UTC)
I can't decide what annoys me most about Sheehan. It's definitely one of two things:

The first possibility is the fact that she didn't deserve the attention; her experience was anecdotal and contributed nothing intellectual to the debate. One could, and many did, point out that for every Sheehan you can find a grieving mother proud of her son's sacrifice and four-square behind Bush, the Iraq war, and the war on terror. Emotional responses aren't a sound basis for policy, and Sheehan offers nothing else - depending on your point of view, she's at best a bit deranged and at worst anti-Semitic.

The second possibility is the likelihood that, as near as can be determined, the son she mourns would have been appalled at what she's done in his memory. His service record suggests he was intelligent, motivated, and willing. He re-enlisted knowing his unit would be shipped to Iraq. He volunteered for the rescue mission that killed him. Cindy Sheehan reminds me in many ways of Terry Schiavo's parents, blinded by grief to act against a child's interests.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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