Premature hysteria: An examination of the ineffectiveness of crazed protesters

By and

“Art hath an enemy called Ignorance.”

– Ben Jonson

It’s a delicious bit of irony.

Every year, a gaggle of protesters pop out of the woodwork to claim their 15 minutes of fame. They have a bone to pick with something or other, and they have taken it upon themselves to change the world all by their proverbial lonesome.

They make the typical rounds, touring the national talk-show circuit, waxing self-righteous and self-important about their pet issue. They call for a boycott of some sort. People start talking. The hype builds and, if they’re lucky, the issue becomes some sort of a national talking point.

Eventually, if you pay attention, you realize these people are either A) attention-starved hypocrites, or B) simple-minded reactionaries who have no idea what they’re talking about.

When all is said and done-and here’s the ironic part-their efforts have only gone to serve the very cause they’re fighting against. They’ve raised its profile, and everybody’s talking about it.

As they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Well, it seems the purveyors of ignorance and counter-productiveness have risen again, this time in Los Angeles.

This Wednesday will see a release of 50 Cent’s semi-autobiographical film “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” directed by Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan (“In America,” “My Left Foot”), and so-called “community activists” are not happy about it. Last week, they successfully removed billboards for the film, which showed the rapper-turned-actor with a gun tucked inside his pants.

Those who oppose the ads are making quite a fuss, claiming the film-which they have not seen-glorifies gun violence and promotes it as a way to get ahead. Therefore, they were justified in having the billboards removed.

But they didn’t stop there. Now, they’re calling for an all-out boycott.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Letitia James illustrated her reasoning for opposing the film, claiming the film’s message is, “Do whatever you can to get ahead and advance yourself-even if it includes violence.”

Columnist Deborah Mathis, writing on, said that films of this kind “create the illusion of young black men with power when all they really have is weaponry. With their Glocks and their snarls, it’s fear they engender, not respect.”

Oh, ignorance must really be bliss. How else could one explain such comments? I have not seen the film, either; but I do know, based on reviews and the plot summary, that the film is about an inner-city drug dealer who “turns away from crime” to pursue a rap career.

That’s right-turns away. What was that about advancing yourself through violence, Ms. James?

But regardless of the protesters’ ignorance and myopia, the problem they face is that they are only helping their opponents’ cause.

Instead of constructively trying to spark some sort of intellectual debate about the merits of the film or the media’s messages about violence in our society, they have decided to sensationalize (and, therefore, trivialize) the entire issue with their meaningless calls for boycotts and the like. As 50 Cent himself said, “I do appreciate it…They are helping me out.”


The worst part is, this is not an isolated incident, but a trend. Social protests have gone the way of political talk shows-they’re no longer about the issues, but about hyperbole and sensationalism.

The same thing happened when Eminem first broke onto the scene. His lyrics were angry and violent, homophobic and misogynistic. So a bunch of interest groups got together and started screaming in the streets, burning his CDs and, once again, calling for boycotts.

Has an entertainment boycott ever been truly effective?

And what happened? That particular Eminem album in question went on to become one of the biggest sellers in music history, and the rapper’s profile has been on the rise ever since.

To be fair, though, these protests can sometimes be effective-to a point. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Co. caused a controversy over Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” in 1982-again, without having read the script-and actually got the film canceled. Still, Falwell came out the loser-the movie got made six years later and is now considered a modern classic.

Last year, the situation was eerily similar. During production of “The Passion of the Christ,” the Anti-Defamation League caused a media uproar, saying the film was anti-Semitic, despite the fact that the group hadn’t read a script or seen any of the dailies.

Now, maybe “The Passion” was anti-Semitic, and maybe it wasn’t. Regardless, the ADL caused a fuss ignorantly and without merit. And the net result was one of the biggest blockbusters in Hollywood history.

Making a point or arguing about an issue is one thing-but that’s not what people do anymore. They lie, they exaggerate, they exploit-and in the end, it’s all for nothing.

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