Prop 8 and the Role of Mass Mobilization

standing on shoulders. from Fritz Liess flickr.

standing on shoulders. from Fritz Liess' flickr.

Queer liberation struggles provide an interesting parable on the path of radical action in America – what began with an uprising, a rebellion in the Village at Stonewall has now become a mass-mobilized, legislation focused movement, able to rally tens of thousands of people in the street.

In the beginning, radical action was absolutely necessary: this required street fighting, throwing fake blood, character assassination against Reagan and more, because the question was about invisibility.  Queer people didn’t exist except as the seedy underbelly of good society, and the task was to put them on the cultural radar.

That struggle waned as AIDS became part of the national health agenda, discrimination against gays became increasingly taboo, and marketers recognized them as a target demographic.  Recognizability was no longer the issue, but concrete rights were.

Now, the Prop 8 protests show a movement reaching a stage of decadence: they can afford mass mobilization because gay rights appeal to so many, and the mainstream mode of political dissent (street protest) fits the goal of creating change through mainstream forums.  But it shows how movements require a diversity of tactics (including confrontational alienating ones) to accomplish their goals.  A movement in germination needs to confront and radicalize, then build its own mythology to support legitimate forms of the movement in the future.

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