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Culture War Roundup for the week of April 22, 2024

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I'm at Penn Law.

I went to the protests tonight as a legal observer because there were reports that arrests were "imminent." While I was there, the encampment organizers designated a "red" group- those who WANTED to be arrested - from a "yellow" group - those WILLING to be arrested. The distinction concerns me; there are people actively SEEKING to get arrested.

We didn't currently have an active police presence, so it would take some time for a police force large enough to arrest anyone to show up. By the time enough police had gathered, those unwilling to get arrested could leave.

The admin has been clear they will only arrest non-Penn affiliates. The majority of protestors are not Penn affiliated - we are the meeting point for Temple and Drexel SJPs also, as our campus gets the most national attention because people sometimes realize we aren't Penn State. In addition, there are plenty of "community members" who are non-students heavily involved. I'd estimate approx. 15% of the total people were Penn affiliates, and maybe 50% were students at all.

Arrests have still not been made (there was a pro-Israel dude who walked through earlier with a pocket knife who got a citation but that's about it). I left after the chants shifted to "Al-Qassim make us proud, kill another soldier now" and "we don't want no two state, we want '48." I think the protestors are genuinely upset that the police have left them alone this entire time. I don't know if it's a resume line item checklist - "getting arrested for social justice ❤️💙" might play well for a political career? - or just people making reckless decisions. I'm scared, and tired, and finals start tomorrow.

Only 14 people in the encampment of 200 paused for the call to prayer at dusk. None of the prayer individuals were masked. The leaders of the protest, from what I could tell, were a Latino and a white woman (with purple hair, not that that really matters). The Latino led everyone in a chant of "we are all Palestinian." What happened to cultural appropriation?

There was a "protest against hate speech" or whatever earlier by the Pro-Israel crowd. The pro-Israel crowd were the first time I had seen American flags brought into this at all. They remembered where we were, what we actually had power over. None of them were masked, either.

Almost the entire pro-Palestine group was masked (I hesitate to call them pro-Palestine instead of pro-Hamas after the Al-Qassik chants). The three exceptions in the pro-Palestinian group were those who engaged in the call to prayer, the Latino leader, and the "red" group. If you aren't willing to show your face for a cause, to have your name associated with it, do you really believe in it at all?

I don't know anything anymore. One of the 19 year olds who stood next to me as the first tents were going up a few days ago, James, asked me what "encampment" meant. I thought he was joking, or at least asking what it meant in this specific context. No, actually. He, a sophomore at Penn, genuinely has never heard the word before. These are our best and brightest.

You know how I said this is all planned? This is all planned. The actual students ("useful idiots" in Cold War parlance) are just being used (with the connivance of the media) to put a sympathetic face on a movement run by well-funded professional protestors.

Okay, I’m feeling a bit foolish for assuming the attendees were mostly Penn students.

This all sounds relatively banal and bog-standard for a protest, no? Its like the far left analogue of some right wing militias: masks, standing against gov't tyranny, large sense of importance, performative desire to get arrested (ie open carry audits), dubious legal and political theories (ie Bundy; The White horse Prophecy, etc), and, of course, their own flags! I think the militia folk go camping alot, and are probably way more fun to hang out with. But when either side actually goes to protest I can do little more than think "well okay, whatever floats your boat, but remember, your freedom ends where someone elses begins, have fun!"

I don't know anything anymore. One of the 19 year olds who stood next to me as the first tents were going up a few days ago, James, asked me what "encampment" meant. I thought he was joking, or at least asking what it meant in this specific context. No, actually. He, a sophomore at Penn, genuinely has never heard the word before. These are our best and brightest.

Was he ESL? Otherwise, wtf you don't even need to have heard the word if you're familiar with English. Camp with a prefix that means to be in or engage in, and the suffix ment makes it a noun. I've only ever heard the word in stories about protesters and combattants, and never heard the definition. I'm basing this on context clues and being fluent in English. Is there some nuance I've been missing this entire time?

Because, uh, it feels like the only way lacking that level of English comprehension should be possible while still becoming a Sophomore at any college that fancies itself prestigious is if the sophomore in question is ESL. I guess they could be there for athletics or similar?

On the mask thing: I think some of these people are doing it for the aesthetics. They really want to play the part of a scrappy revolutionary who has to hide their face from the cops. I actually think this whole thing is based around that. It's like a type of adventure tourism.

I had a guy walk past my house the other day on his way to one of these, and I asked him what he was doing (he was wearing a mask, which is an odd thing around here). He sounded almost scared at the question "...going...to...the....protest". He just seemed really nervous, almost like he had stage fright.

Are we sure they're not just still Taking COVID Seriously?

I don't know if it's a resume line item checklist - "getting arrested for social justice ❤️💙" might play well for a political career? - or just people making reckless decisions.

There might be an element of that, but I figure that "soandsomany people got arrested at protests for X" also is a necessary item for any media narrative about X being oppressed by the authorities. Note how no report of protests (say, Navalny-related ones) inside Russia is complete without some mention of hundreds of protesters taken away in prepared police vans, and most Westerners are also quite happy to read that and nod along about how brutal the regime is. Other protests such as climate activists gluing themselves to roads are also designed to elicit a violent-looking police response, and the overall effect of any well-crafted report incorporating such footage tends to be that genuine fence-sitters and normies conclude that the response was excessive. If you have any sort of sympathetic media that knows its craft and participants willing to sacrifice themselves, you would be foolish as a protest organiser to not make use of the opportunity; if you are a participant who cares more about the cause than about the expected adverse effects of being arrested, you would be foolish to not volunteer.

I went to the protests tonight as a legal observer because there were reports that arrests were "imminent." While I was there, the encampment organizers designated a "red" group- those who WANTED to be arrested - from a "yellow" group - those WILLING to be arrested. The distinction concerns me; there are people actively SEEKING to get arrested.

Past a certain level, there is no such thing as an organic protest. There are professional organizers somewhere in the background and they've got their tactics and strategies all worked out after a few generations of experience of this kind of thing.

The history of political movements is full of this. This is the way political activism should be done. Not the social media-esque FFA we've been having, where everyone just broadcasts the stupidest toxoplasma they can get their hands on.

Now- i can't say whether they're organizing and planning their arrests with strategic competence, but I'm happy to hear at least some of them have realized that every successful civil rights movement prior actually did employ disobedience strategically.

I was trying really hard to figure out how the “Future Farmers of America” were involved.

If you'd played quake like I did instead of doing schoolwork you'd immediately guess it means free for all

If you aren't willing to show your face for a cause, to have your name associated with it, do you really believe in it at all?

I'm pretty sure I saw the official Israel twitter account or some large American Jewish account bragging about how they were gonna use facial recognition tech to make sure "none of these people ever find a job again."

Reminds me of that Norm Macdonald joke from the 90s.

"Well, earlier this week, actor Marlon Brando met with Jewish leaders to apologize for comments he made on “Larry King Live”. Among them, that “Hollywood is run by Jews.” The Jewish leaders accepted the actor’s apology, and announced that Brando is now free to work again."