May 25, 2022

"Protest is a kind of theater, as abortion rights activists who dressed as characters from 'The Handmaid’s Tale' outside the home of Justice Amy Coney Barrett know."

"The performance is not just for the target of the protests but also for anyone who sees it via news images or video or social media. The fact is, a group of people targeting just one person, at home, particularly at night, appears menacing.... Florida’s lawmakers went so far as to ban 'picketing and protesting' at any person’s private residence.... I believe such bans to be unconstitutional. The right of all Americans to peacefully assemble must be protected. But that doesn’t mean that protesting at the homes of public officials is effective.... I expect that those who gathered outside my home also felt shut out from power when they screamed at me [in December 2020]. But showing up at my home to shout falsehoods about an election because they didn’t like the results did not help their cause.... These protesters attempted to bully me into abdicating my duty to protect the will of the people of Michigan. But the people who made me fear for my family that night also emboldened me to do my job with integrity.... [P]rotesting outside an official’s home is rarely if ever effective at achieving the goals of those gathering — and oftentimes, it backfires."

From "Protesting at Judges’ Homes Must Remain Legal. That Doesn’t Make It Effective" by Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson (NYT).

If sensible people realize that a protest outside of a public official's home is likely to backfire, then we may infer that people who protest outside a public official's home are irrational. That's an idea you might want to use if you need to argue that the bans on these protests are constitutional. Benson makes a good argument, but if it works, it won't work on 100% of the protesters who would otherwise take to the street right outside someone's house. The ones that are left are those who are least likely to care about lawful, peaceful persuasion.

But also: Protests are not really about rational persuasion. They're about stirring up emotion, and emotion is inextricably intertwined with even the most earnest efforts at rational decisionmaking. I assume that the elite, educated, accomplished Ms. Benson endeavors to "do [her] job with integrity," but I don't believe she can exclude all feeling. In the case of the pro-Trump protesters screaming at her house, she felt "emboldened" — that is emotional. The protesters stirred up her fighting spirit. Yes, it backfired for them, but — by her own report — she was not impassive and solidly grounded in neutrality.

61 comments:

mikee said...

The first rock, bottle, drink cup full of unknown liquid, or other object thrown at my house will get the protesters treated as an imminent deadly threat, just like Klansmen lighting a cross afire on my lawn.

I suspect the protest organizers are willing to sacrifice their pawns to see how violent they can get.

Christopher B said...

Protests are not really about rational persuasion.

The Court is not unreachable. The Court provides opportunities for rational persuasion in the form of amicus briefs, as well as irrational persuasion in the form of protests outside that big building where they conduct business.

The only reason to visit a Justice's home to protest is to send a message of "we know where you live" which is a sentiment normally associated with mobsters.

Enigma said...

Be very careful here. Our neighbor to the south has experienced an incredible number of political assassinations throughout its drug war. For example:

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/leading-mexican-presidential-candidate-assassinated

https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/62-assassinations-in-10-days-in-guanajuato/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_politicians_killed_in_the_Mexican_drug_war



When a culture tolerates or promotes ends-justifies-the-means strategies...

Gahrie said...

Time, place and manner restrictions have always applied to the freedom to assemble.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

It would become illegal if protestors could breach Nancy Plosive's walled billionaire compound.

Mark said...

Frisby v. Schultz, 487 U.S. 474 (1988)

Joe Smith said...

The left is obsessed with 'Handmaid' like they're obsessed with drag queens.

It's unhealthy.

Wilbur said...

I hate to go down the feelings road, but it's a perfect example of people thinking less with their minds and much more with their emotions. I believe nearly all such protests are counterproductive - at the least, they fail to convert anyone to their side - and they are performed for the protestors' self-aggrandizement and enhancement of their self-image..

rcocean said...

She's a leftwing hack, who'd be taking the opposite position if the justices being protested were Democrats. She helped steal the election for Biden in Michagan, so I don't trust a word she says.

Rollo said...

Cosplay. LARPing. Activists aren't entirely different from SF/fantasy/Renaissance Faire geeks. Protest is the carnival of bored young people.

Virgil Hilts said...

The purpose and effect of the screaming garbage babies is to deter intelligent, reasonable and moderate people from wanting to join government or take jobs as Professors or in law enforcement, etc. They don't want the center to hold -- they want to loose anarchy and the blood-dimmed tide. They won't like the world that results, but they are too stupid to know that now and will be too stupid to realize then their own responsibility when it rolls back over and crushes their thin little skulls.

rcocean said...

ACB should just claim the protesters are engagned in "hate speech" and are "threatening violence against women and her family". Including her black kids. In fact, she should claim to have overhead several protesters call her kids "Nwordsers"

Conservatives can play that game too.

Ann Althouse said...

How many of the Justices have children living in their home?

Ann Althouse said...

"How many of the Justices have children living in their home?"

Barrett is the Justice who is most pressured by protests at her house because she has, by far, the most young children: Emma (19), Vivian (16), Tess (16), John Peter (13), Liam (11), Juliet (9), and Benjamin (8).

Maynard said...

If sensible people realize that a protest outside of a public official's home is likely to backfire, then we may infer that people who protest outside a public official's home are irrational.

Hollywood has become almost universally leftwing because it is all about the theater and garnering attention for your self and your cause. Leftwing activists are basically actors far more than they are reasoned thinkers.

Ann Althouse said...

" I believe nearly all such protests are counterproductive..."

Another way to look at it is to judge people by their result of their actions. You will know them by their fruits.

That is, you don't have to assume their motivation is what they say. If they keep doing something "counterproductive," consider whether the thing they are actually producing is what they want.

Owen said...

Protest is indeed theater and the producers of the show are careful to distance themselves. They pay for buses and signs and sandwiches, and they arrange the live-streaming and wider dissemination of the product. But they try to remain faceless, to work through cutouts and proxies. They leave the stage to the useful idiots to shout their lines, press their luck, start throwing things, light the wick, and shoot or get shot.

You really want to find a way to expose the organizers and make this business much more expensive for them.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

“consider whether the thing they are actually producing is what they want.”

Of course! They want chaos, disorder and to bully those with whom they disagree. More to the point, why are ILLEGAL PROTESTS treated like normal activities instead of the LAW being enforced?

RMc said...

The protesters don't care if a protest "works" or not. It gives them something to do, and it allows them to be seen by like-minded people.

Misinforminimalism said...

"The performance is not just for the target of the protests but also for anyone who sees it via news images or video or social media."

I would submit that the primary audience for the protests consists of the protesters themselves.

Achilles said...

Ann Althouse said...

" I believe nearly all such protests are counterproductive..."

Another way to look at it is to judge people by their result of their actions. You will know them by their fruits.

So the people that support Roe support selling baby parts for money and abortions after 15 weeks.

The people who support Roe also support the Supreme Court usurping the power explicitly delegated to the States by the constitution and destroying our constitutional order where judges can just make up whatever they want.

Those kind of fruits?

Are we going to do BLM next?

Iman said...

Fuck. These. People.

Brylinski said...

I suspect that many of the core protesters are paid and are recurrent protesters. Also, protesting at the homes of people is intimidating and with the high level of emotion is often violent.

Static Ping said...

Protesting at someone's home is a threat. There's no way around that.

If I went to the house of someone I did not like and started screaming at the building or particular persons, I would be arrested and for good reason. The fact that someone is a public official does not change that. If anything, it makes it less appropriate; public officials can be protested at their places of business where they have no expectation of privacy.

The bigger problem here is a breakdown of society. Societies are fragile things that work only because the structure works for enough people well enough that they are willing to support it. If you push things too far, there comes a point when too many people decide that this society is not in their interest and rebel. Deciding that threatening people is a good way to get your way is only going to result in violence.

BothSidesNow said...

Agree completely that these protests are wildly counterproductive. But perhaps the lesson to be drawn is not universal. One of the pandemic books I read was The Strange Death of Liberal England by George Dangerfield. A quarter of the book is devoted to the running battle between the women in England seeking the right to vote, and the men in politics saying no. Talk about protests at law makers' homes. Law makers were relunctant to go out in public for fear of being attacked by mobs of angry woman. Talk about violence. Burning down the country homes of recalcitrant law makers. Breaking all the huge plate glass windows in London's shopping districts. On and on. Them were some protests! And woman now have the right to vote.

Scott said...

Protests are not about being effective. Protests are about hanging out with other protestors. It's a way for people with strongly held beliefs to stroke each other and affirm that they are not alone.

Two-eyed Jack said...

"But that doesn’t mean that protesting at the homes of public officials is effective."

Nobody would argue that mere intimidation is always effective. Sometimes you have to burn something. Sometimes the target resigns, rather than giving into your demands.

Still, getting as many people as possible to edge up to the limits of legality can make a strong case for some pretty crazy ideas.

Anthony said...

>>The only reason to visit a Justice's home to protest is to send a message of "we know where you live" which is a sentiment normally associated with mobsters.

This.

Dude1394 said...

protests at home should NOT be legal. IMO anyone stepping on your property especially at night in any threatening manner is in danger of being legally shot.

Ergo, it should not be legal.

Sebastian said...

"But that doesn’t mean that protesting at the homes of public officials is effective"

Depends on the desired effect, the target audience, and the behavior of the PTB.

Abortion protesters aim to instill fear and mobilize progs, their targets include not just true believers and Dem voters but also CJ Roberts who already has shown himself to lack courage, and the PTB will not go after progs so the cost is minimal.

Dude1394 said...

"But they try to remain faceless, to work through cutouts and proxies. "

Boy, that sounds like Clinton.

JAORE said...

I thought Federal law provided that attempts to influence a legal outcome by such tactics WAS illegal.

Not that our DOJ gives a fig.....

victoria said...

Well, Mike (MJB wolf) those protests aren't illegal... And, if they protested in front of Nancy Pelosi's house (which they have) it would still be legal. Theater? absolutely.
Yay for that.You should be thrilled that we, as Americans, can express our disdain for someone and their beliefs on public land like sidewalk and streets.It is the American way.


Vicki from Pasadena

tim maguire said...

Protests in public venues--parks and town squares and whatnot--are about stirring up emotion that the organizers hope to then direct at some political issue. Protests at people's homes are about intimidation. Bullying. They're a form of harassment and it is constitutional to criminalize harassment.

Elliott A said...

Isn't intimidation of a judge, witness or jury illegal?

Greg The Class Traitor said...

But also: Protests are not really about rational persuasion. They're about stirring up emotion, and emotion is inextricably intertwined with even the most earnest efforts at rational decisionmaking

You have a Constitutional right to "petition the government for redress of grievances".

You do not have a right to bully judges to give you a dishonest ruling in your favor, which is what the abortion thugs are trying for.

Either that, or trying to make it easier to assassinate one or more of the justices

Greg The Class Traitor said...

Mark said...
Frisby v. Schultz, 487 U.S. 474 (1988)

Some background:
In the Milwaukee, Wisconsin suburb of Brookfield, Sandra C. Schultz and Robert C. Braun protested abortion by picketing outside the home of a doctor who performed abortions

So Sandra Day O'Connor wrote a 6-3 decision saying that cities could ban that.

Because abortion perverts everything it touches.

But if it's ok to ban people protesting aboriton, it's equally ok to ban people banning a lack of abortion

Brian McKim and/or Traci Skene said...

"Protests are not really about rational persuasion. They're about stirring up emotion..."

Okay.

"...and emotion is inextricably intertwined with even the most earnest efforts at rational decisionmaking."

Inextricably intertwined?

Horse hockey.

Politicians are sociopaths who are remarkably adept at "de-twining" the emotion from their "rational decisionmaking." (Does not the term "rational decisionmaking" imply, even require, the exclusion of emotion from the process?)

They make their "strictly political calculations" while ignoring (out of strict necessity) their own emotions, then frame their response as having been driven by emotion so as to pander those who care about such things.

For the most part, though, they're lizard-like and they view the emotional protestors (who have no genuine emotions either and are just as sociopathic) as just another group in the way of their agenda.

Scotty, beam me up... said...

Enigma said...
Be very careful here. Our neighbor to the south has experienced an incredible number of political assassinations throughout its drug war…

***********************************************
Exactly! For the most part, the most violent demonstrations in this country since the 1960’s have been committed by those on the left such as the bombing of U. of Wisconsin’s Sterling Hall in 1970 and most recently the arson and pillaging that occurred around the country in 2020 due to the death of George Floyd. It is only a short step from that type of violence of 2020 to doing harm to a Supreme Court justice and their family. And it only takes one nut job thinking if they can assassinate a conservative SC justice that in their mind would allow the current president (or whoever is pulling his puppet strings) to make another liberal justice appointment(s) to the US Supreme Court, they will attempt it as the “ends justifies the means” attitude the left currently has. I really hope and pray that no one takes this drastic step of intimidation.

And with the Biden Administration having decided that we don’t have a border with Mexico, for whatever reason which they refuse to tell us directly why, those drug cartels are going to move north and the anarchy happening in Mexico with a hapless government not able to do anything to protect its citizens will be the become the new normal here in the United States.

MikeR said...

This is mind-boggling. Threatening and frightening people should be illegal. If you want to protest, go somewhere else.

Michael K said...

This article sounds like what is called a "thumbsucker" and she is very proud of her anti-Trump stance. I doubt we will see a similar article about demonstrators in front of a Trump supporter's home.

Mark said...

"Barrett is the Justice who is most pressured by protests at her house because she has, by far, the most young children: Emma (19), Vivian (16), Tess (16), John Peter (13), Liam (11), Juliet (9), and Benjamin (8)."

Thanks for listing/doxxing them for us, with ages too!

Seems weird information to keep spreading IMO.

boatbuilder said...

The first amendment allows you to say what you want to say in a public way. It does not allow you to harass. That is the distinction between protesting "in the public square" and protesting at the home of a public official.
The Michigan woman doesn't seem to get this. The editorial seems to be saying that protesting at a justice's home is OK because those bad Trump people did it to me, but its bad for the cause.

n.n said...

Protesting to sustain the right to hold abortion rites for social, redistributive, clinical, and fair weather causes. A progressive cult. One step forward, two steps backward.

Jefferson's Revenge said...

The BLM protests worked. They helped get Biden elected by creating the idea of chaos driven by Trump's policies. Of course that is not accurate but they did create a climate of confusion.

Since they worked in the minds of the left, I expect the same tactic with abortion and the court. They won't see that ;

1) This is a very different issue
2) Chaos now hurts their guy- Joe B.

I am surprised no one has taken a pot shot at any of the obvious conservative judges so far. I am happy that hasn't occurred. I am surprised that there have been no counterdemonstrations in front of liberal judges homes. I am unhappy about that.

Joe Smith said...

'Thanks for listing/doxxing them for us, with ages too!'

Really? There's this weird thing called a search engine.

Along with the fact that every minute detail of ACB's life was reported during her nomination.

Give the professor a break.

Jack Klompus said...

As I recall from my college days, the protest crowd was always just another scene like punk rockers and ravers. Only a thousand times more annoying and completely full of themselves and humorless.
I went to college with a guy who became the executive director of MoveOn.org and he was the biggest trustafarian douche on the planet. I don't think he's ever had a real job in his life since.

Marc said...

Protests are not really about rational persuasion. They're about stirring up emotion, and emotion is inextricably intertwined with even the most earnest efforts at rational decisionmaking.

Does Beto's interruption of Governor what's his name's press conference count more as 'protest' or 'theater'? I doubt the earnestness of his attempting 'rational decision-making' since I suspect he needs (moved by some unknown interior emptiness) a political victory.

Ambrose said...

Dressing as a character from Handmaid’s Tale - how clever and original!!

Jupiter said...

Jocelyn Benson was purchased by George Soros. She's a puppet, an empty shell. She's Enemy.

Pianoman said...

What about the rights of the neighbors? They're not part of the "protest", but their homes are violated. Don't they have rights too?

Someone is going to get killed someday, and then the Blame Machine will kick into high gear on both sides.

rcocean said...

Does someone want to explain why protesting outside someone's private home is neccesssary? WHy not protest in front the of the SCOTUS building? is it oK if I follow ACB around and "Protest" while she goes to the store or a restaurant?

The underlying threat to showing up to somene's home and "protesting" is obvious. "Nice home and family, you got there Judge. Be a shame if something happened to it".

hombre said...

Everything the Democrats and their handmaids do is political theater - except for killing babies, that is.

hombre said...

"I am surprised that there have been no counterdemonstrations in front of liberal judges homes. I am unhappy about that."

I'm glad we aren't them.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Sorry Vickie, but protests at private homes are illegal under VA law. The Commonwealth is not enforcing it, but the law is there to prevent exactly this, and worse, from happening. Everyone deserves privacy.

bentoak said...

There are plenty of public spaces to protest the government. I think private residences should be off limits. It's menacing to families, children, and neighbors.

Iman said...

Someone should take it upon themselves to search out the most vile pro-abortion protestor and lodge their own size 19 Florsheim protest using the “back channel” for effect.

The Godfather said...

Let's remember how the Supreme Court's decision-making works: Litigants present legal arguments for and against a lower court's decision, the Court deliberates and decides by majority rule what resolution is legally correct. If you want to affect the Court's decision, you file a brief with persuasive legal argument. The briefing in "Dobbs" is closed. If you are pro-abortion, the chances are that all the legitimate arguments in support of that position have been made in the briefs. Anyway, yelling and screaming in front of the home of a Justice isn't the way to make a legal argument. The only thing the protesters can be doing is trying to use threats and intimidation where rational legal arguments have failed.

If, after these demonstrations and protests, the Court doesn't follow through on its decision to overrule "Roe" and "Casey", that will show that the Supreme Court is no longer a court, that it is a merely political institution, entitled to no more respect than the expressly political branches of our government. Then the Justices should not only be term-limited, they should be popularly elected. Or, to simplify things, the Court should be abolished, and Congress and the President can decide what the Constitution means.

Think about that, Mr. Chief Justice Roberts.

Greg The Class Traitor said...

The Godfather said...
Let's remember how the Supreme Court's decision-making works: Litigants present legal arguments for and against a lower court's decision, the Court deliberates and decides by majority rule what resolution is legally correct. If you want to affect the Court's decision, you file a brief with persuasive legal argument. The briefing in "Dobbs" is closed. If you are pro-abortion, the chances are that all the legitimate arguments in support of that position have been made in the briefs.

Are you pro-abortion? Are you against Alito's draft decision in Dobbs? Are your objections rational and legal, or are the purely political?

If they're political, you need to petition State Legislators or members of Congress, not SCOTUS

If they're legal, post them on the internet.

You will note there's an amazing dearth of such postings. It's almost like everyone agrees that Alito's draft is legally and historically correct

Bunkypotatohead said...

How are the demonstrations counter productive? They may not intimidate Barrett after the fact, but any future judges will see what's in store for them should they vote the wrong way.

Greg The Class Traitor said...

Bunkypotatohead said...
How are the demonstrations counter productive? They may not intimidate Barrett after the fact, but any future judges will see what's in store for them should they vote the wrong way.

Because what that does is make it so the only people who will go for a judicial nomination from a Republican are bloody minded people like me who are ready to kick the protester's in the nuts.

Right now the bloody minded are in a poll with many more genteel types. But the protesters make the genteel types not want to get involved, leaving only my type