If you haven’t seen this footage of students, apparently corralled by at least one professor, acting to eject and exclude anybody fulfilling the role of a journalist at a protest event at the University of Missouri, set aside the 12:41 for some preparatory research:
To me the most telling moment comes at the beginning, when a bespectacled guy who looks a little older than the average student tells photographer Tim Tai, from within the arm-linked circle of “protestors,” that the photographer “cannot push [the protestors] to move closer.” It’s a reasonable sounding rule of engagement from somebody presenting himself as some sort of an authority figure.
A moment later, the students start pushing Tai away from the center of the circle, and he turns to the same guy with a complaint that they’re breaking the rules that he had just laid out. The reply: “Don’t talk to me; that’s not my problem.” Tai then spends several minutes arguing with the students while being physically pushed back. The argument is fruitless, because the mob is clearly not interested in reaching fair conclusions. They are righteous, and any infiltrating journalists are not. It’s not about coming to a rational conclusion. The only rule is domination.
The second half of the clip is videographer Mark Schierbecker’s already-infamous conflict with Professor Melissa Click and the aftermath after she gets her requested “muscle” to eject him.
The bespectacled guy’s role is classic Saul Alinsky: force the enemy to live by his own rules… and then deny them as your own. In a chaotic interaction, people want some sort of authority figure who can negotiate between the sides. Pretending to be that figure deflates some of the leverage of the target while not limiting the pretender’s own options.
If one refuses to capitulate — to subordinate one’s own rights to those who do not acknowledge them — the only two approaches are to (1) abandon your own rules or (2) bring those among the fascists who are unaware that they are behaving as such face to face with their decision. In the first approach, Tai and Schierbecker would physically push back; find a weak link in the human chain, perhaps, and push through it. Of course, then the fascists would call in the actual authorities (perhaps armed) who would proceed to enforce the rules (which the fascists were ignoring in the first place) in a one-sided way.
In this case, the second approach would have been better and would probably have been even more clarifying for those now discomfited by Schierbecker’s footage. Standing on two legs leaves us susceptible to being pushed back by even jostling, as we strive to keep our balance. Sitting down would have required the fascists to escalate or to give up. Forcing somebody who’s sitting to move requires much more than simply leaning against him. Brainwashed students might convince themselves — in the thrill of the mob action — that stepping forward is not really “pushing” or “assault,” but somebody who’s sitting would have to be unambiguously pushed or dragged.
If you’re feeling particularly interested in preserving your liberties, could reverse the leverage. As the fascists strive to keep their balance around you, they’ll naturally shift their weight away a bit, at least periodically, leaving room to advance against them.
In this case, the likelihood of things escalating out of control looked pretty minimal, and too many of the students had looks on their faces like they thought they were only mildly misbehaving for fun. Contrast Schierbecker’s video with the scene when union thugs assaulted Steven Crowder in Michigan.
A little bit more fortitude while the fascism is still budding may prevent the need for actual risk of life for the next person down the line who attempts to resist.
UPDATE (7:51 a.m. 11/11/15):
I am particularly interested in the ways that people creatively and constantly negotiate identity, significance, and power through religious idioms in the dense contexts of their everyday lives.
So, Professor Chip clearly understood the moral dimensions of his statement to Tai that other students pushing him, in violation of the rules that the professor had just articulated, “Don’t talk to me; that’s not my problem.”
Saul Alinsky did dedicate his Rules for Radicals to Lucifer, after all.