Confederate battle flags don’t ruffle my feathers. The Civil War ended almost a full century before I was born and I like historical artifacts. I also understand there are people who aren’t comfortable when they see the old rebel standard. Two years ago a coalition of patriots and right-of-center Idahoans marched in Twin Falls in opposition to the refugee resettlement program. I paid a visit as they mustered in a parking lot near Target and took some photographs for my employer’s website.
A few days later I shared with one of the leaders of the demonstration future marches could be more successful without Confederate flags. He agreed to give my suggestion thought but some of his comrades were incensed and insisted they weren’t giving up their flags, which in their camp is a sign of their individuality and disgust with a current political establishment.
An old line said: But how does it play in Peoria? From a marketing and public relations standpoint a movement draped in the banner of the Army of Northern Virginia could hinder winning converts to your modern cause. There is a reason the missionaries who come to my door wear pressed shirts and ties. I’m more likely to welcome them than if they’ve got tattered jeans and are painted in tattoos. In radio one old boss called it being “audience centric.” “What are people talking about?” was the same idea when I worked in TV news. About 40 minutes before I begin hosting a radio show I’ve compiled an outline on my desk. For the previous four hours I’ve been researching what likely will resonate with the audience. Otherwise, I’d spend two hours complaining about bad coaching decisions and the lack of a spark in the current episodes of “House of Cards.” These are topics where you may just have a passing interest and possibly none.
Presentation is a key factor in persuasion. At last week’s Twin Falls County Republican picnic, all three GOP candidates for governor offered words from the stage. We didn’t get any deep policy discussions. Let’s be honest, all three are likely going to govern from a penny-pinching philosophy. Instead all three are quite aware the public is taking size of the trio. How do they comport themselves in a crowd?
I bring these things up because as I watched a crisis unfold Saturday on my television set it struck me it would’ve been uneventful but for a counter-demonstration. Had the outfit known as Antifa stayed home, the white men marching in support of Confederate monuments would already be forgotten. They would’ve circled Robert E. Lee a few times, chanted some slogans and then gone home. Many consider them a joke and with their flags possibly threatening. Instead there were others looking to pick a fight. As I write this there are people dead and many more badly wounded. Earlier in the day as the far-right white men (and they were mostly men) were being escorted away by police concerned about safety, a young bearded fellow from the Antifa crowd rushed forward and offered a naughty salute to the passing vans (an upraised middle finger). Not a good idea, crossed my mind. Gasoline on a waning fire.
Ten months ago I was walking a trail at Teton Park when a sign warned me there had been 17 bears sighted along my path over the previous 30 days. I suppose I could’ve looked for a sharp stick and attempted to poke any approaching grizzlies. Valor was just like me that morning and took a holiday. I walked back to the car and left for lunch in Jackson.
Give some credit where it’s due. At the rally two years ago in Twin Falls nobody decided they were going to slice up a treat for the anti-refugee crowd. The issue has faded considerably and the Confederate flags may have alienated some who were sympathetic or on the fence.
At a rally in Boise two years ago in support of resettlement, the two sides chanted from opposite curbs. I walked over from a few blocks away and stood chatting on the sidelines with a retired reporter from the Statesman. We marveled at the calm and after I left I’m told the two sides engaged in conversation. There were no baseball bats, pepper spray and ridiculous shields.
How can you take anyone seriously parading like a comic book character? When I worked for the CBS-TV affiliate in Syracuse, New York, 25 years ago, some skinheads and so-called Nazis came to rally at a smaller neighboring city. A member of our reporting staff, yours truly, lived in Auburn and because of familiarity was sent to cover the story. Something along the lines of a dozen pudgy guys showed up and stood on the steps of City Hall. Some 2,000 protestors were bused from New York City and stood shouting across a rope line. The pudgy guys would pose like pro-wrestlers and apparently growl but I couldn’t hear over the leftist noise. The sheriff’s department eventually evacuated the wrestlers in a van. A leftist threw a large rock. It sailed between the heads of my photographer and me and smashed a van window. A block away the van stopped and a skinhead leaped out with a Captain America shield. As 2,000 people shouted and started running in unison after him, he dropped it and scrambled back into protective custody. My work day ended in one piece.
What was accomplished? Some big city liberals got a scenic bus ride through the Finger Lakes. I got praise for work well done. The next day the city was quiet. Maybe there are lessons here.
During the 1980s basketball rose because of hype. There were two great teams and each had a dominant star. Then the pair of players retired and the teams faded. Basketball didn’t have a back-up marketing plan.