Some disgruntled iPhone users are trying to organize a protest by paralyzing the ATT network with a flood of data this Friday. The mastermind is the so-called “fake Steve Jobs,” Dan Lyons, who calls his protest “Operation Chokehold.”
Blogger Lauren Weinstein [special thanks to Gabe Goldberg for the tip] has effectively identified this juvenile plan for what it is, namely “childish, stupid, irresponsible, and potentially extremely dangerous.” More than just iPhone users depend on the network, but as is usually the case, the protestors don’t care about collateral damage or inconvenience to the innocent. Indeed, they often like it and strive for it, since this increases publicity, shows “results,” and, they hope, provokes those who are unfairly affected to blame the protesters’ real targets, rather than the protesters themselves.
This isn’t exactly terrorism, but it’s terrorism’s less deadly, annoying cousin. I am still angry about having my freshman year in college partially wasted because some members of the SDS felt that stopping classes at Harvard was somehow going to end the Vietnam War, an arrogant and self-serving theory if there ever was one. I recall being stuck in a four hour traffic jam because some farmers felt that jamming Washington, D.C. traffic with tractors was a good way to protect their subsidies.
Such “protests” are really like coordinated screams of frustration, and just as effective. For me, and I suspect many others, they are usually counter-productive. Showing a complete lack of respect and concern for my priorities is not likely to make me take a protester’s cause to heart, and may well accomplish the opposite.
Protesters, no matter what they are protesting, have an ethical duty to ask themselves these ten questions before they stop traffic, jam networks, take over buildings or otherwise make life miserable for people who have little or nothing to do with what is being protested:
- Is this protest necessary?
- Is the means of protest appropriate to the objective?
- Is there a significant chance that it will achieve your objective or contribute to doing so?
- What will this protest cost, and who will have to pay the bill?
- Will the individuals or organizations that are the targets of the protest also be the ones who will most powerfully feel its effects?
- Will innocent people will be adversely affected by this action? (If so, how many?)
- Is there a significant possibility that anyone will be hurt or harmed? (if so, how seriously? How many people?)
- Is the motive for the protest personal, selfish, or narrow?
- Are you and your group prepared to take full responsibility for the consequences of the protest?
- Would an objective person feel that the protest is fair, reasonable, and proportional to its goal?
Most protests honestly evaluated by these questions will fail to justify themselves logically, practically or ethically.
In other words, most protests—including “Operation Chokehold.”