The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

How To Deal With Student Protest Camps (FDR Edition)

Students in America and increasingly across the world are demonstrating against the Gaza genocide. They’re right to do so, opposing a genocide is never the wrong thing to do.

The reaction of campus and civil authorities has been predictable. Send in the cops, who violently disperse the camps, similar to how they have decided homeless people aren’t allowed to live anywhere. This video, of a professor who is the wife of the Dean of admissions (and who was not part of the protest) makes the point.

Police, of course, are police because they like hurting people, with vanishingly few exceptions. Any excuse is enough of an excuse for most of them. The Professor found out how much her “privilege” really matters.

What’s interesting about all of this is how stupid it is. Attacking the protestors is, as those of us who’ve been around for many protest cycles know, not going to stop them. It’s the beginning of the cycle of protest, not the end, and it drives news. In some ways it’s a victory for the protestors’ cause.

In 1932 a large group of Great War veterans went to Washington D.C and set up a camp. They wanted their bonuses for WWI paid early, because it was the Great Depression and they needed them. Hoover, still President, sent in the Army, lead by Douglas MacArthur (and opposed by Eisenhower) and burn the camp. FDR, who actually opposed paying the bonus because he felt it helped one group without helping all, said that the scenes of brutality had just elected him.

Burning Down The Bonus Army

The Bonus Army didn’t give up, and when Roosevelt took power, he took a very different tack: he sent his main political advisor, Louis Howe, and his wife. Instead of attacking the encampment, they arranged for them to have three meals a day and a clean encampment, and FDR arranged for younger veterans to receive jobs with the Civilian Conservation Corp.

Four years later, over FDR’s veto, Congress gave the Bonus army their bonus.

The point here is that FDR essentially de-fanged people he opposed by treating them kindly. Violence produces opposition and even if it “works” it makes people hate you and harden their positions.

The protestors are right about Gaza, of course, and right that the US shouldn’t be helping commit a genocide. But even if you oppose them, the correct thing to do is to treat them kindly unless they truly become violent or massively disruptive (and even then, give them rope.)

The response of university administrators is clearly emotionally driven: they believe in Israel’s genocide and want it to continue and are offended and ashamed by students who point out the evil of what they are doing. If they weren’t emotionally compromised by their commitment to genocide, they’d be a lot more sensible, even if they disagree with the protestors.

You get what you support. If you like my writing, please SUBSCRIBE OR DONATE


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 28 2024


The Retard Parade of Western Politics Exemplified By Trump and Biden


  1. bruce wilder

    when they tell you who they are, believe them

    I am not much on protest. I do not understand the premise. How is it persuasive? What is the relationship of protester to power? Supplicant? Preacher? Annoyance? Non-cooperation?

    Anyone who has ever lived on or near a college campus knows students as group(s) – and they are nearly always swarming in groups – are volatile. It is easy to stimulate them to dramatic action of a symbolic sort in any colorably “moral” cause. A big part of their volatility derives from their rootlessness in that time and place of their lives

    But, the message sent from Administrators to protesters is hard to mistake. Administrators are rooted. They have careers to protect. They will still be “here” after graduation and that many times over. And, they know who butters their bread.

    That the protesters, by and large, are sincere but superficial, I have no doubt.

    But the administrators are psychopaths!

    That is scary.

  2. “to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget,”
    I’m proud to be an American
    Committing war crimes constantly
    and screaming God and Freedom
    I’d gladly stand and defend her
    who does my thinking for me
    cause there ain’t no doubt
    I love this land
    God Bless genocide

    From the lakes of homeless camps
    To the mined hills of black lung
    Across the plains of opioids
    From Bill Gates to Autism
    And Wells Fargo to pesticides

    I’m proud to be an American
    Where the police beat me
    I wont forget the kids we killed
    I’d gladly stand next to the free
    And defend the oligarchs
    because they need more and more
    Cause their ain’t no doubt
    I love this land
    God Bless the rich.

    “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

  3. Mary Bennet

    College administrators, of which there seem to be far more than are needed–see tweet by Bret Deveraux over at ACOUP on that point–do what they are told. Ultimately, orders are coming from the foundations which fund the universities. As for the protestors being funded by Soros, a claim I saw being made by another columnist this morning, I doubt it, but if anyone has evidence, I would like to see it. While I agree with our host that genocide should be opposed, I am a bit skeptical as to motives of some folks. Wealthy Muslim countries could surely organize airlifts of supplies and I doubt IDF would be able to stop them.

    About over supply of administrators: the relevant tweet is about halfway down the page to screen right.

  4. Richard Holsworth

    Positively Machiavellian, Ian. The difference: what crumb would the avowed Zionist in the Whitehouse throw to the protesters to assuage their grief and annger over the ongoing US enabled Genocide.? (Crickets)

  5. I am not much on protest. I do not understand the premise. How is it persuasive?
    Persuasion? Imagine going up to a war criminal committing a genocide and trying to persuade him to start being a decent human being. Good luck.
    Unions had succus early on was because they understood the oligarchs and their shrills don’t care about convincing arguments and truth, they couldn’t care less about other people. They’ll happily stomp their boot on a face for-ever.

    “if violence were only a thing of the future, if exploitation and oppression never existed on earth, perhaps displays of nonviolence might relieve the conflict. But if the entire regime, even your nonviolent thoughts, is governed by a thousand-year-old oppression, your passiveness serves no other purpose but to put you on the side of the oppressors.” -The Wretched of the Earth

    But, the message sent from Administrators to protesters is hard to mistake.

    “The colonized intellectual has invested his aggression in his barely veiled wish to be assimilated to the colonizer’s world.” -Frantz Fanon

  6. Willy

    A large part of rebellion derives from hoping for power over the future, better than the present they often witness their parents having. Second would be the same thing which causes most teenaged rebellion, they’re starting to exercise their personal power like adolescent puppies moving from play to aggression. The solution might be a system of well-proven values culturally enforced, including “the genocide of a group less powerful is bad”, and “if you can’t beat a psychopath in power, then destroy them”.

  7. Soredemos

    Are they ideologically committed to genocide, or are they materially committed to Israeli bribery in various forms, and committed against being blackmailed if they get out of line, in various forms?

    I have to admit I’m at a loss to explain the sheer asinine depth of American elite subservience, cuckoldry really (a stupid internet meme term I hardly ever use, but it keeps springing to mind here. It encapsulates the full spectrum of this one-sided abusive relationship) to thos worthless desert micro-state, absent brutal facts of money and blackmail.

  8. Soredemos

    @bruce wilder

    While it is true that teenagers are stupid (and college students are idiot teenagers, both literally for a couple years and mentally until after they graduate when the brain finishes fully forming around 25) and can be manipulated into supporting pretty mu h any nonsense (BLM abundtly showed this, where millions of idiot kids took to the streets to protest for absolute nothing and the only thing that changed was some BLM fpunders become very wealthy), they’re right to protest this, however shallow and transient their support.

    And clearly a bunch of our elite don’t know how to handle it. You can say protest doesn’t do anything, but clearly people in the halls of power feel threatened this time.

  9. Purple Library Guy

    I kind of agree with bruce wilder about protest–usually. As a rule, protests are this froth that sort of gives you an idea what the young politically progressive kids care about right now, but which don’t achieve any short term political objectives.

    However, every once in a while, protesters will be doing their thing when the broader zeitgeist has a reason to really care about the issue they’re protesting, and some catalyst gives them visibility and spurs more involvement. In those cases, the protests frame the thinking about the issue and can grow so big they do have serious political impact. Sure, even in those cases authorities are never going to SAY “The protesters beat us so now we’re doing what they want”, but whatever face-saving compromise they did was done in the hope that it would be enough to shut the protesters up–or, next election the bunch on the wrong side end up out and a bunch on the right side are in and they do something, albeit probably not quite what the protesters were hoping for. In really extreme cases, protests have been one of the engines driving the overthrow of dictators. In Chile not so long ago, big protests massively reshaped politics. So in those rare times, protest can be really important, and if you see one of those events where the protests start to balloon and it may have political impact, I think it’s well worth joining in. In the US at any rate, the pro-Palestinian protests may be one of those cases.

    The point about protests setting the frame for broader political action reminds me of something, I think it was that bastard Friedman said, about how when a crisis happens people pick up the ideas that are lying around. For Friedman, the ideas came from right wing economists and think tanks, and the point was that if you had those right wing bastard ideas “lying around” then in a crisis you could do what Naomi Klein calls “Disaster Capitalism” and Linda McQuaig calls “Shooting the Hippo”. For progressives, a lot of the ideas “lying around” come from the intellectuals around protestors.

    Even when protests haven’t really reached enough critical mass to force serious change, there are cases where their positions feed into policy. So for instance, if you look at Black Lives Matter and the idea of defunding the police. They haven’t generally succeeded . . . but the whole thing did give impetus to the election of quite a few progressive District Attorneys, and it also seems to have been behind or accelerated the implementation of some projects in various cities where for a lot of emergency calls, particularly with a mental health orientation or domestic disputes, they don’t get referred to the police; instead there’s this response group with mental health professionals and social workers. The results of these projects seem good. They’re only in a few places right now, but they may well spread. If they do, they could create a significant shift in how policing is seen and done in North America. A shift which could be traced to the Black Lives Matter protests.

    On climate issues, protest can have a different kind of point. Here in BC, there’s a pipeline that’s just being finished which a lot of people including my good self really didn’t want to happen. The protests ultimately failed to stop it from being built. But, the protests, combined with some actions from BC provincial and municipal governments prompted by the visibility the protests created, slowed the project down significantly. I’d say it’s coming in two years later because of the protests, maybe even three. Now, that pipeline is going to be worthless once the energy transition passes maybe a third of the way along, because it is for diluted bitumen from the tar sands, which only sells after all the other oil because it’s more expensive to produce, more expensive to move, and more expensive to refine. Frankly, I doubt that pipeline is gonna be shipping a damn thing past about 2035, max. That’s just 11 years. Without the protests, it would have been 13, maybe 14. So arguably, the protests shaved 3/14ths off the negative consequences of that pipeline. It’s not as good as stopping it, but it’s better than nothing. Mind you, the pipeline protests were not just demonstrations, they often involved physically blocking work on the pipeline, so arguably that’s a different category of action.

  10. different clue

    Police always welcome a chance to work out on those ” snooty students and prissy professors”. We saw that during the Sixties.

    My feeling is the College Administrators and their social class comrades and social class superiors decided very quickly that the Sixties would never be allowed to happen, ever again.

    Never. Ever.

    After all, remember how quickly the Obama Administration moved in concert with the Democratic City Mayors to arrange para-military levels of force to break up and destroy the physical manifestations of Occupy. I don’t think the Obamazoid authorities worried about being hated and I don’t think the current authorities worry about being hated, as long as they crush this nascent Sixties so that no more Sixties ever happen ever ever again.

    Never. Ever.

    ( Of course the “velvet glove” approach could be tried for pragmatically useful peace-and-quiet-keeping results. But the elites consider that not sufficient here. To them a “kinder gentler Sixties” is still a Sixties, and they are determined to kick over sideways every embryonic Sixties they see . . . and stomp on it.

    That said, the currently protesting students will make contacts with eachother and might figure out how to wage effective post-protest political combat in the years to come. If they figure out how to make the Democratic Party become Israel-neutral instead of Israel-supportive as today, and if they attrit AIPAC’s power to pick or delete DemParty officeholders to zero, then ” support Israel” will become an exclusively Republican Party cause. The current AIPAC-based Israel Lobby will fade away, to be replaced with a CUFI-based Armageddon-Rapture Lobby ( under “support Israel” cover) tomorrow. The change will be very clarifying and might lead other people to do various things and stuff in response.

    ( CUFI –> )

  11. different clue


    My memory of the BLM leadership is that the ones who got rich were the second cycle hustlers who identified early a very lucrative wave they could ride to riches.

    The first-cycle BLM leadership which emerged mainly in Ferguson in the first wave of protests there after the police killing of ( I forget what the target’s name was just now) have been carefully suicided in the years since. No clues have been found, indicating that the suiciders who suicided these leaders had the kind of police-and-detective-specific knowledge of clues to be sure that no clues were left.

  12. Mary Bennet

    Polls, such as the ones Crystal Ball highlights on Breaking Points, which show diminishing outside the beltway American citizen support for Israel, are easy to obfuscate, ignore or denounce as lies, as a last resort. Protests, especially those which are not easily shut down, are not so easily ignored. I think the real audiences are the Pentagon and Dept. of Defense, and the intention is to show that if you, Sec. Austin let yourself get dragged into a war of choice in the ME, the country Will Not be behind you.

  13. Jan Wiklund

    “Police, of course, are police because they like hurting people, with vanishingly few exceptions. Any excuse is enough of an excuse for most of them. The Professor found out how much her “privilege” really matters.”

    – Sociologist Randal Collins reject this idea in his brilliant book Violence, According to him, policemen are like other people, just that they are more likely to be in violent situations than others. And nothing of what he has found suggests that they like it.

    There are, according to Collins, only two situations in which people (policemen or not) can act violently:
    – that they are a part of a chain of command, with higher officers, and ultimately the government, tells them to be violent, likely with some kind of duress, and
    – that they are triggered for a conflict and the opposite party suddenly collapses; then there can be ugly violence against that party. This is what happens when policemen go amuck, and this is what happens in family violence.

    But people are notoriously bad at violence. It goes against our genetic hardwiring. We are made to be co-operating animals, and violence doesn’t figure. This goes for policemen too. Most of what is presented as violence is in reality posturing, swaggering. And if a situation deteriorates into violence for any of the abovementioned reasons the violence is incompetent and very likely to be directed to the wrong persons. The perpetrator is too nervous, too bad at ease to think or act intelligently.

    So if Collins is right, the proper answer to police is never to show fear, and never to show threats. This would handle the question of “forward panic”, as he calls the blind violence policemen may show against defenseless people. Of course it doesn’t handle the chain of command question. And of course it is hard to organize.

  14. joe

    There is a lot more to protests than the intellectual aspect. The thing many often miss about protest is that it can be a great way to break the constant grimness of absorbing all the negativity of the thing one is learning about in the media. Dressing up making a sign traveling somewhere with a carload of like minded people on a mission to make their voices ring out into a crowd is an empowering thing. The protest can be for the person doing it as well as its subject. Myself going to San Francisco to the first gulf war protest the streets as far as the eye could see were lined from side to side end to end with tens of thousands of people. It was an astonishing experience. We knew we were not alone in our outrage. No media could tell us what our thoughts or mission were or diminish our numbers or our twist our thoughts on the subject. We were taking a stand. At one point a hundred people lifted a city buss off the ground in a display to ourselves of our collective power. Now i know first hand what the PTB are afraid of. Voting is the paperwork of democracy protesting can be a legitimate part of the action.

  15. bruce wilder

    clearly people in the halls of power feel threatened this time


    Compare and contrast:

    Nancy Pelosi kneeling in Kente cloth for George Floyd
    Nancy Pelosi blaming Putin (“For them to call for a ceasefire is Mr. Putin’s message. Make no mistake. This is directly connected to what he would like to see”)

    if it weren’t for the violence and murder involved, it would be comically bizarre to watch

  16. mago

    I’m divided on the effectiveness of protest movements affecting real change in the halls of power. In the Vietnam era, they seemed to have some affect. But then kids were coming home in body bags; there was conscription, and the war was beamed into living room on yet he nightly news.

    The kids today are certainly kicking the hornets’ nests. So good on them.

    Academic administration has been too top heavy since at least the 90’s. Lots of bloat there. Kind of a West Coast Under Assistant Promo Man sort of thing.

    Lacking television and good internet connection I rely on my cell phone and screen shots to view the action. The rulers’ enforcers aka the police look like steroid lard in a uniform. Amped up on amphetamine based war drugs and a corporate chemical diet—Jimmy Dean sausage, sugars, caffeine and hormones, they’ve lost their humanity. Empaths they are not.

    Don’t know where this is going. It’s a messy mix. School’s out in a couple of weeks. Memories are short and occluded by and large. Meanwhile corrupt and crapulous institutions lurch on like demented zombies.

    I’ll close with the personal admission that lyrics from the Tubes song have been running through my head today.:
    “We’re white punks on dope/mom and dad live in Hollywood/hang myself when I get enough rope. . . “
    (Not saying the kids are on dope, but most everyone is drugged on one thing or another, even if it’s legal street drugs like caffeine and sugar.)
    What to do?
    Hasta la victoria!

  17. capelin

    @ Joe

    Yes, making a public stand for something you believe in with others is an education and good for the soul.

    Lots of radical educations going on right now, court summons instead of diploma’s will do that.

    It’s one tactic among many, and on it’s own can be(often is) a “well I did something, so I feel better” bleed-off of change energy.

    We were protesting the first Gulf War up here in the frozen north. Pre internet,of course, zero media coverage of any opposition to the war. One got the sense that it was us in our little city vs the world.

    Someone had come back from San Fran with stories of massive demonstrations. We clung to that; proof of others. So thanks! Good bus story.

    There’s a lot of forces acting on these current protests, including the idealism of youth, infiltration, and it’s usefulness as a diversion (now talking about student on lawns).

    My gut sense is that it’s just as it appears; a sincere but self-limiting tactic, which might just inspire the rest of us.

  18. Eric Anderson

    I agree with all you say here Ian. Missing is the path to installing administrators who understand this.

    I tooted the other day at the elephant site:
    “In looking at #Boeing, #Google, #HigherEd, etc., it seems the world is aligned in thinking “management” is the problem. Ah, yes. All those MBAs. The MBA is the problem. It’s a degree in psychopathy.”

    Firing all the MBAs at the Universities is the first step in actually dealing with the student protest camps.

    Hell, firing all the MBAs is the way to pretty much fix most of the problems facing humanity.

  19. anon

    Many of these university administrators may not believe in anything but money. A significant number of their donors are wealthy Zionists. Their careers and the university endowment depend on Zionist alumni donors to continue donating millions or billions. If Bill Ackman and donors like him were pro-Palestine, there would be a very different conversation on college campuses. I’m an alum of several of these universities featured on the news for its protests but no one gives a shit what I or most other pro-Palestine alums and professors think because we are not millionaires or billionaires.

  20. Hart Liss

    My recollection is that whether or not Eisenhower opposed MacArthur’s approach to the Bonus Army, he nonetheless assisted MacArthur.
    Given the nation’s actual history, I wouldn’t have expected Eisenhower to actively oppose what MacArthur did. It wasn’t the way to rise in the ranks.

  21. Jan Wiklund

    Let’s see how eminent researcher and ex-WB director Branko Milanovic sees it (

    “The novelty, for me, in the current wave of freedom of speech demonstrations in the United States was that it was the university administrators who called for the police to attack students. In at least one case, in New York, the police were puzzled why they were brought in, and thought it was counter-productive. One could understand that this attitude by the administrators might happen in authoritarian countries where the administrators may be appointed by the powers-to-be to keep order on campuses. Then, obviously, as obedient civil servants, they would support the police in its “cleansing” activity although they would rarely have the authority to call it in.

    But in the US, university administrators are not appointed by Biden, nor by Congress. Why would they then attack their own students? Are they some evil individuals who love to beat up younger people?

    The answer is, No. They are not. They are just in a wrong job. They are not seeing their role as what traditionally was the role of universities, that is to try to impart to the younger generation values of freedom, morality, compassion, self-abnegation, empathy or whatever else is considered desirable. Their role today is to be the CEOs of factories that are called universities.”

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén