I think we can safely conclude that the Stop Watching Us rally in Washington, DC Saturday was a flop. Says Reuters:
Estimates varied on the size of the march, with organizers saying more than 2,000 attended. U.S. Capitol Police said they do not typically provide estimates on the size of demonstrations.
AFP was a little more generous, reporting 4,500, but then, they think their president is bugged by the NSA, and they tilt left. Even so, the numbers as paltry.
One participant tweeted enthusiastically that there were already 1,000 people there even before the buses arrived -- oops, that means not that many people showed up for the buses from New York, and even a few followers told him this was a poor turn-out.
So they want us to stop watching us, maybe we shouldn't. Or maybe the Congress in particular needs to stop thinking these people represent some big force or constituency -- they don't. They have social media amplification but it's not really all that much.
9030 retweets of a livestream web page -- the main one for the event -- is a shockingly low number for something that was hyped for weeks and had all kinds of big name adversarial journalists and leftist icons and companies like Ben & Jerries pumping it - and the Libertarians as well. G+ is once again revealed to be a geek ghetto with just 1787 hits -- and there, we have to figure something else is at stake here: the great iPhone jail-breaking geek masses (1.7 million) did not rise as one to this anti-NSA cause. Maybe because too many of them work for government and related corporations and want to keep their jobs? Or maybe because they aren't convinced there's such a spy problem here and it doesn't matter?
27,000 Facebook likes is better, but still pretty small beer, given that these Facebook groups have been active since June (liberals and lefties still use FB more than other services, which must drive some of the more PC anarchists crazy).
In fact, Restore the 4th, one of many such groups with this name in different cities on FB, as one sharp-eyed twitterer named Geranimo noted, was founded on June 8th, seemingly before the Snowden affair broke into the news. Actually, Glenn Greenwald's first article based on this leak was June 6, but it wasn't until June 9 that Snowden burst into the news by revealing his identity in Hong Kong in the videotaped nterview made by Laura Poitras. Suspicious?
Well, it's one more data point that needs study, but I think the explanation is simply that the people doing Restore the 4th are the same old cadres who have been at this radical transparency/absolute encryption game for a decade -- also attacking copyright and cybersecurity -- except when they run it. That's Electronic Frontier Foundation and their related front groups like Fight for the Future, Demand Progress -- all front groups that all trace back to the same activists and donors. If they are claiming to be "grassroots" now and representing some kind of authentic public backlash over Snowden, there's the evidence that they are not:
There were signs of trouble one could see before hand, like the fact that the chair of the Restore the Fourth chair Ben Doernberg had so few followers on Twitter (about 1500), and wasted his time battling critics like me instead of being persuasive to a larger circle. And that's a good thing, when hard leftists sink of their own sectarianism, I'm not complaining. As you can see, Ben also whined about a Reuters reporter saying there were "hundreds" and not "thousands":
Ben himself barely made a tweet all day, until he started in with the browbeating. That's how you know that things went wrong. People aren't going to tweet about low turnout. Try as they did to make all the shots close-up, to disguise the lack of people, we could all see the same puppets in each shot, and see that the turn out was extremely weak -- a few thousands. Even with the ACLU paying for the busses.
Possibly Tom Watson's protest on Slate that the left had hooked up with the libertarians on this one might have cost some attendance, but I don't think so.
Still, there was a certain amount of negativity around this that cost support. Ben tried to disassociate himself from a sign that was reported on the news and on Twitter of someone carrying a sign with Obama as Hitler. Look, once they stoop that low and become that crazy, you know they can't get followers. Good! But as you can see, Ben argues that these coalitions were necessary. This is supposed to be "mature politics" unlike Occupy weirdness and freaky cultism. Except, it still comes out the same because it's just too transparently what it is: socialist agendas trying to pretend they are something else.
The good news is that Tom Watson now declared himself as a *social democrat* which is indeed a form of socialism, so that this denial that these progs are socialist can maybe begin to subside. Better that they be straight about it.
Reuters tags and descriptions on Yahoo -- not the headline -- spoke of "hundreds" and the "far left and far right" getting together. That's not what social media spinners like Ben want to see --- they use the word "progressive" so they can sound like "everybody" from Democrats to McCain Republicans.
I think that a key reason this demonstration didn't have more people is that neither Google or Jon Stewart or anything with any real mass power got behind it. If Reddit the company endorsed it, Redditors themselves didn't.
And there's another strange thing -- Glenn Greenwald only had one tweet about Rep. Russ Holt speaking ats the rally -- he didn't live tweet it or send it any greetings or boost it in any way. Other lefties like David Corn said nothing or weren't even on Twitter. Well, it's a Saturday, even the progs like to take a break with their families. Katrina vanden Heuvel also had only one re-tweet of RT.com the Russian Kremlin-supported TV station (what else) which live-blogged it all day - she had nothing to say, either. Look at all the other "stars" on the top billing and they also just had little to say. Maybe this was because of the Libertarian thing. Maybe because of poor turnout. Or maybe they don't actually care what happens on the ground.
And yet these were the people who, starting in the summer, threatened to turn every vote against Amash's initiative to defund the NSA into a "yes". Scary!
Come to think of it, Ron Wyden didn't seem to be speaking at this jamboree. Why? Too hard left/right even for him?
Was it just poorly organized or too riven with sectarian differences, or is it that in fact most Americans aren't on the hard left or hard right and just don't care?
I think there's a larger theme here which is 2016. Soros funds a lot of these groups that run "Stop Watching Us" -- millions of his budget go to national security issue nonprofits (which means making there be less of national security in the name of "open society" -- which is what I have come to see merely means the solid "progressive" line, not real openness and pluralism). But Soros is now looking ahead to Hillary in 2016. She is not as hard left as Obama -- she is not anti-business as he is, with his socialist "community organizing" training and Chicago lefty circles. And surely the Soros operatives know something maybe not so apparent --there is a huge backlash against Obama. Over so many things. Benghazi -- even the now-dismissed prog @natsecwonk questioned the narrative with his insider's knowledge -- the weird Syria whiplash, and of course the NSA and Rosen and Risen. All of it. That backlash might translate into a conservative or libertarian candidate that could prove wildly popular. Indeed, the EFF isn't stupid, either, and is building those political bridges now.
The Democrats won't be able to win again by moving to the left -- they've gone too far and are starting to meet the hard right coming round the corner. So to appeal to demographics within the Party and disenchanted GOP members, they will tack more toward the center. That's what I'm guessing. I'm not an expert on national politics though, just commenting.
I do hope we are seeing the Snowden movement fizzle out, just as we saw Occupy fizzle out. That's good news. Our country has a lot of damage to repair.
Of course, even if these people only turn out a few thousand, I still think it's worth tracking and opposing them because they are antithetical to human rights and think that ends justify means (like forming coalitions with some pretty creepy people). What I do hope is that Congress does not feel whiplashed by them and doesn't cater to them or accommodate them and realizes that Wyden from Portlandia isn't the nation.
P.S. I forgot to mention that Edward Snowden (or some facsimile) piped in a stilted message to the rally. It was yet another strangely-written piece that didn't sound like the guy we used to read on Ars Technica.