Sliwa’s Protest: Why it’s Different

28 May

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I disagree with Curtis Sliwa on the substance of his protest / radio stunt yesterday at the 2010 New York State Democratic Convention. I don’t think Andrew Cuomo became Attorney General or the gubernatorial nominee solely by virtue of his father’s identity, nor do I think it’s a “coronation” – not like 2006 when Eliot Spitzer had a real, qualified, serious challenger in Tom Suozzi.

Suozzi, incidentally, was present for Cuomo’s speech, but declined to comment on it.

What I do agree with is the method in which Sliwa mounted his protest.

He was funny.

And that’s no small feat.

Oftentimes people who engage in political protest believe they need to be serious, earnest, and humorless. But I think that turns people off. Carl Paladino is “mad as hell” but has absolutely no sense of humor. Not about himself, not about the state, not about his campaign – about nothing (except, according to him, horse porn and racist jokes).

Curtis Sliwa came in character. He was funny. He got his point across. He made a splash. That’s how you protest – show people that you have a sense of humor. That way, even if people disagree with you, they’ll be laughing – not angry. And if they’re laughing, they’ll be more likely to listen.

9 Responses to “Sliwa’s Protest: Why it’s Different”

  1. Mike in WNY May 28, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    The relevance of the substance is what made it funny – especially the HUD reference.

    • Alan Bedenko May 28, 2010 at 11:15 am #

      The fact that Sliwa was – and remained – in character made it funny. Any asshole can scream about Cuomo & HUD. Sliwa did it humorously.

      He was dressed as a king. Don’t know if ya noticed.

  2. seamonkeyavenger May 28, 2010 at 10:47 am #

    Alan, I totally agree with the notion that humor is often key to a good/effective protest. I disagree, however, with the notion that Sliwa’s act was actually *funny.* It really wasn’t. In fact, I found it to be painfully unfunny. Sorry, but conservatives are simply NOT good at humor. Whenever they try to be funny, it falls flat (at best). I don’t know what it is… Maybe a lack of creativity? A sheep-like desire to conform and to follow (instead of buck) the crowd? A mean-spirited and selfish world outlook that doesn’t lend itself well to humor? Whatever the reason, conservatives are rarely funny (except when they’re trying to be serious).

    • Jon Splett May 28, 2010 at 11:49 am #

      I agree. I watch that video and I see a painfully unfunny old white guy trying way too hard. He’s overselling the jokes and trying to hit you over the head with the delivery. I suppose it might have worked better in person with a feel for the room, but on video it just doesn’t work for me.

      As for conservatives lack of humor, Gawker had a post about it a few months back that I generally agree with…. http://gawker.com/5460506/why-arent-conservatives-funny

      • Jon Splett May 28, 2010 at 11:59 am #

        Okay on second watch, he’s mildly entertaining after the cops show up but only because he’s committed himself to staying in character. His material still isn’t all that clever or witty.

  3. Historical Pessimist May 28, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    From the perspective of someone actually attending the convention as a delegate, I wasn’t even aware of his presence until we left the hotel. He was standing on the sidewalk at the end of the driveway. Same for the presence of Mr. Tricia Nixon Cox: I only saw him when I exited the building once the convention was over. These were media stunts, pure and simple.

  4. Starbuck May 28, 2010 at 5:11 pm #

    What’s funniest in the video is so many “New Democratic Party” signs all over the walls. I wonder what’s new about it.

  5. hank May 30, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    Was the Boston Tea Party “Funny”? Were the fired up speeches from Sam and John Adams, Patrick Henry, etc “Funny?” Was Tom Paine’s “The Crisis” Funny?

    They were dead ass serious, and England’s Royal administration in their colonies certainly saw it as a high potential threat to the Crown. And there would have been no United States without them

    Conservatives aren’t very humorful. We see what’s gone on in DC the last 18 months with “The most Ethical Congress in History” and the “Most Transparent White House Ever”, and though it certainly appears a “Joke”, it’s not funny by any reasonable interpretation

    • Alan Bedenko May 30, 2010 at 6:13 am #

      Well, you’re comparing contemporary politics to late 18th century colonial crises because you’ve bought into a lie.

      Is Forbes liberal? Is Bruce Bartlett liberal? David Frum?

      90% of Americans got a tax cut in 2009. Under the stimulus the tea party so hates,

      last year’s $787 billion stimulus bill, enacted with no Republican support, reduced federal taxes by almost $100 billion in 2009 and another $222 billion this year. The Tax Policy Center, a private research group, estimates that close to 90% of all taxpayers got a tax cut last year and almost 100% of those in the $50,000 income range. For those making between $40,000 and $50,000, the average tax cut was $472; for those making between $50,000 and $75,000, the tax cut averaged $522. No taxpayer anywhere in the country had his or her taxes increased as a consequence of Obama’s policies.

      It’s hard to explain this divergence between perception and reality. Perhaps these people haven’t calculated their tax returns for 2009 yet and simply don’t know what they owe. Or perhaps they just assume that because a Democrat is president that taxes must have gone up, because that’s what Republicans say that Democrats always do. In fact, there hasn’t been a federal tax increase of any significance in this country since 1993.

      The whole “tea party” thing is just a corollary to Godwin’s Law.

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