The word “activism” gets thrown around a lot, and has all sorts of reputations, but it’s an important part of our country’s history and super important if you care about helping this country move in a positive direction.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Emma: Hi, Brittany.
Brittany: Hi, Emma.
Emma: Today we are going to talk about activism. And this is a word that gets thrown around a lot. It has all different reputations, but it’s a very important part of our country’s history and super important if you care about helping this country and helping the world in a general move in a positive direction. So, Brittany, I’m gonna ask you, when you think of an activist, who do you think of? Is there a specific figure? Maybe there’s a specific kind of person. Just kind of tell me what comes to your mind when you hear that word.
Brittany: Yeah, so I have two answers to this. Part of it is me, I think of myself, I think of when I was a young Ron Paul kid and things like the TSA were becoming a thing. And you know, we would go and peacefully protest. We wouldn’t, you know, we weren’t hurting anybody, but we’d, you know, hold signs and maybe that wasn’t that effective, but we’d let people know that we were unhappy with, with what was happening and we’d pass out literature and things like that. Another person I think of is Edward Snowden, who’s one of my heroes, right? Now, we’re not all going to be in a position like Edward Snowden was, where we can, where we have, you know, a lot of information Yeah. That we can go and be a whistleblower. But I think of these positive examples of people who used nonviolence to bring about a change. you know, Rosa Parks is another good example. she changed the world with basically just saying, nah, you know, no Like, no, I’m not, gonna go to the back of the bus. And, that one word was so powerful that it, you know, it, helped spark the civil rights movement. So, yeah. So yeah, that’s what I think of.
Emma: I love it. And I, you know, there are other types of activism too that maybe aren’t as positive. There’s, Antifa and there’s Occupy Wall Street.
Brittany: What is Antifa? Let’s back up a little bit and Yeah. find that.
Emma: So, Antifa, if you haven’t heard of Antifa, is basically a group that they call themselves Antifascists, which is where you get Antifa. but basically, they’re a group that has done a ton of protesting and even rioting in certain cities across the country. So I grew up in Portland, Antifa has a huge presence in Portland. Yeah. They’re constantly doing stupid stuff like smashing in the Apple store and stealing stuff and burning things down. So there are different types of activism and not all of them are created equal. They’re not all the same and they’re not all equally justified. So we’re gonna get into that a bit. but now that we’ve got some of those like names and ideas in our heads of maybe like positive and negative activism, here’s a quick definition of what that word actually means. So, activism is the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. So essentially an activist is someone who works to promote or oppose a certain cause through campaigning, using their voice, organizing like-minded people. And usually activists are trying to influence the government since it makes laws, but sometimes it’s public pressure as well. That’s the goal. So, if you can think of if you’ve ever heard of pita people for the ethical treatment of animals, they try to influence people not to buy fur or not to eat meat. And everyone has their hot takes on Pita and what they think about them. But you know, I’m a big meat eater myself, so.
Brittany: I am as well.
Emma: I feel like they might not like me as much, but yeah. Using your voice to stand up for what you believe in is a really awesome thing to do. It’s recognized in our constitution, the First Amendment recognizes our right to speak freely, criticize our government petition for laws to be changed and gather and protest. And that’s super revolutionary. That’s like a radical thing that our government said, Hey, you actually have the right to criticize us. That’s really unique and it’s crazy and it’s led to a lot of really awesome things in America, like women’s suffrage, giving women the right to vote, and the civil rights movement, you know, making sure that people weren’t being excluded or weren’t being discriminated against based on their skin color. these are some really amazing things that have come from good activism, but there are, there, you know, not every type of activism is the same and not every type is as effective. So we’re gonna get into that a bit. Brittany, do you wanna talk a little bit about some of the activism that we’ve seen in the last year or so?
Brittany: Yeah. Which has been a real shame. I know last summer I was actually, I live in DC so I was actually quite scared. and I, live in a suburb of DC and I didn’t go into DC for a very long time. I just started going in, in now. But, so unfortunately, some people get very carried away with these protests and they use them as an excuse to harm other people in their and their property. In fact, not everybody, but a lot of people I think go to these things to stir up trouble because they know that this is a place where they can do that. And a lot of people go because they have maybe good intentions they believe and what they’re trying to do, but they also get carried away because, and we’ve talked about this a lot, you know, feelings can start overpowering your logic or your thoughts, and then you end up giving into the feelings and your emotions. So a lot of people have unfortunately used these protests as an excuse, like I said, to harm people. And the constitution definitely does not give them the right to that. You know, my mom used to say, I can’t, I’m gonna butcher. Something like you’re right to do. Something ends like when you’re fist meets my face, and I don’t, she said it more poetically than I did, but basically you have the right to express your opinion. But the second that opinion goes from you expressing it to you harming a person or harming property, that’s not okay, that is where you’ve crossed a line where it’s not free speech anymore, that that’s an act of violence. You know, we’ve talked about the non-aggression principle before and that would be a violation of the non-aggression principle. You know, the non-aggression principle would let you speak your mind and say what you wanna say, but the second you trespass on someone else’s property or you know, their person, yeah. Their body, that’s a problem. So for example, again, last summer we had these massive protests associated with Black Lives Matter. And again, I do think some of these people are very well-intentioned and some of them, had every right to be angry at the, at the George Floyd situation. Regardless of what you think about George Floyd, the government does not have the right to be the jury judge and the executioner. And what we saw was, the government being the jury, judge, and executioner. So that was not right. And I understand why people were angry, but there was no excuse to meet violence with violence. Right. So they, these people got violent. They ended up costing, I, think it was 2 billion in damages to businesses on private property. And the really just disturbing thing that makes me mad is here you have a Black Lives Matter protest who were burning a lot of black-owned businesses. Yeah. And it got to the point where people were putting like black-owned businesses signs on their windows and storefronts because people were burning them down. So it was very sad. I remember I gave to a GoFundMe account for this, you know, family man, this black guy who had owned a sports bar. He was just about to open it. Yeah. And COVID had ruined that for him because, you know, the shutdowns. But he was finally about to open his bar, and then it got burned. and I believe he was able to rebuild, but how terrible, right. Because these people, it was, took protests and they made them violent, they made them riots, not protests, very different. So, you know, you’re allowed to be extremely angry about something. I am angry about most things the government does, of I being completely honest. But your anger, and again, it’s justified. I don’t think I’m unjustified in this, but if you choose to harm other people, that is where activism ceases to be or stops to be activism, it’s violence and violence is wrong. No matter what you believe, you know, that violence is about now you could make an argument that if someone punches you, you have the right to defend yourself. But that’s not what’s happening here. This is aggression, it’s violence.
Emma: It is violence. And like you said, Brittany, there are so many innocent people who have suffered because of this violence where, you know, they weren’t out protesting. They didn’t really have any skin in the game one way or the other. Yet their business was completely destroyed. And that’s the 2 billion number that you just mentioned. That’s a lot of that is insurance payouts that have gone to people who, you know, they had a storefront, they had a business, and people literally broke the windows, went in, and stole a bunch of stuff that was sitting in their store. And that happened all over the country. And it’s crazy to me to think that something as good as a peaceful protest could turn into something so bad. And, you know, like you said, people get carried away with their emotions and they get caught up in the moment. And it happens. Like, it really does happen. And it’s happened a lot throughout history. This is not the first time. but this is not a good thing when you have people going out to say, Hey, I’m here for this cause I believe in this thing. I believe X is wrong, or I believe y is good. and they go out and they end up actually committing acts of violence. Not only does it harm other people, which is very bad, but it detracts from the overall cause because it makes people who maybe they don’t wanna hear your side out. It gives them an excuse not to hear you out. So that’s another reason. It’s not just bad to harm other people or take their stuff, but it’s actually not a good strategic move because at the end of the day, people are gonna listen to you a lot less. And that’s the same thing that kind of happens with Antifa. I’ve talked about them before. I grew up in Portland, and Antifa has a huge presence there, and they’re always, it feels like every other week they’re out there doing something stupid. And there’s probably some Antifa pita crossover, huh? Well, yeah, probably. Yeah. There are all kinds of, Portland has always been like a big protest city, like since I was a kid there, there’s always been stuff going on there. But, Antifa, especially in the last like five years or so, it really, peaked off when Trump was elected. But they, basically come into town and they start like harming people and throwing like weird, you know, explosive chemicals into stores and burning stuff down and doing this crazy, crazy stuff and harming people and beating people up even because they think that they’re fighting fascism. And it’s crazy because, you know, I believe that fascism is bad fascism. Yes. For those who don’t know, it’s basically, you know, government authoritarianism and maybe there are a couple of businesses and the government’s working with them and it’s corrupt. Like Nazi Germany was fascist, fascism is horrible. It’s evil. And I completely agree that fascism is bad, but if you’re gonna go out and start harming people and beating people up and causing violence in the name of anti-fascism, you’re gonna lose me and I’m not gonna care about your cause and I’m actually going to be very opposed to you as a group. So that’s kind of like, just one little personal example for me on, you know, your activism tactics and how you can actually persuade people and get them over to your side. And that’s one thing that I really love about the Civil Rights movement is that it was completely peaceful. There were people who would go into diners and would sit down and say, I’m going to violate your laws, but I’m going to do so peacefully because I’m just trying to draw attention to the fact that these laws are unjust and try to get them changed. And, you know, to their credit, the civil rights protestors, they a lot of times were savagely beaten. They were beaten by the police, they were beaten by people, and citizens sometimes, and they refused to engage in violence because they understood that that was not a good way to accomplish their end goal and not a good way to advocate for their cause. And I have so much respect for them for being able to, endure that because it’s not easy to do that when you’re being persecuted. But, at the end of the day, you know, I’m going on this long rant about protesting, but activism is something that’s super important. Yes, it’s very important to America. It’s important to who we are as a country. It’s awesome that we have the right to be activists, but just use that carefully, and choose how you want to represent that very carefully. Because if you’re trying to persuade other people to come to your side, just remember that they’re going to be looking at you to see how you behave and how you carry yourself to decide whether or not they agree with you. So that’s kind of my little rant on, you know, Antifa versus civil rights.
Brittany: Well, you know, and I think Connor and I did a whole episode about that, where like, character matters because if you’re out there burning things like it’s, you know, who’s gonna wanna listen to you. But fortunately, there are a lot of great ways to make your voice heard on issues that you care about in your community without burning things to the ground. So, you know, you can call or write your lawmakers to express how you feel about certain issues. And that can, that doesn’t have to be somebody in Congress that can be a local, you know, city council member. Yeah. That can be a zoning board that are terrible. That can be a zoning board. You could talk to your neighbors and friends about issues that you’re fired up about, you know, read the Logical fallacies book. We, teach a lot of different ways to do that. handout flyers. I used to do that all the time when I was a young Ron Paul kid. Go to peaceful rallies and protests again. I’ve done that lots of times. And encourage your friends and family to join you. You know, I, remember, yeah. Going with my friend’s kids, like, it doesn’t have to be a scary thing where things are on fire, right? Like, it can be a fun, you know, family way of fighting the power.
Totally. Yeah. I’ve gone to several rallies with my family for certain causes, and it’s a really cool thing to get together with people that you care about and go out and express your opinion on something that you care about. It’s powerful. It’s, in my opinion, it’s very patriotic to go out and do that because it’s something that the founders specifically said, go do this. This is good. This is good for our country when you make your voices heard. So, you know, I’m a huge fan of doing that and getting your family, getting your community involved. And that’s really what it means to be an activist, is that to go back to that definition, you’re organizing and your campaigning and you’re figuring out ways to get your message out, work positively and work in a way that, you know, draws good attention to your cause. And, you know, whether it’s something like a local issue like Britney said if it’s a zoning thing if it’s a local law that you think is unfair, or if it’s something all the way up to the national level, you have a powerful voice and your powerful voice can make a really big difference. But just understand that there are different ways to go about it. And the way that you see a lot of people going about it is not necessarily the best way. You can stand out in a really positive way if you choose to be a positive person and really push for things in a way that is productive and that is respectful. So your conduct and the way that you carry yourself is very important with activism. Brittany, do you have anything else you wanna say before we wrap it up here?
Brittany: Yeah, just again, reiterate that who you’re character matters. You know, how you present yourself matters. And if you want somebody to get on board with a cause that you’re supporting, remember that people are watching. Yes, that sounds creepy. Like people are watching, but people are watching.
Emma: They are watching though. Yes. They’re paying attention to you. So make sure that you use that attention wisely. thank you everybody for listening. We will talk to you all again soon. Brittany, thanks for joining me. This was a fun one. Appreciate you.
Brittany: Talk to you soon.