Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Andrew Cuomo vs. Another Protest

Today Gov. Cuomo gave his second State of the State address. It was a broad-strokes speech about past successes and future plans. I say successes because Cuomo has done everything he said he would, and NY is on its way back. The budget is getting in order; job creation on the rise. Cuomo publicly and one-sidedly destroyed CSEA and PEF in contact negotiations, calling both unions’ bluffs without blinking. If this continues, he’s a jump from trading State Street for Pennsylvania Avenue.

In the Empire Plaza concourse where Cuomo gave his speech, another group of protesters gathered, in an attempt to threaten Cuomo into giving up his hydro fracking idea, a topic not even mentioned in his speech. They held their picket signs and beat their drum about an issue that nobody really understands or actually cares about. Fracking? That's what this is about? What is hydro fracking? Is it bad? I don't know. At this point, I don't care, honestly. Maybe I should. So what do serious people care about? Ah, the economy.

Are these gaggles of loosely-organized protesters joking with this latest demonstration against the gov? Do they actually think putting some guy that looks like an Amish John Lennon in front of news cameras is going to make serious people stop and listen? State workers were walking right past, annoyed, having no idea what this latest nonsense was about. One picket sign promised to vote Cuomo out of he didn’t back down on fracking. Yeah, OK, Amish Lennon, that’s gonna happen.

I guess that’s my problem with protesters. Why do they all have to look SO crazy? I have absolutely no idea what Occupy Albany was about, and it irritates me when people say they enacted change. Huh? They did? Here’s what I know about the Occupy Albany protesters: They looked like a tailgate party before a Phish concert that went on for six weeks. If these protesters, or any protesters, want to make people in power stand up and take notice, why don't they hire a serious-looking, informed-looking spokesperson to deal with the media?

It seems like every protest party’s PR idea is to get the craziest looking one and let him/her explain to the evening-news viewer exactly what they’re doing sleeping in Academy Park in canopy tents, because I have no idea what that guy with green hair is talking about. There's nothing more powerful than the media in this country. So use it the right way.

There’s a reason why people who look a certain way don’t get hired or heard in important positions. It may be wrong, but it’s true, you know it is. If somebody who looked like Jesus was running for public office, he’d be told to get a haircut. If some guy with a thousand tattoos was trying to be your lawyer or wedding planner, he’d cover his tats on first impression, right? Are there exceptions to every rule? Sure, but it's few and far between. Any protest that is successful must, at some point, gain public support. We must relate to you.

In a sense, protesters are salesmen, selling their complaint to the country, in hopes that many will agree and join the cause. Occupy Wall Street may have had a meaningful, important message, but I couldn’t get past the nappy beards held together with rubber bands. Is that wrong of me to say? Probably. Is that same thinking true of most Americans? Absolutely.

If you want to bump chests with a Rottweiler like Andrew Cuomo you better come WAY bigger than a guy who carries his ukulele or the 22yr old with the baseball cap and backpack. And if you want to convince Middle America to get on board with your agenda, get Amish John Lennon off the news, hire somebody who can sell the message, because protests have become a punch line in this country. Why you ask: Because they all look like crazy, homeless hippies when the news crews show up, even if they’re not, and that may be the saddest part. Perception is everything.

Brian Huba

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