The “anti-war” movement holds a teach-in and teaches nothing practical.

You can still catch reruns of the recent teach-in on C-SPAN. The teach-in was organized by some of the self-described anti-war groups. The teach-in dates back to the Vietnam war. There, the anti-war movement taught anyone who wanted to come in and learn effective strategies for opposing the Vietnam war. You’d find stimulating discussion which encouraged the audience to participate by contributing challenging questions and statements, the entire group was free to argue productively, and learn why the US went to Vietnam at all.

Very little of this has apparently survived to the current day.

I watched the teach-in live on C-SPAN Thursday night. I saw nobody ask challenging questions. I saw very little input from the audience, it was mostly a staged affair for the speakers. Nobody who spoke had anything to say about voting pro-war for Kerry (let alone distinguishing between those who could vote for Kerry to get Bush out of office and those who should have voted their consciences instead). Naomi Klein said that she blamed Kerry for his weak stance—not opposing the war—but where were the anti-war movement demands for Kerry? How can anyone blame Kerry for not taking the anti-war supporters seriously if they ask for nothing of him?

Nobody asked about practical recommendations for what one could do in the next day, during the next week, or during the next month to oppose the continuing occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. I don’t know what recommendations those would be, but I’m not up there leading a teach-in either. Nobody challenged the lack of marches for so many months that the anti-war movement had made itself even more invisible in the eyes of the general public.

Nobody questioned the validity of the fervor to get the troops home by asking how to get the troops home. It was more like a meeting to agree to meet again in the indeterminate future. A lot of vague philosophy was shared, which can be okay so long as it is paired with something you can use.

It was also very civil, which seemed oddly inappropriate to me. I expected a heated (and thus, educational as well as interesting) exchange of views from a variety of positions within the anti-war movement. Instead, I got the anti-war movement version of the US presidential debates. Stilted, long-running, and little real input from anyone not on the panel.

Will members of the anti-war movement behave in line with their alleged ethics (by voting for anti-war candidates)? When the time comes for them to vote will they cave and vote Democratic Party instead? Will anti-war participants do what they can to dismiss voting as not a big deal (now they can afford to play this game because any election they care about is over a year away)?

Speaking of ignored elections, we’ve got one coming up. Ironically, people have more power during these elections because so few people vote in them. Will anyone from the anti-war movement champion voting for anti-war candidates? I doubt it. I’m betting that they’ll either ignore the election or cave and vote for pro-war Democrats.