Thursday, November 12, 2015

They doth protest too much, methinks


My British friend Baggy suggested that I should blog about Amazon opening a brick and mortar bookstore in Seattle's University Village shopping center last week. At the time I was less than enthusiastic about the idea. One, I visit the University Village about once every five years because unless you live near the University of Washington, it's a major pain to get to. And two, I am baffled as to why the company responsible for pretty much putting bookstores out of business with it's online trade in real and virtual books would opt to open one.

What finally prompted me to mention anything about the new baffling bookstore was a photo on the front of the Seattle Times last week about a group of people wearing Guy Fawkes masks marching on Amazon's Lake Union headquarters in Seattle to protest corporate greed. The protesters were loosely associated with a Million Mask March organization that tries to get people to protest various things on November 5th each year. November 5th BTW, is Guy Fawkes Day so thus the Guy Fawkes masks.


Guy Fawkes is infamous for his part in Britain's Gunpowder Plot to blow up the House of Lords and assassinate Protestant King James on November 5, 1605. Fawkes was the unlucky one found by authorities sitting in the cellar below the House of Lords guarding the gunpowder. He was tortured, confessed and sentenced to be hung. But he fell off the scaffolding he was supposed to be hung from and broke his neck.

What a guy.

What does any of this have to do with Amazon? Well, other than the fact that many of the Million Mask marchers bought their masks on Amazon.com using their Prime accounts with free two-day shipping, I'm not sure. Corporate greed aside, I for one thank Amazon every day for my Kindle Fire, Fire Stick, Amazon Prime and prices that allow me not to set foot in a WalMart.

The Million Mask March organization is loosely associated with the 'hacktivist' group Anonymous, and describes itself as a protest against austerity, mass surveillance and corrupt politicians. Apparently they heard about Amazon's desire to use drones to deliver packages and jumped to the conclusion that drones could be used to spy on people (just my guess).

As near as I can discern  from the coverage regarding the Seattle-based protest, there were about 600 marchers (so the Million Mask hype is a bit overblown). They used Facebook to register protesters. Their Facebook page stated:
 “On November 5th, we will be rallying at Westlake Park in Seattle at 2pm, and then marching to the Federal Courthouse at 3pm, and from there, we shall march to Amazon for some serious lulz!. Teach-ins and rallies will continue throughout the remainder of the day"
Apparently "lulz" is the plural for LOL. OMGZ.

The Facebook page also stated they were protesting "the corporate control of all aspects of our daily lives." The irony of them using Facebook to organize a protest against corporate control of all aspects of our daily lives does not escape me.

I grew up during the Vietnam War era. I was exposed to many protests via the media and occasionally in real life (though not too many protests swept through Idaho where I grew up). I worked next door to the Federal Building in downtown Seattle for many years and witnessed my fair share of protests including one short lived one against Desert Storm in the early 1990s. I also worked in downtown Seattle during the WTO riots (the Battle in Seattle). And every year I marvel at the stupidity of the May Day protests that mess up traffic in downtown.

I respect people's right to protest. But I just don't get it. It all seems so pointless. It especially seems pointless to be wearing Guy Fawkes masks (that you bought from Amazon) to protest that company's greed and desire to control our lives (though I do spend a great deal of time binge watching original Amazon programming).

It is even more pointless to associate any of this protest with Guy Fawkes Day at all since it is a pretty obscure holiday that I'm sure most people in the world haven't a clue about nor what the originally purpose was about (celebrating that good King James didn't get blown up and replaced by a Catholic ruler). It's not as though they picked a real holiday seeped in rich traditions and ritual like say for instance, Halloween.  Okay, so most people don't really understand why we carve pumpkins, don costumes, and beg for candy but at least Halloween has some commercial panache that I don't think Guy Fawkes Day will ever have.

And I'm sorry, if you feel strong enough about something to protest it, at least have the guts to show your face. Were the protesters afraid Amazon was going to track them down and revoke their free two-day shipping privileges?

So sorry, Baggy, I didn't write much about the new Amazon Bookstore. I'm sure it is a novel place.

You can protest that pun if you want to.

1 comment:

Helen Baggott said...

You have surpassed yourself!