On Thursday, November 10, 2011, while Michele Bachmann was giving a speech aboard USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, approximately 30 protestors interrupted with a coordinated message. Video is available from multiple sources, but two different perspectives are provided by CBS News and Fox News (forgive me for not embedding the video, but these sites did not make it easy…advice welcome). Please note that while they use “mic check” to coordinate the start of their disruption, they are not actually repeating back the words of a main speaker, but rather reading from prepared remarks, which can be plainly seen in both videos.
According to CBS News,
Some of her supporters in the crowd yelled “Sit down” to the protesters and chanted “Michele! Michele!” Bachmann left the podium with a police escort but returned a few minutes later to finish her speech.
A completely different result was achieved by the attendees at BlogCon 2011 (hosted by FreedomWorks; use the #BlogCon11 hashtag for more information on Twitter) in Denver, Colorado just one day later when Occupy Denver attempted to disrupt the conference. It is important to note that registration at BlogCon2011 was open and anyone could have registered at the link above.
The result was different because of the parenting skills of those in attendance, in particular Stephen Kruiser and Larry O’Connor. Their parenting skills were important because the behavior of the Occupy protesters was effectively that of a toddler having a tantrum, and they reacted accordingly. The following is from BabyCenter:
Why your child has temper tantrums
A temper tantrum is the emotional equivalent of a summer storm — sudden and sometimes fierce. One minute you and your child are in a restaurant enjoying your dinner, the next minute he’s whimpering, whining, and then screaming at the top of his lungs because his straw is bent. Children between the ages of 1 and 3 are especially prone to such episodes.
How to handle a tantrum
Don’t lose your cool. A tantrum is not a pretty sight. In addition to kicking, screaming, or pounding the floor, your toddler’s repertoire may include throwing things, hitting, and even holding his breath to the point of turning blue. When your child is swept up in a tantrum, he’s unlikely to listen to reason, though he will respond — negatively — to your yelling or threatening.
Staying with your child during a tantrum is a good idea. Stomping out of the room — alluring as that may be — can make him feel abandoned. The storm of emotion he’s going through can be frightening to him, and he’ll appreciate knowing you’re nearby.
Remember that you’re the adult. No matter how long the tantrum continues, don’t give in to unreasonable demands or negotiate with your screaming toddler. It’s especially tempting in public to cave in as a way of ending the episode. Try not to worry about what others think — anyone who’s a parent has been there before. By conceding, you’ll only be teaching your child that throwing a fit is a good way to get what he wants, and setting the stage for future behavior problems. Besides, your child is already frightened by being out of control. The last thing he needs is to feel that you’re not in control either.
Below are two videos. The first is just over a minute and sets the baseline. In it, notice how calm Stephen (in the striped shirt against the door) and Larry (on the right side of the frame in coat and tie filming with the tablet) are. Stephen especially looks relaxed and even bored. He laughs at the jokes others make, but doesn’t make any of his own. This is completely in line with the advice above.
Several minutes later (the full video can be seen here), after claiming to be interested in calm discourse, the tantrum picks up steam when protesters with notecards (recall the protestors with prepared statements from the Michele Bachmann event) attempt to start reading with the familiar “mic check”. Again, you can see Stephen remains calm (in the midst of pushing and shoving), while off camera Larry refuses to give in to their unreasonable demands by sounding off with a “mic check” of his own. At the end of his series of repeat backs, the situation has been defused and everyone is smiling.
So, to summarize, what did the BlogCon 2011 attendees do differently than those in attendance at Michele Bachmann’s speech onboard USS Yorktown? To put it in the most simple of terms, they recognized that the Occupy protesters were having a tantrum, that they were “unlikely to listen to reason”, and would only respond negatively to “yelling or threatening” (like “sit down”). Those at the center of the Occupiers’ attention, like Stephen Kruiser, remained present, calm and in control. Similarly, Larry O’Connor refused to give in to their unreasonable demands by asking the crowd to repeat after him rather than them:
“We pay for your student loans!”
“We pay for your school grants!”
“We pay for your public schools!”
“We pay for your unemployment!”
“We pay for your food stamps!”
“We pay for the cops who protect you every night!”
“Get the hell out!”
Although I wouldn’t recommend using that last one with your toddler.