Glitter Bombs: Weapons of Mass Reactions

A politician's guide to surviving a glitter attack

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On Saturday, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, of Minnesota, became the latest Republican politician to get hit with this season's most festive form of political direct action: A glitter bomb. At a speaking gig in Minneapolis, attorney and gay-rights activist Rachel E.B. Lang threw glitter on the presidential candidate to protest her support of anti-gay preacher Bradlee Dean, who Lang said was running a "gay witch hunt." The glitter campaign is now in full swing, and promises to be a hallmark of this election season. First Newt Gingrich got hit at a Minneapolis book signing on May 17, then last week Tim Pawlenty, (who Vanity Fair hilariously describes as "the human equivalent of whatever the opposite of glitter is") got a dose of pink confetti in San Francisco. "We're the glitterati," Gingrich glitter-bomber Nick Espinosa said in an interview on The Uptake.

The glitter bombs primary impact is the creation of a 45-second video of a conservatives looking silly in the eyes of their detractors. But if there is a delayed trigger involved in this propaganda tool, it is continuing to make the target look even more silly by getting outraged over a box of glitter. A laughing response, such as Gingrich seemed to have in his video (though it wasn't shared by his security chief), can ensure the video recedes into memory after one news cycle. But when Mike Huckabee, who hasn't even been glitter-bombed, starts calling for the arrest and prosecution of those who would throw sparkles on presidential candidates, well, he just looks ridiculous.

The glitter movement smacks of the "guerrilla theater" of the 1960s-era Situationists International in Europe or the Youth International Party (Yippies) in the United States. Known for mixing art with activism, the groups would create situations that would allow their own targets' actions to illustrate their point. Abbie Hoffman famously caused a near-riot on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange when he tossed out handfuls of dollar bills into the gallery to illustrate traders' greed. Groups such as the Yes Men pranksters and the Biotic Baking Brigade carry that tradition. And it's the pie throwers who might be the best parallel here. After they hit Willie Brown, then the mayor of San Francisco, in the face. The mayor testified against them and they went to jail for battery. Brown gained a reputation in local media as a humorless schlub.

With their third glitter-bombing an apparent success in the amount of media attention it's received, the "glitterati" will likely keep going with their stunt of the season. It'll be up to the candidates they target to decide whether this stays a series of harmless pranks or becomes a scandal.

Here are videos of the three glitter bombings so far.




This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.