It's hard not to be sympathetic to the message of the actual or would-be glitter-bombers, but we think this particular protest technique has turned cliché, fruitless, and rather counterproductive. It's time to put down the throwable art supplies.
If you've been lucky enough to have avoided the political news cycle for the last year or so — maybe you were traveling through Europe, or living like an Amish person for a while, or just asleep for twenty years on some hill in the Catskills, whatever it was, you were lucky — glitter-bombing is an act of protest in which a pile of glitter is thrown at a politician who's taken anti-gay positions. The first target was Newt Gingrich last May, when, his campaign foundering the first time, 24-year-old activist Nick Espinosa showed up at a book signing, declared, "Feel the rainbow, Newt. Stop the hate. Stop anti-gay politics," and then dumped a box of glitter over the candidate and his (third) wife. Glitter being, y'know, gay. When the trend first began it seemed like a whimsical piece of political theater, an ultimately harmless public act that drew attention to a serious problem in a funny way. But, of course, as tends to happen with these kinds of Youtube-driven trends, the whole darn thing soon got out of hand.
In a practical sense, it's become kind of dangerous. For the be-glittered person's various face holes of course (Glitter in the eye? It burns), there may be some chance of injury. But it's also now risky for the glitterer: It seems that the guy who tried to glitter-bomb Mitt Romney on Tuesday night could face six months in jail. That's pretty serious business! Now that the presidential election has gotten as far along as it has, the Secret Service is involved. So no longer is a glitter-bomber just some rascal with a pocket full of tinsel bits, he or she is an enemy of the state. (Or something.) It seems unlikely that a Secret Service agent would at any point actually hurt or worse a glitter-bomber, but really who's to say? They see someone pushing through the crowd with something in their hand, making a beeline for the candidate? That probably looks like a lot of potentially dangerous things, meaning the whole situation could end rather terribly. Obviously certain protest is worth facing even mortal danger, but glitter-bombing is not that. What we've got here is a whole juice not being worth the squeeze kind of a thing.
People like Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, both glitter-bomb victims, are fatuous religious zealots who daily earn justified derision and scorn with their horrific policy ideas based on nonsense. This is known! And anti-gay legislation is yet another form of discrimination that will seem jaw-droppingly archaic in just a few decades' time. But as obviously dumb and ultimately doomed as people like Bachmann and Santorum and their anti-gay political ideologies are, they still do need standing up to; making a ruckus when they say and do bigoted things is vital, necessary, entirely American. And there are many ways to do this, whether with loud sign-waving protest or letter writing or songmaking or ballot casting or whatever! Not all the protest has to be milquetoast, either. Glitter was fun, original at one point, but it's quickly heading toward milquetoasty.
There has to be some kind of cost/benefit analysis done on something like glitter-bombing. While the benefits are certainly there (getting an [albeit vague] point across, publicly shaming someone for publicly saying and doing shameful things), the cost -- beyond the jail time or worse -- is also the opportunity for folks on the Right (wrong) side of this particular issue to label the movement one of extremists and radicals, violent radicals even. Obviously these clowns are always finding some ridiculous way to satisfy their beloved persecution complexes, but unfortunately on the glitter-bombing front they kinda have a point. Not even kinda. They just have a point. They're not throwing bible pages in anyone's faces, after all. Sure they're figuratively, legislatively doing that, but so then let's maybe fight them on the figurative, legislative front rather than the physically throwing things one.
Some may call this acquiescence or something, because it's important we don't back down the way they don't back down, but in the interest of political expedience, effectiveness, and coherence, it's probably better that there aren't random college students throwing glitter at people and being hauled off by the Secret Service for what's becoming a humdrum prank. It's not that we feel particularly bad for anyone who's been glitter-bombed, it's just that the act's efficacy has diminished to the point of meaningless stuntery. So let's just give it a rest, shall we? It's not doing anyone any good. And what a waste of glitter! Beautiful, beautiful glitter!
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.