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The Socially Distanced Protester

The challenges of collective action under lockdown

Illustration by Hanna Barczyk

Much of the emotional power of a march or demonstration comes from being there. Successful labor organizing likewise depends in part on the intimacy and convenience of people working near one another. Can you trust that your colleagues will risk their jobs for a strike when, as with many gig workers, you’ve never met? Is it logistically possible to organize when social distancing measures prevent you from gathering in person? On Episode 5 of The Politics of Everything, hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene talk with Micah Sifry, the author of The Big Disconnect: Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet), about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting political participation. Digital platforms can help us communicate—and even rally—but at what cost to our privacy, not to mention our enthusiasm? It’s hard to imagine a swarm of heart icons on a screen inspiring lasting political commitment. Who does virtual protest leave out, or leave cold?

Later in the show, Josephine Livingstone and Alex Shephard, both staff writers at The New Republic, discuss what our entertainment choices during the lockdown can tell us about how we process a crisis. If top 10 lists are the measure, Contagion may be the ultimate pandemic movie … but there is a case to be made for Jaws.