On Knowing Your Audience
Several years ago I was invited by the attorney for the Colorado Bikers Association to screen the film Unconstitutional: The War On Our Civil Liberties at their monthly meeting. I agreed and when I arrived there were around 150 diverse bikers at the VFW. Many were brandishing evangelical Christian and Heartland Zionists imagery on their jackets, while others featured more ambiguous skulls, knives and snakes. Nothing against them, this is just what I saw.
Anyhow, I set up my projector and started the movie. About halfway through, my cell phone buzzed and I went out into the lobby/bar to answer it. A guy followed me out and was complaining about the film in a voluminous mumble, "What's this Bush-bashing-Michael-Moore bullshit?" (direct quote). I have never been a hypersensitive guy but felt really threatened by this guy. I ignored him using my phone as an excuse and quickly went back into the hall with my senses heightened. As I walked to my seat I notice many other people were visibly and physically angry. Holy shit! I realized the guy in the lobby was just a sample of the feeling here and I got really freaked out.
The film to this point had focused largely on the "hold until clear" policy by John Ashcroft to detain incommunicado and without charge thousands of (overwhelmingly Muslim and Arab) immigrants in the United States.
The film continued on covering other things like "sneak and peek searches," where the FBI under the Patriot Act can enter your home and remove your property without a warrant.
Nervous from the hostile mood, I mapped out an exit plan and, when the film ended, I quickly rushed to break down my A/V gear but in the process was called forward to answer questions by the guy heading the meeting. I reluctantly came forward and took the mic. The first couple questions were seriously angry. "How dare you stand here in a VFW, having never served in the military, criticizing the U.S.? You coward, you traitor." I don't remember exactly all that was said, but do remember the words "fuck those towel-heads." Well, you get the energy.
Anyhow, I realized that I was not going to convince this audience to have compassion for Arabs or Muslims at this time but, knowing that they would be opposed to certain aspects of the Patriot Act like the "sneak and peek searches," I kept bringing them back to these issues and finally people started to come around to my position, at least on this.
After a few more questions the audience tamed down and I was finally able to gather my gear and leave. On my way out the door I was even stopped by a couple who congratulated me for standing up to such a hostile crowd but then some guy angrily shouted at me from across the parking lot, "you better watch your back".
Well that was some learning experience. Know who you're talking to and pick your battles accordingly.
-- Jason Bosch
Jason Bosch, pictured above, won this year's Film/Video MasterMind award for his work in creating Argus Fest, and he thought you'd like this story.