The Dog That Didn’t Bark


Sherlock Holmes typically uses an innocent piece of evidence to solve a mystery. In the Adventure of the Silver Blaze, he observes a guard dog that doesn't bark when an intruder breaks into a private estate and concludes that the dog must have known the intruder was no stranger. The metaphor of “the dog that didn't bark” reminds us that even a silent dog can identify the culprit.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />


A couple weeks ago, opponents of so-called “globalization” planned a massive demonstration in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Miami to protest an international meeting of trade officials negotiating an agreement to expand free trade throughout the Western Hemisphere. The Palm Beach Post had reported in October that an estimated 100,000 protestors would descend upon the city. But by mid-November, the New York Times said protest leaders expected only 20,000 people on Miami streets. On November 21, the big show of “protest power” mustered 10,000 demonstrators.  


Why did this dog not bark?


Protest leaders blame Miami city officials for creating a hostile environment that scared people away. Medea Benjamin of the protest group Global Exchange said the city's preparations reminded her of “a police state.” Steffan Spencer of the Ralph Nader group Public Citizen complained to a reporter that the city refused to allow protesters to set up tents in Miami parks: “A lot of demonstrators can't afford hotel rooms,” he explained. “Other major cities who have had these conferences have opened up their parks. Unfortunately, Miami is not following suit.”


Sure. If only there were more campgrounds—or more cheap motels?—then the Miami turn-out would be higher. Tell us another one.


Heritage Foundation policy analyst Niles Gardiner has a better explanation. He points out that anti-globalization types are “a ragtag, disparate group” who share only one idea—“anti- Americanism.” Lori Wallach, Public Citizen’s spokesperson on international trade, confirms Gardiner’s finding. She says protestors reject the American “empire” and claims that free trade negotiations represent America's “economic empire and military empire coming together.”


That notion—that America today is an “empire” like ancient Rome or Persia—has claimed a hold on protesters’ imaginations since the 1960s. Slogans about America as an out-of-control “rogue power” or “empire” always draws radicals into the streets. With anti-war activity once again on the rise, talk about American “imperialism” has reemerged as a rhetorical device for stoking activist energies.


But there's one problem. Most Americans don't believe they live in an empire. Because it never enters their minds, average Americans—the people protestors say they want to reach—are unlikely to buy the argument. After all, an empire doesn't hold regularly scheduled elections to choose its leaders. It doesn’t offer its citizens a bill of rights or allow a free press—or permit protest demonstrations. America has all these things.


You don’t need a Ph.D. in political science to see that talk of “empire” won’t win Americans over to the alliance of environmental extremists and radical activists that makes up the anti-globalization movement. It's too far removed from reality.


That’s what explains the low turnout in Miami. It wasn’t anything the city did or the cost of hotel rooms. It was shrill anti-American rhetoric emanating from the platoons of tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profits that make up the anti-globalization camp. Their rhetoric couldn’t attract Americans to protest a free trade agreement. That’s why the dog didn’t bark.