Saturday, December 3, 2011

Using Mic Check As A Form Of Protest

Written by Azizi Powell

So now "mic check" is a verb. The human microphone system, the call & response method of repeating statements, isn't being used for its original purpose of helping people in large groups without access to microphones hear what is being said. Instead, it's being used to disrupt communication from someone the group doesn't agree with, and it's being used to garner publicity for the protesting group's cause or causes. So far it appears that only people affiliated with various Occupy movements are using mic check as a protest strategy. But, it's probably inevitable that some other groups will adopt this form of protest. But how effective is it, really?

My sense is that the protest use of mic check isn't at all effective. Firstly, mic check fails as a form of communication since it's difficult to understand what is being echoed in that call & response human microphone manner. Secondly, it appears to me that such protests are a real big turn off for those who haven't already been won to the protestors' side.

My bottom line is that if "mic check" is supposed to be a means of enhancing communication, I'd count that protest use of mic check a failure, since it's usually difficult to understand what the protestors are shouting. But beyond that, I don't like the use of "mic check" to disrupt other's speeches or other people's public appearances (even the speeches or public appearances of persons I vehemently disagree with like Glen Beck). I think that "mic checking" people is contrary to the right of free speech. Besides, it's just rude.

I'm part of the 99% and I think that there are lots of other 99 percenters who agree with me on this.

Here are two examples of the protest use of mic check:

President Barack Obama's speech in New Hampshire interrupted by Occupy Protestors 11/22/2011.


"Mic check": Occupy protesters interrupt Obama
A group of protesters seemingly affiliated with the "Occupy" movement interrupted President Obama's speech in Manchester, New Hampshire on Tuesday, engaging in a call-and-response protest for about 20 seconds before being drowned out by Mr. Obama's supporters.

"Mic check!" yelled a voice from the crowd as Mr. Obama was giving a speech calling on Congress to pass and extend a payroll tax cut. Other protesters repeated "mic check," in the style of the Occupy protests, as Mr. Obama halted his speech and looked out into the crowd.

"Mr. President, over 4,000 peaceful protesters," the lead protester began, his words then repeated by the other protesters. They then made reference to those protesters being arrested, though their words became difficult to hear.

At this point those in the crowd began booing and chanting "Fired up, ready to go," prompting Mr. Obama to say, "no, no, no, it's ok. It's ok."

"All right, OK guys," he continued, trying to calm the crowd as supporters started chanting "Obama" over the protesters.

"I'm going to be talking about a whole range of things today, and I appreciate you guys making your point, let me go ahead and make mine," he said. "All right? And I'll listen to you, you listen to me." The comment prompted applause from the audience.

He went on to reference the movement twice more in his remarks..."

Video: OWS protesters interrupt Obama's speech

Uploaded by RussiaToday on Nov 23, 2011

"The 99 percent approached President Barack Obama this afternoon, surprising the commander in chief with a "mic check" during a speech he was making in New Hampshire. Speaking from Manchester, NH Tuesday to discuss the American economy, President Obama was interrupted by protesters employing the "People's Microphone," a method of spreading news and alerts made popular by the Occupy Wall Street movement after demonstrators were denied usage of megaphones."

Glenn Beck Gets Mic Checked By Occupy Tallahassee 12-1-11

Uploaded by OccupyTally on Dec 3, 2011

On December 2nd, Occupy Tally pulled off its greatest direct action yet when it crashed Mr. Beck's appearance at the Barnes & Noble bookstore before getting shoved out by security. Edited from multiple cameras.

Editor: Here's a comment posted on that video's viewer comment thread which I believe is the statement that was used for that particular "mic check":

You repeatedly insist That Global Warming is a hoax However, you’ve been cited saying Quote “you’d have to be an idiot not to notice the temperature is changing!”

We are peaceful activists not the Terrorists you have portrayed Within your Vindictive Fiction!

We are Occupy

We ARE NOT baseless / Pointless / Or without direction.

We care about humanity / Including all of you in this store.

We speak up for everyone’s rights, including yours.

We are the 99%!

These people are the 99%!

Join Us!
-ArchieCaveIts, December 3, 2011

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  1. I started writing a response here, but it got too long, so I posted it on my blog. You can check it out here:

    In Defense of Mic Check Direct Action

  2. Bint, thanks for reading this post.

    I responded to your post about this subject on your blog.

    Best wishes to you,


  3. The topic of whether politicians' speeches should be interrupted by mic checking them or heckling is being discussed on my facebook page. I had added information about and a link there to this post on the protest use of mic checking.

    Here's one comment that I wrote (with slight changes in phrasing)

    I agree with Alan's position here [that "hijacking someone else's platform for your own performance [is] disrespectful to both the speaker or performer and the audience"] although I recognize the need for movements to gain publicity for their causes. But if everyone interrupted everyone else's speech-by mic checking them (repeating every phrase or partial sentence that was said), or heckling them, how would any public communication occur?

    I don't want this behavior by adults to spread to singers in concerts. And I really don't want mic checking to spread to school students. However, I think that it's just a matter of time before we hear about school children mic checking their teachers-and getting suspended from school for doing so.

    Click!/cocojams.jambalayah/posts/332531490094752?notif_t=share_comment to find that discussion.