Thug n. A cutthrougt, ruffian, rough (Oxford English Dictionary)
During the Wisconsin Uprising, Foxs News dissmissed the protesters as "nothing but thugs and bullies," and misleadingly aired footage of union violence from a previous and unrelated union rally in California while discussing the supposed "violent atmosphere" developing in Madion, WI. In fact, during the height of the protests few arrests were made and by most accounts, the actions of tens of thousands of protesters remained non-violent. The protesters reacted to this categorization of their non-violent, democatic dissent as dangerous by reworking the "union thug" as a figure of resistence. Many demonstrated the absurdity of this claim by identifying themselves, their children, dogs and grandmothers as thugs. Through the coded innocence of these figures, the indimidation and power associated with the figure of the union thug transfers from violence to democratic dissent. This splitting of violence from power in the figure of the union thug illustrates the power of non-violent dissent by likening the physical power of thugs to the symbolic power of the protesters. These actions raise the questions: What are the risks of categorizing democratic dissent as danger? What roles do power and intimidation play in non-violent dissent? And finally, Although many of the protesters were able to refute the claims of thuggery through their own non-intimidating bodies, what role does this leave for the political actions of those who just might "look like like a thug to you"?