It will be a death march.
Protesters outside the University of Texas-Austin will march down a public street with rifles and pistols on Saturday and, at the end, they will turn, and they will simulate a mass killing. Fake blood will splay. Actors will be “shot.”
The demonstrators are, perhaps ironically, protesting the illegality of publicly carrying guns, they say. They will attempt to make the point that this particular brand of massacre wouldn’t happen if every person was armed. They will protest shooting deaths by showing the effectiveness of more shooting deaths.
And in the middle of it, Andrew Dobbs and Tim Sookram will be there, farting.
“These people have lost their bearings, I believe. They’re not thinking in a reasonable way,” says Dobbs. “At this point, they need to be reminded to take life on friendlier terms.”
That’s why Dobbs and Sookram have organized a “mass farting.” They’ll be around and in the middle of the fake mass shooting event with fart machines, iPhone and Android apps that boast a wide array of farty noises, whoopee cushions, their hands, their armpits, and, yes, their butts.
“Austin, as you might know, is famous for their breakfast tacos,” says Dobbs. “For those with that kind of skill, this is their chance to shine.”
Before you write off Dobbs and Sookram’s form of protest as too silly to work, know this: Through Facebook, they might already have more people for their fart parade than the initial fake shoot-off.
That’s because they’re not just a couple of college kids trying to play a jokey, if elaborate, prank. They’re full-grown adults with experience in this sort of thing. After graduating from UT-Austin, Sookram ran for mayor of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a few years ago and won 8 percent of the vote. He has a happy and healthy 8-month old baby in San Antonio. Dobbs is a community organizer at a non-profit.
Funny enough, the two have never met in person. Dobbs just read Sookram’s idea on a mutual friend’s Facebook page when it was but a fart and a dream.
“I said, ‘Hey, I’m an organizer. I know how to throw something like that together,’” says Dobbs. “And now it’s happening.”
And it’s happening because they both want to prove that political discourse doesn’t have to be this vitriolic. It can be as human as a fart.
“I don’t believe that this country or world is this threatening place. It’s a welcoming place that makes me want to laugh at all times and be with the people around me,” says Dobbs. “The hate, I think, is going to be overwhelmed by the people that want to laugh.”
“Even the responsible gun owners revile these people. It does bad things for gun rights,” says Sookram. “They’re making crude offensive noises under the guise of free speech. We’re doing the same thing.”
The best part? Dobbs is a gun owner himself. But he doesn’t want gun owners like this, whom he calls “extremists,” to own the debate.
“At this point for me, it has less to do with the gun issue and more to do with the fact that they’re terrorizing the community,” he says. “If you do something that’s designed to scare people, to terrify people to make your point? That dog won’t hunt.”
He thinks it’s a dangerous idea, too, for passersby. What if you were to drive by this march of rifles and handguns—one that turned into a chaotic scene of hysteria and fake blood and fear?
“It’s a horrendously bad idea. I find it surprising that anyone else heard it or read it and said, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s do this,’“ says Sookram. “It’s insane. It’s honoring murderers like Adam Lanza. All they’re really doing is fighting for the right to pretend to murder other people.”
“It’s something that would be very scary. And people are scared,” says Dobbs. “The most courageous thing you can do when you’re afraid is to laugh in the face of that fear.”
Sookram and Dobbs are hoping the 300-plus people on Facebook who are thinking about showing up to their event to make some fart noises and maybe wave a dildo or two—the event is called a “Mass Farting (And Dildo Waving),” after all—can make the political climate in their hometown a little bit more human.
So the plan, according to Sookram, is to “distract them enough to make them give up a little bit.” A local radio station wants people to dress up in funny costumes, too, which Dobbs welcomes. He wants to “bring the carnival out for this.” He wants to “respond with laughter and no more fear” and “maybe have a good time instead.”
After all, the protesters are, in fact, outsiders to Austin, Dobbs says. They’re capitalizing on a national discourse that has become hostile, unwelcoming, and maybe a little dangerous.
The fart-off, instead, is come-one, come-all; it’s not meant to alienate but to welcome and include.
“They’re a tiny, tiny group of people with extremely outrageous views. Everybody farts, though,” he says. “It says something that we’re gonna be making fart noises en masse and we’re gonna be classier.”
And if the fake mass shooting protesters try to interrupt the several-hundred-person fart-in? Sookram has a very poignant message.
“All free speech is equal, especially…”
Sookram, over the phone, then made a very loud fart noise.