What I mean is that both might be examples of counterproductive campaigns - political action which doesn't just fail (as most politics does) but actually backfires.
In a world where pictures of topless women are common, page 3 is an anachronism. I suspect that the Sun keeps it precisely because doing so signals the paper's rejection of "feminazi" political correctness.To this extent, page 3 persists not despite feminists' objections but because of them, and so the campaign against page 3 is actually counterproductive.
In this sense, the campaign is like those Muslim riots. In showing that (some) Muslims have the emotional maturity of a four-year-old child the protests do more to discredit Muslims (at least among those prone to the outgroup homogeneity bias) than that idiotic video did.
These are not the only examples of counterproductive politics. I suspect that people are repelled from far-left politics by its association with folk who have nothing better to do with their time than stand on street corners selling newspapers.And the concept of negative credibility - "never believe anything until it's officially denied" - tells us that some political utterances are worse than useless.
There are at least three mechanisms through which political action can be counterproductive:
2. If the messenger discredits the message.This happened twice on Newsnight last night, when Toby Young tried to defend Tory policy on GSCEs and Jacob Rees-Mogg - a man who looks as if his only knowledge of the welfare system is that one of his junior footmen claims tax credits - discussed benefit reform.
3. The Streisand effect. Sometimes, a campaign can help mobilize overwhelming opposition to it.Argentina's invasion of the Falklands, for example, backfired horribly when quiet diplomacy might have had some success.
I suspect that political activists give these mechanisms insufficient thought: why else does the Tory party allow Rees-Mogg to appear in public? There might be a reason for this, beyond the fact that people don't appreciate the power of obliquity. A lot of political activity is motivated not (just) by a desire achieve a goal, but by what Robert Nozick called symbolic utility, the desire to express the type of person one is. The problem is, though, that sometimes there's a sharper trade-off between symbolic utility and instrumental rationality than generally realized.