The immediate effect of the week of protests on flags has been to bewilder and then demoralise.
What is confusing about the evident anger of those involved is that the cause seems a small one to those who do not share their umbrage.
The Union flag over the City Hall in Belfast will fly on the same dates as it will fly over Stormont.
No humiliation is implied beyond what has already been cheerfully accepted by bigger and more powerful unionists than those who sit in the city council.
It is also hard to comprehend how those who take to the streets over the removal of the flag can achieve a reversal of that decision by fouling up Christmas.
Especially when there is an alternative available to them: they can resolve to get the unionist electorate out in greater numbers and get their way democratically.
They should see the flag issue as proof that they can lose out when they don't engage in party politics more energetically.
Instead, they simply make themselves unpopular by killing commerce and deterring shoppers. That is what is demoralising about the sight of them.
It is not just that masked men on the streets recalls the worst of the Troubles. It signals these people haven't a coherent political thought in their heads and that it may not be possible to communicate political good sense to them and get them to change their ways.