Corporate Media and the anti-globalization movement in the U$

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By a silver elf

In only about nine months, the media has succeeded in building a mythology around the anti-globalization movement in this country that is striking in its inaccuracies. Of course, Big Media's corporate slant on things is nothing new here in the good ole' United States. Activist groups, especially radical ones, have been maligned in the pages of the press throughout history. (One wonders if the front page of papers ever read 'Violence in Boston: Vandals Destroy Tea.') This slandering has often occurred hand-in-hand with government operations to discredit those groups in this country that oppose the status quo.

The media seems to have a hard time making up its mind whether the protestors are an organized paramilitary group, or a bunch of kids that really don't know anything about the issues they are protesting. Alternately portraying the majority of the people in the movement as violent thugs or body pierced twenty-somethings looking for kicks, this has the effect of simultaneously demonizing and discrediting the movement as a whole. In one recent report, Rachel Coen of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) points out that on the front page of the Washington Post on April 16, 2000 "was the article 'Demonstrators Are United by Zeal for 'Global Justice,'' which purported to examine the politics of the Mobilization [against the IMF and World Bank], but instead inaccurately concluded that the protest was 'a demonstration without demands.' It noted activists' 'body odor,' and reminded readers that 'the fad factor cannot be denied. To have been in Seattle is to have reached a higher state of cool.'

In a different report, FAIR notes that some coverage went in the opposite direction as well: "'It is widely agreed that the Seattle police got out-foxed by better organized protestors trying to shut down the World Trade Organization meeting last year,' reported NBC's Fred Francis in a story about the conventions (Nightly News, 7/14/00). Francis went on to describe activists who attended the 'violent' Seattle demonstrations as a 'battle-tested' force "better trained than the LAPD for street violence." A particularly maligned group during this coverage has been anarchists. Across the board, reporters have referred to them as 'so-called' anarchists, as if no one could really believe in anarchy. Depicted as black-mask wearing, police-cussing, property-destroying rage junkies, the media's treatment of anarchists is nothing but a contemporary spin on the propaganda of old when anarchists were portrayed as black cape clad, bomb carrying terrorists. Anarchism has repeatedly been identified with a set of tactics, rather than a philosophy. While it is true that anarchism has a long history of direct action (strikes, workplace sabotage, etc) in order to hold corporations accountable to workers, throwing a brick through a window is not an 'anarchist' act. Various tactics are debated among anarchists. None define anarchism. Anarchism is not a set of tactics. Anarchism is a political belief system and a worldview with many different schools of thought and a long history. Anarchists believe that people can accomplish through cooperation and voluntary association what governments now accomplish through violence. Anarchists believe that capitalism is an inherently violent, demeaning, and destructive economic system. They believe in a non-hierarchical, egalitarian society. They believe in the worth of every form of life, and that humans are part of an intricate web, not the top of a pyramid. They believe that every human being has the right to be physically nourished, emotionally cared for, mentally stimulated and creatively fulfilled. These are not isolated examples of an errant misquote or a botched fact. They are, rather, a systematic failing on the part on the mainstream media in this country to report on the growing anti-globalization movement locally and internationally. The diversity of this movement is almost always ignored. (For example, there were protests in over 75 places on 6 continents on May 1, 2000. How many did you hear about?) Often, a very complex movement is boiled down into one person's sound bite. There has been a serious lack of critical reporting on the issues activists are trying to bring into the spotlight. People's concerns are often summed up in one paragraph, or worse yet, one line-instead of being given the in-depth reporting they deserve. Issues at hand include global inequality, environmental racism, environmental destruction, genetic engineering, third world debt, AIDS in Africa...the list goes on. All these issues are much more than sound bites to be voiced over while pictures of a Starbucks being destroyed plays in the background. They are issues deeply related to the economic paradigm we are living in, related to the socio-economic model that the US is forcing on the globe. They deserve all the attention in the world. The media is also directly contributing to the rapid rate in which America is becoming a police state, just as they have long ignored the fact that for many minority groups within our population, it has always been a police state. The media simultaneously demonizes and discredits the protestors, turning them from citizens with legitimate concerns that aren't being heard into an unruly mob with no cause that wants to find any excuse to trash buildings and beat up cops. Then, the general public is willing to look the other way as police invade civil rights. By reporting false statements (i.e.; protestors firing tear gas at police), virtually blacking out any police brutality coverage, and creating an atmosphere of hysteria surrounding large protests, the media has created a social space in which police brutality is encouraged to thrive. As the large protests planned for the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia and the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles approach, activists are building stronger independent media channels (see for one example). Judging by the blatant, but unsurprising, misrepresentation and demonization of our movement by corporate media, the strengthening of these channels is long overdue. I invite you to bypass your normal methods of news consumption and join us as we build networks to show what is actually happening within our movement.

Solidarity Forever.

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