The Hidden Side of the WTO Demonstrations


For those of you who witnessed even a few minutes of the coverage of the World Trade Organization and the tens of thousands of Americans protesting, I have just one question. Was the coverage in your area focused on the speeches made every day, given by representatives from worker's rights groups, rank and file union members as well as their leaders, human rights organizations, environmentalists and those who monitor the human misery around the world caused by the greed and indifference of those who own or are owned by the Global Economy? Or, far more likely, was the reports solely about the small but violent groups who declared themselves "anarchists" and some truly delusional individuals who claimed that not one grain of sand on Earth should ever be considered the property of any one person but that all of the Earth belongs to.

The answer, of course, was that all you had to look at was the burning trash cans and tires and the trashed Starbucks and Nike store and the like. The people that you were allowed to see wore sweatshirts with hoods pulled up. You got to see the police behave as if they had been trained by Pinochet's finest shock troops, marching down the avenues and boulevards of Seattle in their black riot gear and black shields and black helmets, lobbing tear gas at everyone in sight, beating with their nightsticks everyone they could corner and some that were just momentarily in reach. You were provided the always nauseating sight of Barbie and Ken talking heads explaining why these "terrorists" were so misguided and that, well, golly gee, faithful but mindless listeners, free trade comes from God and anyone who doesn't believe that is just a Godless Communist and anti-capitalist and un-American to boot. You were informed, in subtle but firm ways, that having open markets in every nation is far more important than silly arguments about worker safety or child labor laws or a clean and healthy environment. The importance of our very Constitution was pooh-poohed since it was far more important that three non-elected WTO members were to sit in secrecy and without any public records of their activities and decide if any law in any nation was determined to be a "barrier to trade" and, if such was found, to demand that the nation's law be tossed out the old door. Yessiree, Bobby, nothing on this entire Earth is more important than the ability of the world's corporations to do exactly as they please, anywhere they please, and without any fears of the people of the world having even the smallest say in those activities, even should their lives and health be sacrificed in the process.

What you didn't see or hear, unless you were fortunate enough to have access to C-Span, was human rights activists from Ireland and China and India and South Africa and so many more nations speaking eloquently about the need to protect the human race as well as the planet's diverse and irreplaceable ecosystems. What you didn't see was the tens of thousands of rank and file members of organized labor, marching side by side with environmentalists and human rights activists and everyday Americans, peacefully walking arm in arm into downtown Seattle, demanding that the world's workers and children and women be protected in any and all treaties being discussed. What you didn't see was the many on the street, casual discussions between shoppers and activists, conversations that were not only peaceful but informative to all involved parties.

What did we learn from the events and the rather unbalanced coverage by the conservative media? First, we learned that violence makes dutiful television images but, apparently, peaceful marchers and intelligent speeches do not. We learned that the conservative media has absolutely no intention of creating an atmosphere in which all sides of the issue can be intelligently debated. We learned that the conservative media and their greedy brethren around the world have much to gain from a global economy in which activists have no voice nor access to the public's ear and nothing to gain from exposing the harsh and despicable realities surrounding organizations such as NAFTA and the WTO. We learned that the businesses that were trashed by the "terrorists", Starbucks and Nike and the like, are long time symbols of the very greed and human rights abuses and ecological destruction that make them poster boys for everything that those who demand fairness and justice and equality despise. Finally, we learned that gathering any truthful and factual information about the activities and powers of these organizations that transcends all national aspirations is nearly impossible. (It was never noted that it was ONLY these darlings of Corporate America that were attacked, leaving a small coffee shop just across the street completely undamaged as well as many other businesses that do not behave in the crude and abusive manner as Nike and Starbucks et. al.)

We learned, once again, that if you demand that this information be made available then your only hope for success is to seek out those independent resources that daily fight for their very existence but whose entire reason for being is to offer that which the conservative media tries so hard to conceal.

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Copyright 1/7/2000