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The New Barbarians at the Gate

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  • Dan Clore
    THE NEW BARBARIANS AT THE GATE by Jim Redden (pdxs@teleport.com) The establishment press has settled on a strategy for discrediting the growing coalition of
    Message 1 of 1 , May 30 12:13 PM
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      THE NEW BARBARIANS AT THE GATE

      by Jim Redden (pdxs@...)

      The establishment press has settled on a strategy for
      discrediting the growing coalition of anti-globalization
      activists which surfaced at the World Trade Organization
      conference in Seattle. The mainstream media is dismissing
      them as nothing more than ignorant savages lashing out at
      a world they do not understand.

      This analysis turned up recently in the May 2000 issue of
      the nominally liberal Harper's Magazine. In a lengthy piece
      titled "Notes From Underground: Among the Radicals of the
      Pacific Northwest," contributing editor Daniel Samuels
      chronicles a trip to Eugene, Oregon in search of the
      anarchists who were accused of smashing up downtown
      Seattle. Although Eugene has been a hotbed of political
      activism for many years, Samuels did not find many serious
      radicals. Instead, he presents the anarchists as a
      disorganized collection of losers, drifters, burned-out
      hippies and train-hopping street kids who are merely
      struggling to escape from "the pain, fear and boredom that
      are part of everyday life."

      As Samuels put it, "What the pictures from Seattle captured
      was an anger whose true sources had less to do with Nike's
      treatment of its labor sources or other objectionable
      practices than with a broader, more unreasoning sense of
      being trapped in a net."

      This theme first emerged during last year's WTO protests.
      Writing in the December 1, 1999 issue of the New York Times,
      columnist Thomas Friedman said, "Is there anything more
      ridiculous in the news today than the protests against the
      World Trade Organization in Seattle? I doubt it. There
      anti-WTO protesters - who are a Noah's ark of flat-earth
      advocates, protectionist trade unions and yuppies looking
      for their 1960s fix - are protesting against the wrong target
      with the wrong tools."

      Movie-critic-turned-conservative-columnist Michael Medved
      continued the criticism in the December 7 issue of USA Today,
      saying the protesters were motivated by "unfocused anger and
      incoherent desperation." Newsweek chimed in on December 13,
      subtitling an essay by Fareed Zakaria with the claim, "The
      protesters didn't have their facts right, and may have hurt
      the very causes they claim to care about." 60 Minutes joined
      the attack a short time later when reporter Steve Croft flew
      to Eugene and asked the anarchists, "Do your parents know what
      you're doing?"

      Such criticisms only increased during the April protests against
      the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington
      DC. "Anything radically new always creates fear. In this case,
      the new is globalization," Lester C. Thurow, an economist
      on the USA Today's board of contributors, wrote in the newspaper's
      April 12 issue.

      But these charges are nothing more than establishment propoganda.
      All protest movement attract ill-informed followers. But the major
      players behind the protests have gone to great lengths to inform
      themselves and others about their issues. The pitfalls of global
      capitalism have been discussed at well-attended seminars and
      conferences across the country, including large teach-ins held
      before both the Seattle and Washington DC demonstrations.

      The Seattle teach-in, sponsored by the International Forum on
      Globalization, was held on November 26 and 27, 1999. It featured
      over 40 speakers from a dozen countries. The IFG also sponsored
      a day-long teach-in on April 14 in Washington titled "Beyond
      Seattle." It presented over 30 speakers from 10 countries, including
      Catherine Caufield, author of "Masters of Illusion: The World Bank
      and the Poverty of Nations." Topics ranged from the IMF's
      "structural adjustment programs" to the effects of the WTO on the
      environment.

      Working journalists who covered both protests didn't have any
      trouble finding people who could explain what they were all about.
      New York Times reporter Joseph Kahn figured it out. Writing about
      the WTO, IMF and World Bank on April 9, 2000, Kahn said,"The
      protesters contend that the institutions have destroyed rain
      forests, left poor countries in debt, and protected Nike, Disney
      and Monsanto instead of workers in the third world."

      Such contentions aren't based on ignorance. A special congressional
      advisory panel said essentially the same thing on March 8, 2000. As
      reported by the Wall Street Journal, the panel concluded "The
      International Monetary Fund and World Bank have largely failed to
      bring financial stability to the developing world and should
      sharply curtail their lending."

      Even the World Bank admits its policies aren't working. In a report
      released on April 13, the global financial institution conceded that
      the poor nations which have borrowed the most money have grown more
      impoverished in recent years. Countries which owe the most money to
      foreign lenders, such as Uganda and Tanzania, are worse off on
      everything from the number of telephones per person to the number
      of people who can read and write. Speaking at the press conference
      which accompanied the release of the report, World Bank official
      Michael Walton confessed there now is an "acceptance by the World
      Bank, by international lenders, by the international community, that
      our expectations weren't borne out."

      None of this matters to writers like Samuels, who script their
      stories to make it appear that the critics of global capitalism
      don't know whatthey're talking about. Samuels met several
      articulate anarchists during his trip to Eugene, including
      Marshall Fitzpatrick, a former high school debate champion who
      can quote Marx, Hegel and Freud to support his critique of the
      consumer culture. But Samuels ignored Fitzpatrick to
      concentrate on people such as Eric (no last name given), a
      high school dropout working a low-wage job at a tofu factory.

      Samuels dismisses Eric as a screwed up kid living a spartan lifestyle
      to punish his parents, who divorced when he was four. Then he writes,
      "If there is something Christlike in this approach, there is also
      something sad and scared. What I want to tell Eric is that every thing
      will work out okay, and that boredom, fear, and crushing
      disappointment are simply part of everyone's life. That it is better
      to live in the world as it is, or can be, than to shut yourself down
      and live in a cave."

      Not surprisingly, the same issue of Harper's which trashes the
      anti-globalization activists features full-page color ads for Phillips
      Petroleum, fancy BMW convertibles, overpriced Jaguar luxury cars,
      gas-guzzling Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicles, and Virginia
      Slim cigarettes, which promise to help smokers "Find Your Voice."
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