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The WTO & The Death of Democracy

by The Cranky Media Guy

I like making fun of hippies as much as the next guy. Probably more, in fact. I was surrounded by them in the Bronx back in the 60's. I thought that most of them were fake weirdoes, more interested in picking up girls by having then-fashionable long hair, than actually "expressing themselves" in any anti-establishment way.

God knows there was a commune's worth of neo-hippies in Seattle this week. Whenever you saw any TV coverage of the action in the Queen City, you got a gander at people who looked like they were cryogenically frozen on Earth Day 1970 and defrosted in time for the World Trade Organization soiree. Here's the thing about that, though: hippie-types were probably in the minority in Seattle. There were thousands and thousands of union members out there, too. Union members--you know, people like your Dad and your Grandfather probably were way back when. They're working class, blue collar people, the kind we used to call "average Americans".

Here's my question: If there were so many non-hippies out there, far outnumbering the tree huggers, how come all you saw on the TV news was tie-dye types? I didn't see one shot of the union-sponsored rallies that were being held at the waterfront. I did, however, see a whole lot of video of people bouncing big balls that looked like the Earth and other stuff that made the scene resemble the parking lot outside a Grateful Dead show. Hmm. Why, it's almost as if the TV people had an agenda or something.

What better way to trivialize this very real protest against an undemocratic international organization than by showing only the groups that could be termed "radical", "fringe" or "wacky"? I'll bet you didn't know that the Longshoremen's Union closed ports up and down the West Coast in sympathy with the protesters in Seattle. That's pretty heavy-duty stuff, but the TV people, from whom most Americans get their news, didn't think it was "newsworthy", apparently. See, if they showed Teamsters, most of whom look like guys you would see at the neighborhood gin mill, at a rally, you might start to think that there actually was something to this protest. It's a lot easier to dismiss the whole thing when all you see are people who look like the stoners who danced in the mud at the original Woodstock, waving signs about saving the sea turtle.

It's actually pretty historic that hippies and steel workers were on the same side about something this week. Back in the prehistoric days (the 60's), they were mortal enemies. I can remember seeing a photo in a magazine of a construction worker spearing a war-protesting hippie with an American flag on a pole. For these two groups to join together against a common enemy is noteworthy, to say the least. Not that you would have gotten that from TV news. Nah, they were too busy kissing the asses of their corporate owners by trying to assure Mr. and Mrs. America that it was nothing, really. Just a bunch of the Usual Suspects complaining about God knows what. Don't worry folks, the cops have it under control.

In actuality, if anything, the cops made the situation worse. The real shit didn't hit the fan until AFTER the cops started lobbing the tear gas. Prior to that, you had a couple of windows broken by a dozen or so people who were careful to keep their faces hidden. Hmmm. Some rumors said that they were anarchists within the ranks of the protesters One of these buttwipe "anarchists" admitted, though, that they had organized and planned months in advance to start trouble and provoke the protesters and law enforcement. Didn't hear about that on TV either, did you? I can't prove it, but my personal belief is that the trouble-makers were planted by some government agency to discredit the protest. I keep hoping that someone will blow the whistle and admit that. It would be so sweet to catch these bastards at their game.

So, in response to the vicious attack on Starbucks, the authorities did what they usually do and suspended the Constitution. They immediately declared a large "no-protest zone" around the area where the WTO weasels were working and staying. Um, what exactly is a "no-protest zone"? The idea was to keep anti-WTO people out of the designated area. Would you be allowed in if you wanted to demonstrate in favor of the WTO? Just wondering. See, here's my problem: I keep thinking this is America, where you're allowed to peacefully exercise the right to speak your mind. I guess I just haven't learned to love Big Brother like I should, yet. I'll have to work on that.

Here's another thing you didn't see on the TV news: live coverage. How come every time John and Patsy Ramsey bought McNuggets at the local drive-up window you got a live shot of what sauce they were using, but you didn't see any live coverage of 50,000 people rallying against an international trade group? Teamsters, hippies, steelworkers and Greenpeace got together and marched in the streets to make their feelings about so-called "free trade" known and not one of the major networks could get a live camera on it? That is not an accident, folks. That's a conscious decision made by managment-level people. The question is why was it made?

Should I take a guess? Well, it's my website, so I guess I can if I want to. I want to. Whether they realize it or not, the TV news departments are totally in the pockets of big business these days. They are owned by big business and they are sponsored by big business. Unlike in the Edward R. Murrow days, the network news divisions are now expected to make a profit. The path of least resistance to making big moolah takes a detour around controversy. Ever wonder why the local anchors look so self-conscious and make such lame comments when they come out of a taped piece about something "controversial"? They're scared to death of saying the "wrong" thing and alienating some advertiser.

The companies that own the networks and stations like that undemocratic crap the WTO is trying to foist on you. They like the idea of doing away with "trade barriers" between countries. In case you haven't figured this out yet, "eliminating trade barriers" means getting rid of local and national laws that make these companies toe the line. Eliminate them and the multinationals can do whatever they please all around the world, without all that expensive bribery of government officials they have to engage in now.

If viewers saw that groups as diverse as the Teamsters (not normally known for their radical activism) and Greenpeace (always known for their radical activism) agreed that what the WTO wants to do is bad, well, Jesus, they might actually start thinking that there's something to the protest. We can't have that, now can we? So, we don't do any live coverage of one of the largest protests in recent American history and when we do show any video of it, we make sure to only show the least mainstream-looking people in the crowd. Can't let the audience start thinking that regular, hardworking, right-thinking Americans like them agree with this stuff, after all. Nope, make it look like it's just a bunch of unbathed left-wing wackos and it's a whole lot easier to dismiss. Let some window glass land in a double latte and there's lots of people who'll root for the National Guard to kick some hippie ass. What's a little thing like suspending the Constitution matter when there's Starbucks and McDonalds to protect?

Still don't think that the TV news people slanted their coverage of this story? Go the "news" section and read how one Seattle TV station openly censored their reporting. What's that loud, whirring sound I hear. Oh, it's just the Founding Fathers doing 78 RPM in their graves.




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