It’s a pro-democracy movement. And it’s global.
The vibrant social forces that converged on Seattle — and proceeded to
deflate the WTO summit — are complex, diverse and sometimes contradictory. Yet
the threads of their demands form a distinct weave: We want full democratic
rights for all people.
Leaders of the U.S. government are pleased to say nice things about some
pro-democracy movements — far away. But here at home, their pretense is that
the conditions of democracy have already been achieved.
Yes, many of us sampled those conditions in Seattle, complete with tear gas
and pepper spray, thick batons and rubber bullets. The law-enforcement partners
of the WTO pursued the goal of routing protesters in much the same way that top
officials of the WTO go about reaching trade agreements. They want to do
whatever it takes — to maintain control and preserve the power of elites.
The marketeers who are so fervent about the glories of the WTO are determined
to preserve the kind of social order described a century ago by writer Anatole
France: "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
As U.S. Congress member Dennis Kucinich commented the other day, the World
Trade Organization has achieved great transparency — we can see right through
Genuine pro-democracy movements are always profoundly threatening to those
with their polished boots on the necks of the poor. In the United States,
corporate-owned media — and corporate-leased politicians — don’t see any
fundamental problem. The system is treating them very well, thank you, and
they’re returning the favor. (Or is it the other way around?)
America’s punditocracy is adept at changing the subject, away from the
basics. But the obvious — like the purloined letter in Edgar Allen Poe’s
classic tale — is often so omni-present that it goes unnoticed. Every daily
newspaper in the U.S. has a business section; none has a labor section. On NPR,
even though "Public" is its middle name, there’s not even a weekly
labor update — while the same network airs an hourly NPR "business
The implicit media assumption that wealth creates all labor is simply another
inversion of reality. What passes for mainstream journalism is standing on its
head in order to serve corporate interests, as we’ve seen yet again. Carried in
a march through Seattle, a huge banner noted: "The Corporate Media Diverts
Your Attention from Police and WTO Violence."
"The Capital Gang" is just one of many network TV programs
providing an incessant national chorus of corporate-friendly political pundits.
It’s an apt metaphor: Although we’re supposed to assume that the name of the
show is a reference to Washington, D.C., my guess is that "Capital"
could be more appropriately understood as financial capital.
If a pro-democracy movement is going to grow much more in this country, it
must deal with the reality that the news media are hostile to populism that is
progressive — but appreciably more hospitable to the right-wing variety.
The first political pundit to appear on national TV seven days a week was
Patrick Buchanan. Now he wants the Reform Party’s presidential nomination.
Buchanan has become fond of voicing anti-corporate sentiments. He came to
Seattle trolling for votes from the anti-WTO bandwagon. Meanwhile, he doesn’t
support basic union rights of American workers. Significantly, he opposes a
raise in the minimum wage. And he scorns the environmental movement as an
affront to holiness. "Easter’s gone," Buchanan declared angrily a few
years ago. "Now it’s Earth Day. We can all go out and worship dirt."
From Corporate America’s vantage point, Pat Buchanan is just about ideal as a
national candidate waving the populist banner. Buchanan is hobbled by heavy
far-right baggage — which he grips with white-knuckled defiance as he
equivocates about Nazi Germany and routinely denigrates people for failure to be
white, heterosexual and Christian (as he defines Christian).
In sharp contrast, the progressive forces at work in Seattle have boosted
momentum for democratic change. We’re learning to reach out across borders and
many other barriers, finding out how to affirm our common humanity while
struggling against corporate power. As hundreds of people kept chanting outside
the King County Correctional Facility during a festive celebration of resistance
on the night of December 2: "This is what democracy looks like."
A global pro-democracy movement. The time has come.