Scrutiny Overdue for “White Bloc”


Norman Solomon


As police fired
rubber bullets through tear gas in Quebec City, many reporters echoed the
claim that “free trade” promotes democracy. Meanwhile, protesters struggled to
shed light on a key fact: The proposed hemispheric trade pact would give large
corporations even more power to override laws that have been
enacted—democratically—to protect the environment, labor, and human rights.

Newsweek
responded to the turmoil at the Summit of the Americas  with a column by
Fareed Zakaria, a favorite policy analyst in elite circles. He declared that
“the anti-globalization crowd is antidemocratic…trying to achieve, through
intimidation and scare tactics, what it has not been able to get through
legislation.” In recent decades, of course, the same was said about
cutting-edge demonstrations for such causes as civil rights, peace in Vietnam,
and environmental safeguards.

Protests
against the likes of the World Trade Organization, and now the Free Trade Area
of the Americas, have great impact because they resonate widely. Foes of
global corporatization are speaking and acting on behalf of huge grassroots
constituencies.

The ABC
television program “This Week” deigned to air a discussion with a real-live
progressive activist, Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
Journalist Cokie Roberts voiced befuddlement: “It’s gotten to the point where
any time there are global meetings, world leaders meeting, we have a sense
that the protesters are going to be there, and there’s not much sense of
exactly what you’re protesting.” The interview only lasted a couple of
minutes.

Most news
outlets showed little interest in the content of alternative forums in Quebec
City that drew thousands of activists from all over the hemisphere. Likewise,
a big march in the city, with some estimates ranging above 60,000
participants, got underwhelming coverage. For that matter, most reporters
didn’t seem very deeply interested in the several thousand people who bravely
engaged in militant, nonviolent direct action—risking and sometimes sustaining
injuries from police assaults—while confronting the official summit.

What did get
plenty of media attention was noted at the outset of the April 24 lead
editorial in the Wall Street Journal, which yearned for “a world where
TV cameras prefer trade agreements to black-clad anarchists.” Some of those
few “black-clad anarchists” call themselves the Black Bloc.

Routinely
slipping by, with scant journalistic scrutiny, is what we could dub the “White
Bloc”—a nexus of immense media power serving corporate interests.

The White Bloc
is not monolithic. But on the issue of “free trade,” it’s difficult to find a
major U.S. publication that does not editorially support accords like NAFTA,
WTO, and the FTAA.

The Wall
Street Journal
‘s editorial page, at the right edge of the Bloc, is much
honored by the media establishment. Last year, Journal columnist Paul
Gigot won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary. This year, in mid-April, the same
award went to another very conservative columnist for the newspaper, Dorothy
Rabinowitz. But it’s the unheralded daily output of the White Bloc that can be
most breathtaking.

On the day
Rabinowitz’s prize was announced, for instance, the editorial page of the
Wall Street Journal
featured a freelance article that began this way: “In
the early 1990s, America’s major cities were on life-support, suffocating
under socialistic policies that left them looking like Soviet-bloc relics.”
(It was not a humor piece, by the way.) Farther down the page was a column
headlined “The Monarchy Is Worth Saving,” written by the Journal’s
deputy editorial features editor, who earnestly argued that British citizens
need their monarchy “as a source of authority.”

But the White
Bloc has a liberal side, too. Several New York Times columnists take
turns condemning those who have the gall to stand in the way of corporate
progress.

Free-marketeers
at the Times know how to pound away at the same line. While heads of
state prepared to leave the Quebec summit, Paul Krugman ended his column by
writing that the protesters “are doing their best to make the poor even
poorer.” Two days later, Thomas Friedman concluded his column by explaining
that “these ‘protesters’ should be called by their real name: The Coalition to
Keep Poor People Poor.”

The White Bloc
(which includes people of all colors if suitably conformist) has its own forms
of hip solidarity. On the “Hardball” national TV program, airing on both MSNBC
and CNBC, host Chris Matthews closed his April 18 interview with Friedman this
way:

Matthews: You
are the future, my man. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times.

Friedman:
Thanks, bro.

Matthews: The
smartest columnist in the world.                        Z


Norman Solomon’s latest book is
The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media.
His syndicated column focuses on media and politics.