a police officer shot Carlo Giuliani in the head, Time magazine published a
requiem of sorts — explaining that the 23-year-old Italian protester pretty
much got what he deserved.
man died in Genoa; a man, we must presume, who was swayed by the false promise
that violence — not peaceful protest, not participation in the democratic
process — is the best way to advance a political cause," Time’s article
concluded. "It is not too much to hope that the next time his friends stoop to
pick up a cobblestone, they will remember a lesson learned when plows first
broke the Mesopotamian earth: You reap what you sow."
sanctimonious tone, etched with gratification, was not unique to the largest
newsmagazine in the United States. Quite a few commentators seemed to accept —
or even applaud — the killing of Giuliani as rough justice. "Excuse me if I
don’t mourn for the young man who was shot dead by police during the economic
summit," wrote Houston Chronicle columnist Cragg Hines. "It was tragic, but he
was asking for it, and he got it."
Genoa, assaults by Italian police were systematic and widespread, causing
hundreds of serious injuries. But American news accounts tended to be cryptic.
"Italian police raided a school building housing activists and arrested all 92
people inside," the Wall Street Journal reported on July 23. "Afterward, the
building was covered with pools of blood and littered with smashed computers.
Several reporters at the school were hurt; one had his arm broken. Police said
61 of the detainees had been wounded in riots that preceded the raid, but
neighbors described hours of beatings and screaming coming from the school
during the raid."
July 25, when I called the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Manhattan-based
group had not yet issued a statement. But program director Richard M. Murphy
told me: "CPJ is extremely concerned by reports that working journalists were
attacked by both police and protesters while covering street demonstrations at
the Genoa summit." The comment was evenhanded to a fault. The vast majority of
the reported attacks on journalists were by police.
Unlike colleagues assaulted while displaying press credentials, reporter John
Elliott was on an undercover assignment among protesters. Watching a water
cannon move through tear gas, "I felt a massive blow to the back of my head," he
wrote in the Sunday Times of London. "For a second my vision whited out. I had
been hit by a police truncheon."
more police ran toward him, Elliott quickly tried to regain his journalistic
identity by yelling, "Giornalista inglese!" But the clubbing went on. "Two
policemen dragged me along the ground, shouted at me in Italian and then hit me
some more. My cycling helmet disintegrated under their blows. Truncheons whacked
my back, arms and shins. They dragged me over railway lines towards a signal box
where I was ordered to put my head on a steel rail. I tried to obey, unable to
believe this was happening. Gripped by fresh impulses of violence, they started
kicking my head, back and legs. Repeatedly they pushed me to the ground for a
accounts routinely declared that the fatality in Genoa was unprecedented. But an
essay in the London-based Guardian debunked that media myth. "The members of the
Landless Movement of Brazil (MST) could tell you that Carlo Giuliani … is not
the first casualty of the movement challenging neoliberal globalization around
the world," Katharine Ainger wrote. "The MST suffer ongoing persecution for
their campaign for land reform in Brazil, their opposition to the World Bank’s
program of market-led land reform and to the corporate control of agriculture
through patents on seed."
Ainger cited other deaths that have gone virtually unreported in mass media:
"Recently, three students protesting against World Bank privatization were shot
in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Young men fighting World Bank-imposed water
privatization have been tortured and killed in Cochabamba, Bolivia."
Meanwhile, around the planet, those who perish from lack of food or drinkable
water or health care have little media presence. The several thousand children
who die from easily preventable diseases each morning, and afternoon, and
evening, remain largely media abstractions. When will news outlets really
scrutinize the profit-driven violence that takes their lives?
such institutionalized violence is massive and continuous, supporters of
corporate globalizing agendas benefit from the propaganda value of the street
violence by "Black Bloc" participants in Genoa (who, according to eyewitness
accounts, comprised no more than 2 percent of the protesters there). It would be
surprising if those Black Bloc units were not heavily infiltrated by
government-paid provocateurs and the like. Historically, covert police agents
have often pushed for — and helped to implement — violent actions in isolation
from a mass base. In sharp contrast, there is scant record of police agents
trying to foment militant, nonviolent civil disobedience on a large scale.
global movement with literally millions of participants is continuing to
organize against the colossal daily violence of the world’s biggest
institutions. Progressive websites that are genuinely grassroots and
international — like
www.zmag.org — reflect vibrant resistance to a corporatized future. Other
futures are possible, to the extent that people are determined to create them.