Media reveal anti-protestor bias

SEATTLE (U-WIRE) — As we approach the upcoming national conventions of the Democratic and Republican parties, it will be interesting to watch the coverage being given in the mainstream press to the massive protests being planned for both of these events.
Among the participants in these protests will be many of the same people who participated in the recent anti-globalization protests in Seattle and Washington, D.C., and already the difference between those protesters’ intended messages and the sensationalism that marked the media coverage is becoming apparent again as the media begin to discuss the protests planned for Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
During Ralph Nader’s appearance at the University of Wisconsin on April 1, Nader discussed how the World Trade Organization protests were being turned into “a law-and-order issue” by the mainstream media. In Nader’s view, as well as that of many in the activist community, the media were avoiding any meaningful discussion of the grievances that brought 50,000 people to Seattle, focusing instead on endless rehashes of the logistical fiascoes committed by police and other authorities.
An overview of the numerous WTO-related articles that have appeared in our local mainstream press in the months since the WTO Ministerial bears out Nader’s observation.
While a glut of news articles obsessing upon what allegedly went wrong during the protests from a law and order standpoint continues even recently, there has been a proportional dearth of discussion of the fatal flaws of corporate globalization. Granted, occasional passing mention has been given to “environmental concerns,” “child labor,” “sovereignty” and other tidy abstractions in reference to the “good protesters.”
Overall, however, detailed information about these and other aspects of globalization has all too often been overlooked in favor of endless lamentations over property damage incurred during the protests.
Even that portion of the coverage focusing on protesters’ grievances has been focused narrowly on civil-rights violations by authorities rather than discussing the original grievances concerning free trade that brought 50,000 people to Seattle in the first place.
Whether intentional or not, giving such abundant coverage to such obsession with logistics (should we blame Paul Schell or Pat Davis for that long-suffering smashed Starbucks window? Perhaps Mike Moore? Or Janet Reno?) while the much more important globalization-related issues remaining with us go insufficiently addressed has proven in its own way as effective an assault on good, healthy citizen dissent as any amount of tear gas or pepper spray.
While independent media sources are currently providing a reliable forum for discussion of the convention-protesters’ grievances — such as the prison-industrial complex and corporate subversion of democracy, among other skeletons in candidates’ closets — the first batch of articles on the convention protests from the big papers, while giving some mention of these issues, are already focusing more on police logistics and the haunting spectre of the dreaded anarchists from Eugene, Ore., than on discussing the issues that concern the majority of the protesters.
If the Los Angeles and Philly protests end up going down WTO-style in all the wrong ways — with police and alleged anarchists engaging in the smashing of skulls and storefronts, respectively — we can surely expect much weeping and gnashing of teeth over the resulting property damage. Meanwhile, the damage being done to democracy by the confluence of government and big business may all too likely gain only passing mention, just as occurred in the wake of N30.
If, in the long run, all the general public associates with the increasing number of large-scale protests happening in the United States is tear gas and broken windows, then perhaps we can blame the anarchists for the riots accompanying these protests.
But who should we blame for the broken state of our democracy that so many activists have been trying so hard to repair?

Jeff Stevens’s column originally appeared in The Daily at the University of Washington on July 12.