cj#1032,rn-> ** Best report of Seattle media coverage **

1999-12-08

Richard Moore

friends,

here in kauai we get sparse coverage in the newspapers of
anything happening 'off island'.  what shows up here is the
mass-media propaganda line distilled to its essence.
yesterday's report was entitled "Seattle police chief
resigns following WTO riots".  Excerpts:

    SEATTLE (AP) -- The city's police chief announced his
    resignation in the wake of violent, fiery protests that
    marred the World Trade Organization's conference here last
    week. ... The chief said... "I certainly do accept full
    responsibility that our officers did not get all the support
    they needed and deserve" ... There was widespread vandalism
    and police used tear gas and fired rubber bullets on people
    during violent protests.

Does anyone know what "AP" stands for?  Is it "A_ll P_ropaganda"?

Tomorrow I'm going to write a piece on violence and the so-called
"anarchists".  It is clear that the reactionary counter-revolution
has started whether or not the revolution has started.  We are going
to have either fascism or democracy.  If you sit on the sidelines it
will be fascism.  Even if you don't sit on the sidelines it may be
fascism.

rkm


============================================================================
Delivered-To: moderator for •••@••.•••
Date: Wed, 08 Dec 1999 15:04:49 -0600
To: •••@••.•••
From: Mark Douglas Whitaker <•••@••.•••>
Subject: [FAIR-L] Media Advisory-- WTO: Prattle in Seattle


                         FAIR-L
            Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting
       Media analysis, critiques and news reports


Media Advisory:
WTO Coverage: Prattle in Seattle

December 7, 1999

As an estimated 50,000 protesters  rallied in Seattle to
shut down the opening conference of the World Trade
Organization meeting last week, mainstream media treated
protesters' concerns with indifference and often contempt.
That hostility translated into slanted coverage of both the
demonstrations and the police reaction.

In mainstream reports, "anti-trade" became a common--though
wildly inaccurate--label for the demonstrators. "A guerrilla
army of anti-trade activists took control of downtown
Seattle today," a Washington Post article (12/1/99) began.
ABC News reporter John Cochran (11/30/99) said Seattle had
become a "home for protests against world trade." ABC anchor
Jack Ford (12/1/99) pitted the demonstrators against the
city hosting them: "No American city exports as much,
President Clinton was happy to point out today, which helps
explain why a good many people in Seattle are angry--at the
protesters and their very anti-trade message."

Even coverage that did attempt to describe the protesters'
goals dealt with them in only the vaguest terms--and often
at a level of generalization that rendered the descriptions
inaccurate or meaningless. An ABC News story by
correspondent Deborah Wang in Seattle failed to address the
activists' concerns with anything more than platitudes:

"They are fighting for essentially the same issues they
campaigned against in the '60's. Corporations, which they
say are still exploiting workers in the Third World.
Agribusiness is still putting small farmers out of work.
Mining companies, still displacing peasants from the
land.... But what is different is that, for these
protesters, this single organization, the WTO has come to
symbolize about all that is wrong in the modern world."

More helpful than such generalities would have been a
summary of some of the protesters' specific complaints: that
the WTO has issued rulings forcing member countries to
repeal specific laws that protect public health and the
environment; that it proposes new rules limiting countries'
freedom to regulate foreign corporate investors; and that
its decisions are made in secret by an unaccountable
tribunal.

The lack of understanding of the demonstrators' concerns was
unsurprising, given how seldom the media spoke with them.
When the police first started using tear gas against street
blockades, CNN reporter Katherine Barrett (11/30/99) turned
for comment to Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National
Association of Manufacturers. Jasinowski confessed that he
was "struck by how loopy some of the protesters were" and
observed that they were "shouting a lot of crazy different
messages."

Perhaps the single WTO opponent who received the largest
amount of time on CNN to expound his views was Pat Buchanan,
who was interviewed, one-on-one and at length, by Inside
Politics anchor Judy Woodruff (11/30/99). Though right-wing
nationalists appeared to make up--at most--an infinitesimal
fraction of the actual protesters in Seattle's streets, the
media seemed to anoint Buchanan as a major leader of the
anti-WTO movement. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman
wrote (12/1/99) that "knaves like Pat Buchanan" had "duped"
the demonstrators--"a Noah's ark of flat-earth advocates,
protectionist trade unions and yuppies looking for their
1960s fix"--into protesting the WTO.

"What's driving [the protests]?" CNN political analyst Bill
Schneider asked on Inside Politics (11/30/99). "Resentment
of big business for its irresponsible behavior, a resentment
shared by the left"--followed by a soundbite of AFL-CIO
leader John Sweeney--"and the right"--followed by a
soundbite of Pat Buchanan. This type of right/left
"evenhandedness" concerning the protests did not appear to
be justified by the actual composition of the anti-WTO
movement.

Media outlets seemed unconcerned by Buchanan's
less-than-sterling record as an advocate for labor. As
co-host of CNN's Crossfire (7/3/91), Buchanan once grilled
public-sector union leader Gerald McEntee--one of the labor
officials present at the Seattle demos--on "the suicidal
impulses of American unions":

"A lot of the jobs now have disappeared-they're gone. One
reason, one complaint, is the pay of the United Auto Workers
and the benefits.... Aren't you fellows committing suicide
by yourselves?"

Perhaps mainstream news outlets' confusion concerning the
protesters' goals contributed to their often skewed coverage
of the behavior of the Seattle police and National Guard. A
continuing theme in news reports was that the use of tear
gas and concussion grenades was an appropriate response to
"violent" activists.

CBS News anchor Dan Rather reported (12/1/99) that "the
meeting of the World Trade Organization was thrown into
turmoil by violent demonstrations that went on into last
night. That brought on today's crackdown." A CNN report from
Seattle  (12/1/99)  claimed that "as tens of thousands
marched through downtown Seattle, [a] small group of
self-described anarchists smashed windows and vandalized
stores. Police responded with rubber bullets and pepper
gas."

But the sequence of events described in these reports was
wrong. As Detective Randy Huserik, a spokesman for the
Seattle police, confirmed, pepper spray had first been used
against protesters engaged in peaceful civil disobedience.
CNN anchor Lou Waters asked Huserik (11/30/99) why the gas
was used:

Waters: How would you characterize the nature of the threat
today? Were police assaulted? Is that what precipitated
this?

Huserik:  Well, a rather large group of protesters...were
determined to continue blocking public entrance and exit in
access of some of the various venue sites. They were given a
lawful order to disperse, which was ignored. Officers then
announced that the Seattle police officers would deploy
pepper spray if the crowd did not disperse. For those that
remained, the pepper spray was deployed in order to disperse
that crowd.

One eyewitness, nonviolence trainer Matt Guynn, distributed
the following account of police brutality over the Internet:

"In one scene I witnessed this morning (at 8th Ave and
Seneca), police who had been standing behind  a blockade
line began marching in lock-step toward the line, swinging
their batons forward, and when they reached the line they
began striking the (nonviolent, seated) protestors
repeatedly in the back. Then they ripped off the protestors'
gas masks, and sprayed pepper spray at point-blank range
into their eyes repeatedly.  After spraying, they rubbed the
protestors' eyes and pushed their fingers around on their
lips to aggravate the effect of the spray. And after all
THIS, they began striking them again with batons.... The
police then were able to break up the line, and the
protestors retreated to the steps of a nearby church for
medical assistance."


The lack of condemnation of police tactics--especially their
tear-gassing and pepper-spraying of peaceful protesters--was
a striking feature of the coverage. "Thanks for joining us
and good luck to you out there," CNN anchor Lou Waters told
a Seattle police spokesperson (12/1/99) as police continued
their crackdown on demonstrators. A front-page Los Angeles
Times article on the protests (12/2/99) featured a subhead
that read "Police Commended for Restraint." Yet the only
source cited by the Times was Seattle police chief Norm
Stamper, who praised the "professionalism, restraint and
competence" of his forces.

Contrast that with this account from Seattle physician
Richard DeAndrea, posted on the website Emperors-clothes.com
:

"The police were using concussion grenades. They were...
shooting tear gas canisters directly at protesters' faces.
They were using rubber bullets. Some of the damage I saw
from these rubber bullets took off part of a person's jaw,
smashed teeth... There are people who have been... treated
for plastic bullet wounds. Lots of tear gas injuries, lots
of damage to [the] cornea, lots of damage to the eyes and
skin."

One of the few media accounts that conveyed the brutality of
the Seattle police was written by a local correspondent for
the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (12/2/99), who reported that
"three Seattle police officers slammed me to the pavement,
handcuffed me and threw me into the van. I was charged with
failing to disperse even though I showed them reporter's
credentials and repeatedly said I was just covering a
story."



                               ----------


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