A PRo-Democracy Movement
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 it.
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 update."
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.