S26 protests get violent.
September 26, 2000 1:11 PM   Subscribe

S26 protests get violent. Once again, those bloody radicals are blamed for turning a nice nonviolent protest bad. I seem to recall someone dismissing my criticism of the movement for not being on the same ideological page.
posted by norm (19 comments total)
Mars: Actions speak louder than words, and they're speaking plenty loud right now if you care to listen.
You're mistaking this movement's greatest strength for a

Please explain how that is possible, considering the discrediting of the movement by violent elements that happens every time these protests come together?

posted by norm at 1:19 PM on September 26, 2000

"discrediting of the movement by violent elements"

You're confusing your view of a movement with the views of others. Maybe the violence isn't discrediting the movement with some/many people?
posted by aramaic at 1:38 PM on September 26, 2000

Entirely possible, aramaic. I offer as feeble support for my view the fact I work with an office full of working class type people, the supposed ideal demographic, and they have much more negative views of the movement than I.
posted by norm at 1:47 PM on September 26, 2000

One of the protestor's signs: "IMF + WB = Hitler 2000"

More proof that Andy Warhol was wrong: In the future, everyone will be Hitler for 15 minutes.
posted by lileks at 2:10 PM on September 26, 2000

Focusing on the violence is exactly what you are supposed to do. Do not forget that the media outlets you get your news from are for profit corporations owned by even larger corporations. If you can look at a little sensationalized violence you won't have to actually think about the issues.

There is a feeling people have, that is growing, that we are no longer in control of our lives, that corporations have more power than governments, and this makes some people afraid, others want to act. Smashing the windows of a McDonald's, in the context of what McDonald's does around the world is nothing. We should not let some overly violent people distract us from the fact that these are real issues.

posted by chrismc at 2:35 PM on September 26, 2000

After observing the fallout from s11 in Melbourne, I think the violence was engineered by the WEF. The police response was totally out of proportion with the level of protest.

The police where careful to make sure the media reported the violence and even attacked an SBS TV camera crew. None of the police worn identification and an unmarked police car drove over a woman protester. This kind of thing is totally out of character for police handling of protests in Melbourne which is a city with a proud tradition of peaceful protest stretching back to the Vietnam war.

I hope this will be born out by an enquiry into police behaviour by the state ombudsman, although the government was quick to come out support of the police.

The purpose I think is to create an atmosphere of fear wherever these conferences are held and to discredit the protesters and any opposition to them.

posted by lagado at 3:35 PM on September 26, 2000

norm: the quote is, of course, accurate, but I think you are interpreting it with a little less subtlety than I intended.

In Seattle last November I saw police shoot, gas, and beat protesters sitting quietly on the sidewalk. I saw them shoot pepper spray directly in people's faces. I was an uninvolved bystander, my sympathies more with the police than the protesters at that time, and I got gassed all the same. The police caused pain to thousands upon thousands of people.

This was not violence, according to the news reports; in fact, a lot of it didn't even happen. The police behaved "with admirable restraint, considering the circumstances." Those people who did get hurt were asking for it.

Certain protesters broke the windows of several chain stores whose parent companies they found repugnant. Some people painted slogans on walls. A few people pushed a dumpster into an intersection and set it on fire.

Zero people were injured by these actions.

This, according to the news reports, was violence, something dangerous, a near riot.

Yes, there are news reports of acts of violence at the Prague protests. There have been news reports of acts of violence at all the protests; they tend to overwhelm everything else.

And yet as the stories trickle in over the days that follow, one hears disturbing things about police attacking quiet crowds without provocation; about police infiltrating protester groups; about bizarre violations of civil liberties. There is documentation from here to the moon about police mischief at these protests (the cops running over a protester in Melbourne is only the latest). Little of this seems to make it into the news.

Draw your own conclusions.

I think it is prudent to be skeptical of everything you hear about these protests. There are no unbiased sources.

posted by Mars Saxman at 6:20 PM on September 26, 2000

Actually, I just got back from a panel discussion on the very issue of violent/nonviolent protest, which included Alli Starr, John Sellers and others involved in the movement. Everyone had their own unique take on the subject, but there was a lot in common too.

the discrediting of the movement by violent elements that happens every time these protests come together?

"Property destruction isn't violence; the creation of property is violence" -- This has become almost a slogan by now, but it's absolutely true.

As for claims of being discredited, that has more to do with the structure of the corporate media than with anything that has actually happened on the street. Even if the "violence" were limited to someone breaking a fingernail, the headlines would still read "Protests turn violent". As for being on the same page, the movement may have some internal disagreements on tactics, but it is still one movement, united in opposition to the violence of corporate rule.
posted by johnb at 2:27 AM on September 27, 2000

"Property destruction isn't violence; the creation of property is violence" -- This has become almost a slogan by now, but it's absolutely true.

This is not smart thinking, I'm afraid. It will alienate everyone is not on the "smash capitalism now" ticket.
posted by lagado at 4:41 AM on September 27, 2000

John, they tried state ownership of the means of production for 70 years in eastern Europe. And it looks like it will take them another 70 years to catch up with the imperialists' standard of living ....now that socialism is a thoroughly discredited brand of economics - except, of course, in a few despotic poverty - stricken backwaters like Cuba and North Korea.

If you really want to change the world, John, I suggest you start with yourself, dude. And to answer your question from the previous thread, no I am not autistic, I simply have a different opinion from you on these matters.

Best Regards

posted by murray_kester at 5:40 AM on September 27, 2000

Murray, if by "socialism" you mean the system in place in North Korea, then I don't distinguish between socialism and American-style capitalism. The rhetoric is different, of course. But oligarchy is oligarchy.

Re: autism, my point was that people other than yourself are affected by the globalization of capital. You seemed incapable of grasping this point, hence the charitable suggestion -- sincerely posed -- that you suffer from this condition. No offense was intended.
posted by johnb at 8:48 AM on September 27, 2000

Lagado, just to clarify: by "creation of property" I mean the physical creation of property -- the violence inflicted on nature by industry. It's not an abstract point, indeed environmental protection is quite popular as a cause, in the US and throughout the world. At any rate, the mere utterance of a slogan -- whatever it is -- is not going to convince the uninformed skeptic. The function of a slogan, in general, is to encapsulate a point of view, not to present a rational argument.
posted by johnb at 9:11 AM on September 27, 2000

Murray, just to expand a bit on my remarks above: communism and capitalism have both failed miserably because they make false assumptions about human nature -- what motivates us, what makes us happy etc -- viz., assumptions that are inconsistent with what we know from evolutionary biology and psychology. The evidence suggests that such monolithic systems of control will always be plagued by mindless overproduction and overconsumption, at the expense of human needs and the environment.

For a brief discussion of what we're about, read the follow article by Naomi Klein:

Capitalism And Communism Look Equally Bad In Prague

What seems to most enrage the delegates to the meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Prague this week is the idea that they even have to discuss the basic benefits of free-market globalization.

That discussion was supposed to have stopped in 1989, when the Wall fell and history ended. Only here they all are -- old people, young people, thousands of them -- literally storming the barricades of their extremely important summit.

And as the delegates peer over the side of their ill-protected fortress at the crowds below, scanning signs that say "Capitalism Kills," they look terribly confused. Didn't these strange people get the memo? Don't they understand that we all already decided that free-market capitalism was the last, best system? Sure, it's not perfect, and everyone inside the meeting is awfully concerned about all those poor people and the environmental mess, but it's not like there's a choice -- is there? [...more...]
posted by johnb at 10:28 AM on September 27, 2000

norm: After continued perusal of the reports coming back from Prague I'm beginning to think you have a point.

It does indeed seem to be the case that the frontlines of one of the three groups marching on the conference center began throwing rocks & firebombs at the police almost immediately. I conclude from this that there are a good number of people protesting in Prague who believe a society based on rock-throwing and firebombs would be a good thing.

It also seems to be the case that, as usual, the great majority of the people protesting in Prague are more interested in a society based on nonviolence, and have acted accordingly.

The message of the people with rocks and bottles does tend to overwhelm the message of the people working for peace. People have put a lot of effort into spreading the "peaceful protest" message for exactly this reason, and it's sad to see so much good work overwhelmed.

Yes, this is a weakness of the movement and its inclusive philosophy. While the movement, as a whole, is about peace, nonviolence, and the cessation of coercion, a hotheaded minority, if present in sufficient numbers, can hijack a demonstration and break its nonviolent character.

It is, fortunately, only a short term weakness. Inclusivity and decentralisation are still also the movement's greatest strengths, and are what have powered its growth and will continue to do so. Who do you blame for the rocks and bottles? Well, the people who threw them, of course. No leaders told them to do that, and there were no leaders who should have prevented them from doing it. No ideological split broke the protest organization into "violent" and "nonviolent" groups. There are no leaders or organizational philosophy to lose faith in (or to bring to court). The movement will go on, largely unharmed, and next time the nonviolent protesters will probably work harder to make sure they don't end up marching next to people who think slugging a cop is a good way to make a point.

The police, of course, will continue to think that tear gas, pepper spray, clubs, rubber bullets, beanbag shotguns, and water cannons are appropriate tools for dealing with people who call for a less violent society.

Let me also point out that, in spite of the violence, the protest was a success:
- news attention was brought to a conference that would otherwise have gone largely unnoticed
- the work of the conference was severely impaired, to the point that it shut down early
- the World Bank is modifying their PR to address concerns they've never had to deal with before - perhaps next they'll actually have to start following through, eh?

posted by Mars Saxman at 1:20 PM on September 27, 2000

Who do you blame for the rocks and bottles? Well, the people who threw them, of course.

No question you are right about that -- for those who are familiar with current events. However, the point to my criticisms from the beginning has been that the tactics and broad makeup of this movement (I'm not even going to attempt to name it) are not conducive to capturing the minds and sympathies of the majority of the populace. The supreme irony as far as I'm concerned is that the tide that seemed inevitable towards greater globalization does seem to be turning, even as the movement is more marginalized and radicalized, at least as popularly conceived of.

One more note: dismissing major news outlets out of hand as tools of the corporations misses a point or two.
1. Corporations' employees often act against their perceived self interest (how many employees of Weyerhaueser and Microsoft marched in Seattle?). Why wouldn't reporters do it, too?
2. Regardless of the movement's dismissal, the mainstream media does play a large role in shaping public perception of current events. The movement must become more media savvy to achieve the goals they set out to.
3. This line of criticism makes the movement seem more paranoid than I'm sure you really are.

posted by norm at 1:46 PM on September 27, 2000

Actually I think the tactics of the movement are about as good as they can be. They have certainly raised the profile of these issues. The failure of the mainstream coporate media to cover the issues and instead cover the violence clearly serves the corporate interest in the short term and in the larger picture serves to make average middle class suburbanites feel fear and thus be merely thankful for the authorities to protect them. A little time passes, and poof, we can go back to watching football, what does it matter if the poor in other countries are getting poorer.

It is certainly not paranoia to say that the media generally does a poor job of reporting the actual issues in favor of the much easier and more highly rated coverage of violence.

I don't really understand how a few microserfs attending a protest discredits the theory that corporate media is serving corporate rather than public interests. And I agree that mainstream media shapes public opinion, that is the whole point, they are shaping it in a particular way.

Here is a very useful article that explains what I am trying to say. http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Senate/3761/how.html
posted by chrismc at 2:04 PM on September 28, 2000

Yes, that's a nice article.
posted by johnb at 4:29 PM on September 28, 2000

I hereby stake a claim for 3411. But you are free to post.
posted by gluechunk at 12:34 AM on May 4, 2001

I think this is getting a little out of hand...
posted by xiffix at 12:48 PM on May 5, 2001

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