A Monthly Newsmagazine from Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT)
To Gain access to thousands of articles, khutbas, conferences, books (including tafsirs) & to participate in life enhancing events

Special Reports

The global protests against anti-globalization, and the media’s coverage of them

A. S. Gammal

With the transnational corporate news media increasingly legitimizing ideas and informing people, it becomes increasingly important to scrutinise what is left out of the stories being told. The global news media uniformly trumpet the virtues of ‘globalization’, as if it were both inevitable and desirable, as well as beneficial for the future of humanity. But these media are merely an arm of the process they claim to report as news, and they have vested interests in convincing humanity that there is no choice but to globalize. Dissent, if it gets attention at all, is reduced to emotional images of unruly street protestors and black-masked anarchists. If one’s view of globalization is shaped by how it is covered in the corporate media, then one is accepting propaganda and a cover-up of the realities of globalization and its discontents.

Globalization is essentially an economic process that begins in America and eventually involves its trilateral partners in Europe and Japan. Taking the ideology of neo-liberalism as its rhetorical fuel, globalization seeks to create a world economy that benefits American corporations, first and foremost, and other transnational companies that operate by American-defined rules. Globalization seeks to break down all barriers to trade, which include what used to be called national sovereignty and local culture. To the extent that national sovereignty gets in the way of American progress, it must be dismantled; to the extent that local cultures teach other ways to live, it must be changed. In any case, the global media are not reliable on this topic.

There is a steadily growing grassroots movement against globalization, and it is a lot more united and sophisticated than the global media would have us believe. This is for a reason, since one of the ploys of the collusion between global capital and its cheerleaders is to prevent access to alternatives, and to discredit any that manage somehow to get through the dense smokescreen of propaganda. Beginning in the 1970s, the anti-globalization citizens’ movement is presently centered around four well organized and active international campaigns that work on opposing the World Trade Organization, supporting Third World debt-cancellation, reforming international financial organizations (e.g. the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund), and countering global financial markets by way of a tax on all financial transactions.

The fourfold attack on globalization gained weight in Madrid in 1995 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Bretton Woods financial institutions. While the forces of globalization could take solace in their own smug confidence that their propaganda could smother the mounting dissent, the fourfold movement shattered their dreams of a smooth transition to absolute corporate rule. At first ignoring, then denouncing, and now actively repressing dissent, the global financial institutions and their governmental proxies have been revealed in all their brutality, as shown by their responses in Seattle, Washington and Prague.

While the campaigns have their distinct agendas, leaderships and strategies, there is also a great deal of cooperation and agreement on tactics. Organized at the local, regional, national and international levels, the campaigns have become a widespread counter-movement. But this is not just a counter-movement for its own sake; it seeks to dismantle and to build at the same time, to take advantage of what is beneficial about global sensibilities while also building local alternatives that work because of their diversity.

Trade unions play a major role in the campaigns against financial speculation and in support of debt-cancellation. The debt-cancellation movement has a noticeable religious presence, too, so far dominated by Christian churches but sure to include other religious institutions as it grows. Environmental groups are active in the financial reform movements, and have played a large role in the campaign against the WTO. Consumers’ groups, workers’ guilds and farmers’ associations have also played important roles in the anti-WTO campaign. All of the movements have in their front lines the youth of various societies, who are tired of watching television while their future is sold.

The international movement has succeeded in drawing attention to the problems of globalization. More and more people are now asking questions about globalization, what it stands for, how it will affect their lives and what is its vision of the future, causing the global ruling elites to have to explain and justify themselves. Once these explanations are made public, they then become subject to debate and criticism, so a major victory of the anti-globalization forces has been to drag the global elites out of their boardrooms and into the open.

A unifying feature of the people’s movement is the call for accountability from corporations and governments. No longer seduced by vapid slogans of democracy and free markets, people are demanding real accountability in the form of participation in the shaping of their own destinies, with protection from the predatory forces of globalization. Governments are at a cross-roads, having to choose between mounting oppression (the choice being pursued in the US, for example) or joining the call for accountability. The latter is still difficult, as the US still has a lot of bullying power to force or persuade governments to try to repress citizens’ movements. This explains American support for some of the most repressive regimes in modern history.

So the movement is also developing alternatives. Independent research institutions have begun to challenge the status quo-supporting research presently coming out of most universities, and forcing academics to justify their positions in an increasingly diverse and often hostile climate. Other organizations are forming to monitor (and eventually guide) international financial institutions by way of taxes and regulations, replacing an absolutely free market whose only motivation is greed with a free market that has accountability to people and to the environment to guide and control it.

The eventual success of all four campaigns will benefit almost everyone. The campaign for debt-cancellation seeks to eliminate the burden of debt from ‘Third World’ countries, while also demanding co-responsibility for this debt from financial institutions and placing all lawful servicing under citizens’ control. The campaign for taxes on financial speculation is seeking to feed the revenues that result back into public services, while demanding legal redress of tax havens and other loopholes exploited by global capital. The campaign against the WTO is seeking greater citizens’ participation and more transparency of financial negotiations. As the movement grows, the benefits will accrue to all and further proposals will arise.

All of this activity gives the lie to the global media cheerleading for corporate rule. But there is another aspect of the people’s movement that is even less well known or understood. The various campaigns are replete with instances of individual courage and heroism. Many people are risking life and limb for their causes. Protestors in Germany chained themselves across railroad tracks at night to block a train carrying toxic waste, developing a tactic employed earlier by activists in the northeast US who chained themselves to heavy equipment to prevent clear-cutting of old-growth forests. In both cases they had to be cut free; in Germany only after police sprayed pepper-extract into the protesters’ eyes. Meanwhile, a woman lived on a covered platform high in an ancient tree to prevent forest clear-cutting. Countless people are also brutalized in the streets by national police forces, who are increasingly proving themselves the arms of corporate rule.

The movement has its sights set on several goals and every effort should be made to track developments and support, which will have to be done outside the world of the corporate media. In the near future, for example, the movement is planning to take part in the G7 meeting in Genoa in July and the European Council meetings that are due to be held in Belgium in December.

There is to be a conference on development funding in June next year, which many organizers hope will provide a platform to discuss issues and future prospects. Issues that are certain be on the agenda include problems of economic development while carrying massive debt; the increasing necessity for transparency in financial institutions; further calls for taxes on speculation; an end to corporate welfare and other forms of public support for private investment; taxes based on ecological concerns; and debates on sovereignty in an age of globalization.

These issues will also be brought up in September 2002 at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, which will also provide a forum for presenting locally-based alternatives to globalized markets and their dependence on American-style corporate capitalism, as well as continuing debates on national policy and its relationship to the global regime being demanded by the WTO and other transnational entities. With the internet and various forms of guerrilla media promoting these and other events, the corporate media will be faced with the problem of deciding what to do about increasing visibility of a movement that it is not in their interests to report. The global media will also be held more accountable for broadcasting corporate propaganda disguised as news as people become aware of the alternatives.

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 30, No. 7

Rabi' al-Awwal 09, 14222001-06-01

Sign In


Forgot Password ?


Not a Member? Sign Up