Media Beat: MEDIA SCRUTINY OF THE 'WHITE BLOC' IS OVERDUE
by Norman Solomon
American Reporter Correspondent
WASHINGTON -- As police fired rubber bullets through tear gas in Q= uebec City, many reporters echoed the claim that "free trade" promotes demo= cracy. Meanwhile, protesters struggled to shed light on a key fact: The pro= posed hemispheric trade pact would give large corporations even more power = to override laws that have been enacted -- democratically -- to protect the=
environment, labor and human rights.
Newsweek responded to the turmoil at the Summit of the Americas with a c= olumn by Fareed Zakaria, a favorite policy analyst in elite circles. He dec= lared that "the anti-globalization crowd is antidemocratic ... trying to ac= hieve, through intimidation and scare tactics, what it has not been able to= get through legislation." In recent decades, of course, the same was said = about cutting-edge demonstrations for such causes as civil rights, peace in= Vietnam and environmental safeguards.
Protests against the likes of the World Trade Organization, and now the = Free Trade Area of the Americas, have great impact because they resonate wi= dely. Foes of global corporatization are speaking and acting on behalf of h= uge grassroots constituencies.
The ABC television program "This Week" deigned to air a discussion with = a real-live progressive activist, Lori Wallach of Public Citizen's Global T= rade Watch. Journalist Cokie Roberts voiced befuddlement: "It's gotten to t= he point where any time there are global meetings, world leaders meeting, w= e have a sense that the protesters are going to be there, and there's not m= uch sense of exactly what you're protesting." The interview only lasted a c= ouple of minutes.
Most news outlets showed little interest in the content of alternative f= orums in Quebec City that drew thousands of activists from all over the hem= isphere. Likewise, a big march in the city, with some estimates ranging abo= ve 60,000 participants, got underwhelming coverage. For that matter, most r= eporters didn't seem very deeply interested in the several thousand people = who bravely engaged in militant, nonviolent direct action -- risking and so= metimes sustaining injuries from police assaults -- while confronting the o= fficial summit.
What did get plenty of media attention was noted at the outset of the Ap= ril 24 lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal, which yearned for = "a world where tv cameras prefer trade agreements to black-clad anarchists.= " Some of those few "black-clad anarchists" call themselves the Black Bloc.=
Routinely slipping by, with scant journalistic scrutiny, is what we coul= d dub the "White Bloc" -- a nexus of immense media power serving corporate = interests.
The White Bloc is not monolithic. But on the issue of "free trade," it's= difficult to find a major U.S. publication that does not editorially suppo= rt accords like NAFTA, WTO and the new FTAA.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, at the right edge of th= e Bloc, is much honored by the media establishment. Last year, Journal= I> columnist Paul Gigot won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary. This year, in = mid-April, the same award went to another very conservative columnist for t= he newspaper, Dorothy Rabinowitz. But it's the unheralded daily output of t= he White Bloc that can be most breathtaking.
On the day Rabinowitz's prize was announced, for instance, the editorial= page of the Wall Street Journal featured a freelance article that b= egan this way: "In the early 1990s, America's major cities were on life-sup= port, suffocating under socialistic policies that left them looking like So= viet-bloc relics." (It was not a humor piece, by the way.) Farther down the= page was a column headlined "The Monarchy Is Worth Saving," written by the= Journal's deputy editorial features editor, who earnestly argued th= at British citizens need their monarchy "as a source of authority."
But t= he White Bloc has a liberal side, too. Several New York Times column= ists take turns condemning those who have the gall to stand in the way of c= orporate Progress.
Free-marketeers at the Times know how to pound away at the same l= ine. While heads of state prepared to leave the Quebec summit, Paul Krugman= ended his column by writing that the protesters "are doing their best to m= ake the poor even poorer."
Two days later, Thomas Friedman concluded his column by explaining t= hat "these 'protesters' should be called by their real name: The Coalition = to Keep Poor People Poor."
The White Bloc (which includes people of all colors if suitably conformi= st) has its own forms of hip solidarity. On the "Hardball" national tv prog= ram, airing on both MSNBC and CNBC, host Chris Matthews closed his April 18= interview with Friedman exactly this way:
Matthews: "You are the future, my man. Thomas Friedman of the New Yor= k Times."
Friedman: "Thanks, bro."
Matthews: "The smartest columnist in the world."
Norman Solomon's latest book is "The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media." = His syndicated column focuses on media and politics.