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Corporate Elites Meet & Greet, New York Times Makes Shit Up

Here's a pretty old legacy post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 22 years ago, in 2002, on the World Wide Web.

For the most part, the New York Times’ story on the World Economic Forum beginning its proceedings in New York is just a gooey report on the men who had the air of money and power hobnobbing inside the Waldorf-Astoria, … like the start of summer camp. Now I really wonder if this sort of fluff reporting on a serious conference of the global economic and political elite is necessary. But, more to the point, the Times has decided to creatively reinvent history:

That has not prevented critics from painting the Forum in the darkest colors. The World Economic Forum will celebrate war in Afghanistan and the Middle East, attacks on civil liberties, and corporate tax cuts, proclaimed a group called A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) in its call for demonstrations which will get under way in earnest with marches on Saturday.

At the New York W.E.F. summit, the world’s richest C.E.O.s will collaborate with the world’s most powerful politicians to set the global economic agenda, declared another group, Students for Global Justice.

Whether the protests reach the violence of last year’s meeting in Davos remains to be seen. Some of the opposition groups acknowledge that a clash with New York’s finest in the aftermath of Sept. 11 would not sit well with the public.

Now, it’s a bit irresponsible to spending only two dismissive paragraphs on the fact that there are, in fact, people who have serious problems with what goes at the WEF, while spending the rest of the front-page story gushing about how elite and idealistic it all is (for more responsible coverage, I suggest the Times’ recent in-depth article on anarchism, buried in the New York Region section). What concerns me a bit more, however, is that they are simply making shit up when they say that the protests at Davos last year had any violence to be reached.

In reality, last year’s protests in Davos featured 250 activists staging a peaceful march. In 2000, the worst violence was a few windows being broken at a McDonald’s. In 2001, the worst violence was snowballs being tossed at police barricades.

Well, I should take that back. There was violence at the 2001 protest. See, the Davos local authorities decided to ban any exercise of the right to peaceful public assembly, so protestors were met by over 1,000 Swiss security agents armed with batons and tear gas guns. The demonstrators’ peaceful march was turned back with police barricades and water cannons. But this isn’t exactly the sort of violence that the Times story was claiming had happened.

This is, unfortunately, part of a general press smear campaign against the globalization movement, which has invented protestor violence out of thin air in protests in Seattle, DC, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia… at all of these there was plenty of police violence against demonstrators but the virtually none initiated by protestors. In Seattle and DC, heavy tear gas bombardments were used; in Los Angeles I watched mounted cops stage dragoon attacks with batons on protestors who had done nothing other than run away from rampaging peace officers. And yet the New York Daily News compared protestors to the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and threatened them, You have a right to free speech, but try to disrupt this town, and you’ll get your anti-globalization butts kicked. Capish?

Sidebar: I’ve noticed that they’ve been awfully cagey about just how many women are at the invite-only WEF meeting; one article lumped in women amidst everyone else in the overwhelming minority at the WEF (third world leaders, human rights activists, union leaders, etc.). The Times’ editorial column said it was some 3,000 Davos Men, and a sprinkling of Davos Women. For all their apologia, it’s really hard to shade just how reactionary in constitution their Good Ol’ Boys meeting is.

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