"Nothing does change, unless its form, its structure, its language also changes. To work magic, we begin by making new metaphors. Without negating the light, we reclaim the dark: the fertile earth where the hidden seed lies unfolding." - Starhawk

September 1999
Vol. 1 - #7

Said It: Feminist News, Culture & Politics  

in this issue:

WTO: Confronting a Menace of a Millennium

We All Belong, Stop Harassment!

A Subtle Erasure

WTO Play by Play

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Media Glance

WTO Play by Play
by Adriene Sere

The facts about the World Trade Organization--its power structure, past record, and future agenda--are breathtaking. Just hearing a few of the facts is enough to give you vertigo, cause your mouth to drop open in disbelief, make your mind race with strategies to save our precious world from its reach.

But you have to go out of your way to learn these facts. You have to get up at 7:30 on a Saturday morning to listen to KCMU alternative radio, give up your Sunday evening to hear a lecture at the University, track down websites that have valid and read-able information.

When you do these things, you find out that the WTO, described by the mainstream media as a "free trade organization," is in fact an organization controlled by transnational corporations that has, in essence, been given the power to oversee, strike down, and regulate basic democratic law. You find out that the WTO has its own private court system with the power to force its decisions onto an unknowing and unwilling population. You find out that it has already made rulings that have, in effect, struck down laws protecting the environment, public health, and impoverished local economies, and that during its "Third Round" in Seattle this November, it wants to negotiate how to expand its power exponentially.

These facts are newsworthy indeed. But they are not appearing in our morning or afternoon newspapers.

It's not that the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer are ignoring the WTO. To the contrary, they are obsessed. These papers, preparing for the upcoming Ministerial, have for months reported on the WTO the way sportscasters report on a football game in progress. They aren't about to explain to anyone the rules. They aren't about to tell you football's history, or explain why men's sports are dominating the airwaves. And they definitely aren't going to let you know that, unlike football, the WTO will have a fundamental impact on your life and the future of this world. If you don't like the WTO game, you can just skip over the articles covering the latest clue as to who will be the WTO's next director, and whether China will be allowed into the WTO league.

But the fact that people can find, and are going out of their way to find, this crucial information elsewhere is starting to have a noticeable effect on the opinions of the public and some elected officials, and the daily papers are, as a result, trying to reassert some control.

After the No to WTO/People for Fair Trade campaign had appeared to convince the King County Council to change a proposed resolution welcoming the WTO into a resolution calling for fair trade, the daily papers were forced to expand their coverage to explain the fact that there is opposition to the WTO.

News articles began alluding to the opposition's concerns about the environment and workers' rights. They began to run feature stories on the upcoming protests to explain that not everyone is in agreement with the WTO. But these articles rarely if ever provide specific or contextual information

There have been partial exceptions to this in the P-I. After the No to WTO campaign appeared to have had a tangible impact on King County Council resolution, the P-I printed several articles, all at once, to help explain the phenomenon. One of these articles (9/7/99) was a respectful profile of one of the major forces behind the No to WTO campaign--fair trade activist Sally Soriano.

An accompanying article covered the recent visit of Byron Rushing, a Massachusetts state representative who successfully sponsored a law for a state-wide boycott of companies who do business with the brutal regime of Burma. The article included the explanation that this law has been challenged by Japan and the European as in violation of the WTO's "Agreement on Government Procurement," which prohibits "extraterritorial secondary boycotts," and could thus obstruct civilians' democratic power to make political change.

Unfortunately, its brief experiment with reporting relevant facts has exhausted the P-I, and they are back to the football game--this time, with the drama of grassroots opposition fully integrated.

Just one week later, an article entitled "WTO seeks to counteract 'misperceptions'" was placed on the front page of the P-I (9/15/99). "To those who accuse it of everything from spawning El Niño to being a tool of ruthless multinational corporations bent on globalization, the World Trade Organization has a ready reply: Don't blame us, blame your government," the article begins. Needless to say, the article characterizes those who oppose the WTO as a backward, paranoid, ignorant lot--maybe not as wacky as the believers who committed suicide to join a passing UFO, but definitely more delusional than the Y2K-phobes packing up and heading for the hills.

The P-I could have gone directly to the documents--WTO documents (those that are accessible), government documents, the published record of the WTO's decisions and the subsequent legislative changes--and then assessed the anti-WTO "rumors" based on direct information. Instead the paper filled its front page with a "he said-he said" story that revealed nothing more than who is in power.

Maybe one of the most important protests that No to WTOers could carry out is against the daily papers--well before the Ministerial. A bothersome demo at their offices might make them consider the facts before presenting such deliberately misleading coverage.


Copyright © 1999 Adriene Sere - All rights reserved by author
All work contained in Said It is owned by the respective contributing authors or artists,
including all copyrights contained therein, and may not be copied, reprinted, or otherwise used
in any form without the express written permission of the copyright holder.

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