Mainstream Media Dismisses Democracy (11/00)

By ignoring critical social issues mainstream corporate media dismisses democratic values in the United States.

Since the Fall of 1999 there have been four major political demonstrations in the United States. The cities of Seattle, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles each hosted either a major political party convention or global economic institution meetings where thousands of activists protested, engaged in non-violent civil disobedience, and in rare, often provoked cases, caused superficial damaged to public and private property. Corporate media has labeled the protesters as unorganized groups of radical environmentalists, single issues extremists, and directionless anarchists bent on disrupting  social order. The extensive involvement of unions and labor in Seattle has generally been explained as an one time aberration and the global trade issues focusing on NAFTA and the WTO have been mostly forgotten.

The corporate media has been particularly strong in its denigration of the recent demonstrations at the Democrat and Republican conventions. Presenting the image of the demonstrators acting out radical fantasies in a deteriorating attempt to sustain the momentum of Seattle.

While on first glance it may seem that Mumia rallies, anti-water fluoridation teach-ins, marches against Occidental Oil’s threats to the U’wa tribe, police brutality demonstrations, and black-clad anarchists, have little in common and no centralized leadership. A deeper analysis will determine that each of the protesting individuals and social action groups share a common disdain for institutionalized power structures that service the corporate elites of the world at the expense of working people and the environment.

The demonstrators represent millions of us who innately recognize that the New World Order is one that does not allow for grassroots democratic processes, but rather pontificates the inevitabilities of globalization, corporate growth, and individual belt tightening, while proceeding with building institutions for top-down public-private partnerships to control and regulate the behaviors of the global masses.

Fifty-five million non-voters in the U.S. already recognize that it takes money to buy power and access to our two party system and have opted out of the charade. They recognize that our collective ability to participate has been structured out of the political decision making process.

The activists in Philadelphia and Los Angeles speak for the millions of us who had to stay at work doing the overtime to make ends meet in our bifurcating economy. We silently cheer the demonstrators and daily resist bureaucratic rules and top down management in our own ways. Overt resistance to national  and global power structures is a manifestation of the deep mistrust working people feel towards governments and their mega-corporation partners.

The activists are the New Progressive Movement, a vanguard of political actors emerging from the grassroots of hometown USA. They have successfully used the internet, and satellite links to stream e-mail, radio and TV images throughout the world, and continue to work towards building real news systems independent of corporate media.

The anarchists, supposedly encourage by  Eugene Oregon author John Zerzan, are clear on their objectives of building sustainable democratic grassroots communities that respect the environment and minimized domination in any form. Certainly many Americans could fine common ground for such a humanistic goal.

To simply dismiss the recent activism as disgruntled groups of aging hippies and misguided youth is a grave error. By not addressing the specific issues corporate media is dismissing democracy itself. We must examine the specifics of protest, the inequalities of our society and globe, and improve the ways of building democratic participation for the betterment of humankind.

Peter Phillips is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and Director of Project Censored a media research group