Battle In Seattle
What it all really means
Published December 3, 1999 in Scope

As you might have heard, the World Trade Organization's Seattle summit was shattered by a week of protests covering a shocking variety of political causes. Educated teevee-news viewers around the country are still trying to figure it out: Why was Pat Buchanan hugging some dirty hippie on MSNBC? Why not tear up the Starbucks headquarters; isn't that supposed to be in Seattle? Where do I get one of those Darth Vader cop suits?

See also...
... by Ken Layne
... in the Scope section
... from December 3, 1999

In this magical age, when everybody is more paranoid than Oliver Stone, nothing can be taken for granted. The Anarchists were planted by the WTO to ruin the peaceful demonstrations. U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky masterminded the riots to shame the French. Rogue IRA elements led the protests to steal attention from the Belfast peace deal.

And then there were the conspiracies so nakedly obvious one couldn't even call them conspiracies, like every single news channel shutting off Bill Clinton's speech to the trade ministers, right when he started discussing the valid concerns of the protesters. I've been forced to watch numerous rambling Clinton speeches and press conferences, mostly about nothing, and they let him jabber on air until he's finished. What could explain his being cut short other than the sinister hand of Big Brother?

As former Fox News host (and current ABC radio star) Matt Drudge remarked on his Web site, there was no live coverage of the dramatic protests and rioting, no four-day cable news orgies on The Meaning of It All, simply because the four remaining media powers are in the global entertainment business. WTO, especially the WTO's likely admission of China and its billion-plus consumers, means more money, more audience share, and less regulation for the media megacorporations.

It's no different than when CNBC, tired of talk show host Charles Grodin's increasingly anticorporate rants, canceled his program. Or when AdBusters makes its annual attempt to buy network-teevee commercial time to push "Buy Nothing Day." The reason the ads are refused is, as CBS told the Vancouver group of anticonsumers, because the commercials take an "advocacy position on one side of a controversial issue." Lest you believe the French are more open to such controversy, France Television also nixed AdBusters' spots scheduled to run before the WTO meeting, because a Paris advertising consortium said "the spot did not meet the public-interest criteria appropriate for non-commercial advertising on television."

School shootings (or something really important like John John Kennedy crashing his little plane) get endless hours of time. CNN spent an entire day showing a blurry "live shot" of a distant military ship where, we were repeatedly told, JFK Jr.'s family might be dumping his ashes into the water (and probably killing an innocent sea turtle in the process).

Of course it's all very complex -- Third World dirt exporters and Wall Street and that draft dodger Bill Clinton and the shadowy WTO on one side; Detroit auto unions and feminists and Ralph Nader and that goofy French farmer and the kids from the Free Tibet concert on the other side; and environmentalist/AFL-CIO endorsee/suspected Clinton administration official Al Gore pretending the whole thing didn't happen. Lucky for you, I have deep insight into these events and can tell you exactly what these people were thinking.

7-year-old Indonesian boy sewing Gap khakis: Thanks be to Allah for Mr. President Bill Clinton, whose child-labor rhetoric has calmed the protesters in Washington state.

Assistant Trade Minister from Ghana: These hooligans look nothing like Shania Twain, and my heart is broken.

Human Rights Commissioner from China: Rubber bullets? How the hell do you kill protesters with rubber bullets?

Dalai Lama: Hmm, Mr. Gere certainly makes delicious lobster bisque.

Looting Anarchist: Fucking hell, dude! Get the Decaf Holiday Blend!

Starving 4-year-old Ethiopian girl: Thank heaven for the French, who have again saved me from bioengineered hamburgers. Now I can die happy.

Chilean Foreign Minister Juan Gabriel Valdez: We came here to discuss commerce, not the concerns of your filthy people... ooh, there's the new CIA guy. Maybe he'll fund more death squads.

Times of London: The WTO, made up largely of directly elected governments, is rather more accountable to its constituents than most of the one-issue NGOs protesting against it. There is little evidence that the protesters of Seattle are a rising tide of angry humanity dammed by a wall of unresponsive corporate concrete.

Sea Turtle: Just another day of either being alive or dead, with no real thought patterns except a mild urge to eat a sea cucumber.

Pat Buchanan: Dirty Jews, dirty Jews, dirty Jews... Hey, there's Ralph Nader. He probably knows where they hid the whiskey.

Feminist Activist: Maybe I was wrong. So many of these men are kind, progressive, sensitive.

Auto Worker: Man, these lezbians is pretty cute.

George W. Bush: So many concerns, compassion and all. From so many of the world's peoples -- Mexinarians, Chilees, Anarchismists, Frangalls, Chinerese, Iraqistanis. All coming together, with questions they raise, globalismization, the corporate, and I'm plenty smart enough to have the top experts working. Buenas Dias.

Consumer activist Ken Layne's regular column, The Continuing Crisis, appears twice monthly in GettingIt.