WTO protesters go to the Web

Guerrilla journalists and webcams bring you all the tear-gassed excitement of Seattle's street protests.

Published December 1, 1999 2:00PM (EST)

For those trying to follow the action at the World Trade Organization summit this week, the Seattle Independent Media Center is ground zero both in Seattle -- where the group has opened its offices to visiting journalists -- and in cyberspace. Throughout Tuesday, the site featured constantly updated, if rough, multimedia reports on clashes with police.

One video clip showed a man who said he had been hit in the face with rubber bullets fired by police. Another showed police firing canisters of tear gas into a crowd in tony Westlake Center. Wired News provides an in-depth report on the media center's creation.

Meanwhile, the Seattle publication HistoryLink Gazette features a constantly updated WTO-cam, with dramatic pictures of the crowds at 4th and Pike, "bringing history to you as it happens."

Z Magazine's WTO site hosts a round-up of updated independent reports.

As might be expected in the wired Northwest, activist groups are using the Internet to organize. Locally produced sites bemoan "the WTO's bias against the public interest" and aim for "Mobilization Against Corporate Globalization," with schedules of events and tips for getting last-minute accommodations. The Global Trade Watch site, maintained by Public Citizen, features "A Citizen's Guide to the WTO."

For background on the WTO debate, left-leaning publications such as Mother Jones, the Nation and the Seattle Weekly's extensive WTO supplement survey activist perspectives on the conference and provides various Web links.

Not everyone thinks the WTO is evil incarnate. In the Seattle Times, a guest column written by U.S. Secretary of Commerce William Daley and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner insists, "A strong economy and a healthy environment are goals in concert, not conflict."

This week's edition of the Economist bemoans the demonstrations as misguided, saying, "The WTO is copping the blame for the perceived evils of globalization."

Without addressing the Seattle protests as such, the right-leaning magazine the Weekly Standard criticizes the WTO's acceptance of China as a member, despite its repressive communist government. The editorial voices strong skepticism that free trade will reform China. "Simply shipping them cell phones and soybeans will not make them stop" persecuting dissenting groups such as the Falun Gong sect, the article asserts.

Yet activists gained support from an unlikely ally: conservative Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. A message posted on his Web site stands in solidarity with environmentalists, union leaders and human rights activists in the "Battle in Seattle." Buchanan, who is frequently labelled an isolationist, focuses his criticisms of the organization on the loss of American jobs.

Yet Buchanan's rallying cry against the globalization of trade sounds similar, in fact, to that of the protesters in the street. "When Mr. Clinton and his trade uber alles cronies schmooze with the global bureaucrats," he writes, "they don't speak for our people, and they don't speak up for our principles."

By Fiona Morgan

Fiona Morgan is an associate editor for Salon News.

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