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Protesters Are Nothing Like Pundit's Straw Men

by Larry George Friday, May. 18, 2001 at 3:16 PM

Based on over a year of interviewing activists in the movement, Long Beach State political science professor Larry George refutes charges made in a Newsweek essay by Fareed Zakaria.


The Strawman's Revenge - IMC's E-zine Of Media Analysis
Protesters Are Nothing Like Pundit's Straw Men
A Response To Fareed Zakaria's Newsweek Essay "The New Face Of The Left"
      By Larry George, professor of political science, Cal State, Long Beach
  The April 30 edition of Newsweek contains an essay (see link at end) attacking the movement against corporate globalization by Fareed Zakaria, an editor at Foreign Affairs, the premier mainstream US journal of international relations. Zakaria attacks the protesters in Quebec as ignorant, self-interested, anti-democratic, elitist nationalists who betray the heritage of what Zakaria calls the "democratic left". The following is a response by Larry George, a professor of political science who has spent over a year interviewing activists in the movement Zakaria criticizes from afar. Based on experience rather than rhetoric, George explodes the charges one-by-one.


For over a year, I have been interviewing and working alongside these activists.   So why could I recognize almost nothing I know of them in Zakaria's distorted portrait?

      Fareed Zakaria's essay "The New Face of the Left" (Newsweek,  April 30, 2001 p. 32) is a confused and confusing diatribe against the international movement opposing corporate-directed globalization.  The essay is off the mark in so many places that it is hard to know where to begin criticizing it.  Certainly its most obvious problem lies in Zakaria's apparently comprehensive ignorance regarding the actual people who make up this movement. Zakaria feigns familiarity with the protesters, their beliefs, even their motivations and intentions.

      Yet he gets so many things wrong that it's obvious he has had little if any direct contact with real movement activists.  For over a year, I have been interviewing and working alongside these activists.   So why could I recognize almost nothing I know of them in Zakaria's distorted portrait?  He seems to have constructed a sort of protester piñata out of media caricatures and misrepresentations, and then whacks away at it with stock neoliberal cliches, backed up only by a strained, if novel, reading of left political history.  The result is an uninformative hatchet job.

Flippant Dismissal Ignores Serious Critics

      Let me try to tease out and respond to some of Zakaria's criticisms of the anti-corporate globalization movement.  He begins with a condescending dismissal of the movement's views, moaning about how "pointless" it is to have to "rebut, one more time, the arguments made by the protesters in Quebec City. "  Flippant and patronizing, his tone suggests that by now any rational person who is not either deluded, naïve, or willfully ignorant must have come to accept the predictable free market catechisms and boilerplate apologies for corporate neoliberalism routinely penned by commentators like Thomas Friedman.

He completely ignores several recent economic studies that undermine much of the theoretical and empirical grounds for the neoliberal model of globalization.

      Zakaria accuses protesters in Quebec of "misunderstanding" what he calls "basic economics," as though what is taught as "economics" in the American academy is some sort of genuine science, like geology or physics, instead of what most real scientists deem it to be: a partial, rather obviously ideological depiction of human society as viewed from the perspective of businesses and consumers. He fails even to gesture to the spate of denunciations of the neoliberal model issued recently by prominent business leaders like George Soros and high-ranking economic officials like former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz.  He completely ignores several recent economic studies

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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 8 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Anti-democratic protests, eh? dark_angel417 Saturday, May. 19, 2001 at 7:55 PM
Larry George response to Zakaria Stephen Berk Monday, May. 21, 2001 at 9:08 PM
Not a violent rabble Pat Williams Wednesday, May. 23, 2001 at 10:52 AM
In Good Company Kurszewski Wednesday, May. 23, 2001 at 2:17 PM
of course...they need a diversion refuse_resist_revolt Thursday, May. 24, 2001 at 2:01 PM
A Way to Get It Done! Diana Jewell Tuesday, May. 29, 2001 at 2:25 PM
Has anyone ever considered World Government? Afrika Islam Wednesday, May. 30, 2001 at 2:26 AM
Stop the "non-violent" trumpet A "violent" anarchist Friday, Oct. 19, 2001 at 1:03 AM
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