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Re-Framing Our Global Predicament

by Paul Boin / Real News Brief: #2 (Aug 30/01) Monday, Sep. 10, 2001 at 6:58 PM

Protesters need to take the lead in changing the language, Boin argues, offering two suggestions.

Real News #1

The Strawman's Revenge - IMC's E-zine Of Media Analysis
Re-Framing Our Global Predicament: 2 Bits Towards A Better Society
Real News Brief: #2 (August 30/01)

      By Paul Boin

  Protesters need to take the lead in changing the language, Boin argues. His two suggestions: 1) change the label "anti-globalization" to "pro-democracy", and 2) change the phrase "against trade" to "for fair trade".

While our establishment-biased media are often to blame for inaccurate and pejorative labels, protesters must also share the blame.

       Just hearing the mainstream news media's characterization of the G-8 protesters that gathered in Genoa, Italy, has left me, well, exacerbated. As news commentators uncritically lap up the old pabulum that leaders such as George Bush and Tony Blair spew out of their mouths - that 'anti globalization protesters' are "no friends of the poor" or that those who oppose 'free trade' are simply unrealistic "isolationists" - I realize how powerful labels, especially inaccurate and pejorative labels, are in discrediting legitimate analysis and concerns. While our establishment-biased media are often to blame, the protesters, primarily the higher profile protesters, must also realize that they to share the blame.

The two bits that especially irk me, and severely undermine real movement towards a better world, are the label 'anti-globalization', when describing this incredibly broad coalition of advocates, and the phrase 'against trade', when explaining what these protesters stand for. Both the mainstream media and high profile activists are guilty of simply regurgitating these statements, and for failing to call them into question whenever they are uttered.

Two suggestions: 1) change the label "anti-globalization" to "pro-democracy", and 2) change the phrase "against trade" to "for fair trade".

       My 2 bit suggestion is as follows: 1) the label "anti-globalization" be changed to "pro-democracy", and 2) the phrase "against trade" be changed to "for fair trade". This would immediately help to re-frame the debate and could inspire both journalists and citizens to begin asking different and more pressing questions, which could help our global society truly 'progress'.

For example, when hearing the demonstrators call themselves 'pro-democracy' protesters, one might be moved to ask and investigate how organizations, elite gatherings of nations, and trade agreements such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), G-8 meetings, and NATFA (and possibly the FTAA) respectively, undermine the rights and living conditions of the vast multitude of people. Such a person might realize that critical public interest decisions are being taken out of more local democratic jurisdictions and put into the hands of unaccountable supranational corporate agents. Or a journalist might wonder why powerful international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) force poor countries like Ecuador and Honduras to privatize their water management facilities and telecommunications services, in exchange for 'aid' or 'loan' packages. If a person, any person, took the time to look into the concerns and arguments of 'pro-democracy' protesters it would be quickly found that the present version of corporate-led globalization, and the dominant institutions and agreements that enforce it, overwhelmingly benefits the privileged few at the direct expense of the great majority of the worlds 6 billion+ people.

Characterizing protesters as 'for fair trade' is far from being 'isolationist' or 'nationalistic.' They are quite internationalist, and actually embrace globalization - social globalization.

       If journalists would start characterizing the people that have gathered in Seattle, Quebec and Genoa as being 'for fair trade', they might realize that far from being 'isolationist' or 'nationalistic' these protesters are quite internationalist, and actually embrace globalization - social globalization. Our media, and their audiences, could learn that 'pro-democracy' protesters are for globalizing more humane labour standards, responsible environmental regulations, and human rights. An enterprising journalist might learn about the years of hard work (from 1980 to 1992) that the UN Centre on Trsansnational Corporations spent drafting a "Code of Conduct for Transnational Corporations" that would have truly helped the people of the world escape poverty, and the earth avert an environmental crisis. Such a journalist would also find that this code of conduct for multinational corporations was lobbied off the 1992 Rio Earth Summit agenda, where it was to be signed, by George Bush Sr. and no less than the multinationals that it was designed to hold to account. Since then, we've seen a litany of proposed global agreements and codes - like NAFTA, the (temporarily) failed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), and all-to-regular WTO decisions - which have dramatically tilted the balance of global activities in favour of the exploitative practices of multinational corporate interests and away from the real needs of the people of the world (Note:Most pro-democracy advocates aren't 'anti-business' or 'anti-corporate', but 'pro-responsible business' or 'pro-responsible corporations'). Re-framing our present global predicament is the first step towards truly understanding it. Once understood, informed actions and responsible policies will follow.

Onwards 'pro-democracy' and 'fair trade' advocates. The re-framed global movement for democracy is just beginning. RNN

This Article (now a Real News Brief) was originally submitted as an Op-Ed article to Canada's major daily newspapers - the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and the Toronto Star - on the morning of Friday July 20, 2001 (Just prior to the Genoa G-8 Summit/Protests). However, none of them gave it the light of day.

    In October RNN will be publishing an in depth investigative report on the state and potential of Canada's media landscape entitled: "Canada's Most Critical Moment: Protecting Our Democracy Through Media Reform". Copies of this special 40-page investigative report can be obtained for (Price includes shipping and taxes. International orders add ). Mail, and make check payable, to: the Real News Network, 35 Green Valley Dr., Unit #1204, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, N2P 2A5.

Paul D. Boin is an investigative journalist and media educator based in Ontario, Canada. Paul is the founder of the Real News Network (RNN to be officially launched in October), and is presently completing his doctoral degree in Education (within the program focus of Critical Global and Community Issues, at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto), and has concentrated his dissertation research on media and democracy issues. Paul is also a co-founder of Media Democracy Day(
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