1999: New Media Revolution in Seattle

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The internet and digital media played an important role in facilitating the organization and coverage of the transnational, multi-issue protests during the 3rd WTO Ministerial Conference held in Seattle (November 29 to December 2nd, 1999).  The internet networked local NGOs, citizens, and grass-roots activists into a global, transnational network by facilitating new channels for action, and discourse of public policies.  Using the internet activists operated at local, regional and global levels, ultimately facilitating global connectedness while at the same time strengthening local ties (Juris).  “The technical possibilities of cyberspace make innovative forms of large-scale direct democracy practical,” thereby building political alternatives and regionally coordinating local assemblies (Juris, 205).  In other words, big groups of people of different backgrounds and goals can organize themselves to protest what symbolizes the cause of their discontent: the WTO and the globalization of the neo-liberal economic system.

Almeida, D and Lichbach M. "To the Internet, from the Internet: Comparative Media Coverage of Transnational Protests." Mobilization: An International Journal. 8(3): 249-272

Almeida, D and Lichbach M. "To the Internet, from the Internet: Comparative Media Coverage of Transnational Protests." Mobilization: An International Journal. 8(3): 249-272

Almeida, D and Lichbach M. "To the Internet, from the Internet: Comparative Media Coverage of Transnational Protests." Mobilization: An International Journal. 8(3): 249-272

Almeida, D and Lichbach M. "To the Internet, from the Internet: Comparative Media Coverage of Transnational Protests." Mobilization: An International Journal. 8(3): 249-272

Jeff rey M. Ayres. Framing Collective Action Against Neoliberalism. journal of world-systems research, x, 1, winter 2004, 11–34 Special Issue: Global Social Movements Before and After 9-11 http://jwsr.ucr.edu/

Jeff rey M. Ayres. Framing Collective Action Against Neoliberalism. journal of world-systems research, x, 1, winter 2004, 11–34 Special Issue: Global Social Movements Before and After 9-11 http://jwsr.ucr.edu/

Organization of the Seattle protests made resistance to Washington Consensus-influenced globalization part of the public and mainstream media discourse. The movement that came to public prominence in Seattle is composed of a plurality of interests and issues and, thus, largely seen without a convenient, singular message, recommendation or universal goal.  In this respect the “anti-globalization” movement reflects reality, and the need for a convenient universal “handle,” the bounded consciousness of mainstream 20th century media.  The New Media revolution that occurred in Seattle exists beyond boundaries, and succeeded because it respected the plural interests of its composition, and did not seek to bound it within a convenient mainstream media message.

Beyond the production of alternative values, discourses and identities, however, contemporary anti-corporate globalization movements are perhaps best understood as social laboratories, generating new cultural practices and political imaginaries for a digital age (Juris, 206).

ArmedTruck270rubber bullets

The internet and digital media also revolutionized the way coverage and documentation of actions occur, allowing activists and citizens to record and set their own media agenda:

While in the past activists had to rely on experts and the mass media to circulate their messages, largely due to high transaction costs and time constraints, they can now use new digital technologies to take on much of this work themselves, assuring greater control over the media production process, while enhancing the speed of information flow (Juris, 201).

Grass-roots media played an important role during the Seattle protests, providing coverage due to the dearth of mainstream coverage and an alternative to mainstream information. In one instance, the Independent Media Center provided contrary evidence to CNN’s claim that rubber bullets were not being used: indeed they were! The same alternative documentation and coverage mechanisms were used in future anti-neoliberal globalization movements.  During the 2003 G-8 Summit in Evian, France protesters attempted to block summit a delegate’s access to the meeting location by setting a rope across a bridge and hanging two people from each end.  The attempt proved unsuccessful when a police officer cut the rope, thereby clearing the way for delegates and causing one of attached people to plummet 100 feet (Update).  This incident (amongst others) is the metaphor that characterizes the conflict with protesters and global economic institutions, rights and neoliberalism: Economic profits are placed before the safety, security and interests of people.

Broad features that characterize anti-neoliberal globalization movements (Juris):

  • Movement networks are locally rooted, but global in scope.  Coordinating and communicating through transnational networks, activists engage in institutional politics and global campaigns through global days of action, international forums, and cross-border information sharing.
  • Activists think of themselves as belonging to global movements, discursively linking local activities to diverse struggles elsewhere.

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Large coordinating NGOs:

Bibliography – New Media for Peace:


Sustained Neo-liberalism in Action: structurally adjusting your rights into austerity

In the early 1980’s, Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) emerged as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) chief mechanism for improving the stability, efficiency, and growth of economies in developing countries.  SAPs are defined as the World Bank and IMF programs that provide monetary loans and debt relief to recipient countries based on conditionalities of macroeconomic and institutional reform. SAPs have largely failed to alleviate poverty, and have instead resulted in stagnant or weakened economies for the intended beneficiary nations.  This failure has resulted from one central weakness: the program’s disregard for the significance of the diverse social, economic, environmental, and cultural factors in recipient countries, as well as the vital importance of national commitment and ownership in determining the success of economic development and reform.


Though the program is targeted at solving the problems of developing countries, it is comprised of two economically powerful Western governments (USA and UK) and two global economic institutions that function under strong USA and UK influence. (Word Bank and the IMF).  This limited participation and tight control by ‘outsiders’ or ‘planners’ is central to the SAP program’s launch and remains a major factor throughout its implementation.

Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) achieve macroeconomic stability for First World countries at the expense of equity, human rights, capacity building, sovereignty and political justice in a debtor country (Rapley; Kroenick; Easterly; Sparr; Overseas Development Institute). SAPs, designed to reduce inflation, trade and budget deficits, thereby increasing a countries ability to attract development funds, connect the debtor country to the global marketplace, increasing its potential to import and export goods. Integrating a debtor country into the global marketplace using SAPs destabilizes the country’s economy by destroying local markets and forcing the country to use its economic resources to absolve itself of debt. SAP’s negative effects are worse felt in the poorest countries without emerging markets (Easterly; Rapley).

Entrenching market reforms based on “free market” principles, SAPs better protect the interests of First World donors than debtors by requiring: (a) debt repayment becomes a debtor country’s highest priority, often requiring new loans to pay old loans and (b) conformity and rapid conversion to an economic system dominated by First World countries (Kronick). The cost of improved import/export potential and participation in a market system friendly to export oriented industries is a reduction in government spending on social programs, ultimately “hindering human capital formation, [and] the development of the pool of skilled labor (Rapley, 82). Failure to empower a country’s poor “by giving them access to assets that will enable them to work their way out of poverty” jeopardizes equitable development gains for the population at large and dooms them to a culture of poverty (Williamson, 13).

Concurrent to superficial increases in GDP or stabilization of interest rates, and why SAPs fail to achieve intended results, are deepening of social injustices, decrease in the poor’s quality of life, destruction of pre-existing markets and worsening of the circumstances that contribute to a culture of poverty. (Kronick; Rapley; Easterly, ODI)

SAPs achievements are the lessons learned from their failure to create stability, efficiency, economic growth and lessen the culture of poverty’s burden:

  • Low-income groups are put at risk and their access to education, health and other social assets are threatened by adjustment policies.
  • A strong industrial base and the decision to enter the global marketplace must result from a country’s own social, cultural and economic decisions. First World nations dictating these conditions do not work.

SAPs in action: Case study – Ghana

SAPs in action: Case study – Jamaica

SAPs in Action: Case study – Chewa Ethnic Group

Chewa Rural Development


Vice Secretary of the UN calls Globalisation “Devastating”

In an interview with the Real News Network, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, the UN Vice Secretary General for Economic Development, said, “Globalisation has succeeded, with devastating effect.”

Jomo K.S.

– Arrested Protester –

Yesterday one of our blog viewers brought an interesting article to our attention:



The article starts by explaining the pivotal use of texting by protesters and law enforcement, then shifts to Elliot Madison, who was arrested and “charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility and possession of instruments of crime” .  His use of Twitter and mass text messages has earned him a criminal complaint of “directing others to avoid apprehension”

Alliance for Neo-liberalism: The foundation global resistence is built upon

7581873Officially established in 1995 and part of the United Nations Secretariet, the idea for the WTO (then galled the GATT) originated in 1947 as part of the Bretton Woods Agreement that also established the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Like the IMF and World Bank, the WTO exerts influence beyond its mandate of international trade, expanding into intellectual property rights, investment measures, services and domestic regualtions (Wall, 25).  The same criticisms characterize the WTO, IMF and World Bank:

  • Their rules are written primarily for large corporations to benefit their business interests.
  • Advisory committees are made up of corporate interests, while groups representing environment, health, consumer and other social areas tend not to be represented.
  • Dispute panels and other meetings are held in secret and those overseeing them are not screened for conflicts of interest.
  • During secret meetings, a handful of rich countries make all the key decisions. Poor countries are often excluded from such decisions, and lack the resources to adequately analyze the decisions being made  (Wall 26).

The United Kingdom and United States’ belief in the free-market – perceived by them as the only solution to global economic problems – influenced the policies of the IMF, World Bank, and later, the WTO. This alliance amongst nations promoting a neo-liberal, free-market agenda, the IMF, World Bank and WTO is commonly referred to as the “Washington Consensus.”


The BBC and the Handbook for Cyber-Dissidents

In 2005, the BBC posted a link on its official website to the “Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents,” a document produced by Reporters Without Borders. The guidebook offers “advice about how to blog anonymously, as well as how to identify the most suitable way to circumvent censorship” and was directed at and used by people in Iran, China, and Burma (and elsewhere).

Did the BBC violate the premise of journalistic objectivity by “siding” with people limited by censorship in their home countries?

Download the handbook.

Read more about the controversy:




         GlobaliseThis copy

                               The Group of Twenty (Commonly known as the G-20) was established in 1999. Comprised of the 19th largest world economies including the EU, these leaders meet to discuss the global economy and new measures to ensure global economic stability.          
The economies of the countries represented comprise 85% of the world economy
g20                         Because of the recent economic downturn G20 meetings have been more frequent, the latest of which just took place in    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA from Sept 24th until the 25th..   Searching for an appropriate recovery plan, these leaders were met with heavy protest and opposition from many sides, many protesting the economic globalization this summit represents. (www.pittsburghsummit.gov)

                   Protesters, fighting the globalization that this summit represents, are well organized and well represented. Their presence having been anticipated, government and law enforcement officials appropriately prepared, and dramatically reacted. The planning of protests, actualization of demonstrations, and documentation of events were all filtered through various forms of new media… proving the unbelievable power, flexibility, and potential these novel media forms have to instigate social awareness.


Jolly-Old Protesters

                   In April of 2009 the G20 met in London. This summit was extensively protested.  Preparation and organization were made possible through use of new media.   Most notably, protesters, politicians, and activits all made use of twitter to organize and inform (Ward, 2009). IndyMedia had its own tags to collate information for the protests.

                  Response by police forces brought much attention to the summit… Individual documentation of both protesters and enforcement were documented and shared on independent media sites and youtube.

All in all, over 35,000 ppl rallied at the April meeting in London(Economist, 2009).

check out the archives of indymedia.org.uk reporting on the G20 summit and protests:http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/newswire/archive3600.html

                   Some organizations, like Action Aid, used their websites to blog about their intended meetings and protests. They noted that it takes more time to blog, and depends on the person accessing their website, therefore they began to primarily use twitter to reach people as fast as possible. (Ward, 2009) The use of the internet and twitter was not lost on authorities, who analyzed facebook and myspace account activity as an indication of the protests to come.



The PITTS   –    G20 September



From Sept 24-26th The G20 had its second meeting of this year.  It was held in Pittsburgh, USA to highlight growth in environmental and social policies.  Having an unemployment rate that is one of the lowest in US cities and a strong development of green architecture, Pittsburgh seemed to be a great symbolic location for the summit.  Obama hosted the other 19 leaders.  Similar to previous G20 summits, this was met with extreme opposition.  People learned from previous anti-globalisation protests, which influenced their communication methods and preparation of law enforcement. London protests to the April summit gave hints to protesters, leaders, and law enforcement alike.



New Media rocks steeltown, USA

The internet has become an incredible tool for gaining awareness, organizing masses of people. First, YOUTUBE has become instrumental in spreading messages about necessary protests to the meeting of the G20. The American Resistance Movement encouraged nationwide protests against the authorities who planned the G20. The most notable example is Jim Stachowiak’s masked appeal for revolt in his youtube video. (Prine, 2009)


Organizing and Spreading the Message



This website is probably the most wellknown and organzied. This central site promised mass marches and protests, intensifying the message, giving locations for protest,  and providing space for people to post their own information and reports. (Economist, 2009)  It also contains “calls to action”, calls for street medics, links to report police agression, and frequent updates.


                Participants are twittering locations of protests, and updates on police activity. Live feeds of the city’s police scanners have allowed protesters to track communications. Both entities are using new media to track and follow the other.

Some examples of twitter and mass-texts:

Protester texts:  “SWAT team rolling down 5th Ave.”

                                       “Report received that police are ‘nabbing’ anyone who looks like a protester/…stay alert watch your friends!”

Police text messages:  “A comms facility was raided, but we are still fully operational please continue to submit reports.” 

                                         nine hours later: “Scanner just said be advised we’re being monitored by anarchists through scanner.” (Moynihan, 2009)


          Even the governmental website, pittsburghsummit.gov, encourages twittering in order to stay connected to the events. Organizers have taken the same opportunity to use twitter to reach protesters as quickly as possible.  Facebook groups are also becoming instrumental in raising awareness and bringing people together.


Online maps on websites have detailed descriptions and sites for protest, lists of suggestions of pleaces to protest. (Urbina, 2009)


 protests_190The New York Times

Indymedia Pittsburgh has been giving updates from the street by the hour, becoming another example of independent media becoming more and more legitimized.


Split Message


The nature of the new media has led protesters of many many causes to converge for the G20 summit. Activists all over the world attribute so many of the world’s problems to the economic and social policies of these 19 countries and the EU. This has combined many different causal protests into the same arena, resulting in a hodgepodge of protests and activism.   Where sompeople carry banners reading: “Capitalism Kills” (Urbina, 2009), some have different causes and sources of protest.


                                                                 Some of the interest groups represented at the Pittsburgh 09 Summit:


Iraq Veterans Against the War

Representatives from “Free Tibet”

Students for Justice in Palestine

Code Pink

United Steelworkers of America

Myanmar activists

Philippines G-20 Protest


The fact that 20 or so individuals right now are determing economic trade policies for four to five billion people just isn’t right” – Trevor Griffith Uof W Florida (Urbina, 2009)




Governmental Anticipation

                Previous protests have given governmental and law enforcement agents a chance to anticipate masses of protesters. In an effort to avoid the 1999 WTO protests where 3 million in damage and 600 arrests, as well as the protests in London, Security officials have kept a watchful eye on new media activity. Pittsburgh prepared itself. (Urbina, 2009)

The National Guard joined the pittsburg police, adding an additional 3,000 city, state, and federal officers to their existing force, and have restricted areas of Pittsburgh, creating riot fenced areas inaccessible to pedestrians



They also freed up space in local Pittsburgh jails. After pardoning 300 prisoners incarcerated for minor violations, the city had 1,000 jail cells prepped and ready for protesters. (Urbina, 2009)






Response to protests

In response to the protests, the Police and National Guard have begun to use sound cannons, tear gas, and smoke canisters in order to dispell the protests. Many arrests and abuses have taken place


-sound cannons, tear gas canisters, smoke canister

Independent media and citizen journalism has assumed an important role in the reporting of events of the G20 Summit. Individual citizens have been documenting police action and security measures taken

IndyMedia Pittsburgh has been vital in reporting events and occurrences within the activism. People involved in the protests have been logging photos, stories, videos, and everything having to do with the activism. Independent reporters are filing articles and preparing broadcasts (Urbina, 2009)

People have also been documenting some police brutality and general abuses of protesters. Flux Rostrum, an activist and videographer has been pivotal in documenting the protests. Some say much of this documentation will be useful in future legal persuance against excessive police force.





In honor of George Stephanopoulos I bring you… THE TUESDAY FUNNY! 







Works Cited:

Moynihan, Colin. (2009, October 5). Arrest Puts Focus on Protester’s Texting. The New York Times. 

Prine, Carl. (2009, September 2). Video Released on Internet urges mass protest during G-20. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Smith, David. (2009, March 22). Office Staff Warned of Confrontation as City Braces for mass G20 Protests. The Guardian.



Urbina, Ian. (2009, September 24). For Pittsburgh, G-20 Meeting is a Mixed Blessing.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/24/us/24pittsburgh.html?scp=2&sq=G20&st=cse

Urbina, Ian. (2009, September24). Getting out the Anti-Globalization Message. The New York Times. http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/24/getting-out-the-anti-globalization-message/

Urbina, Ian. (2009, September 25). Protesters are met by tear gas at G-20 Conference. The New York Times.  

Urbina, Ian. (2009, September 26). Thousands Hold Peaceful March at G-20 Summit. The New York Times.  

Ward, Mark. (2009, April 2). Twitter on the Front Line. BBC News.  

(2009, September 17th). Lessons for the G20. The Economist.