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Commentary :: DNC : Environment : Organizing
Look Out CNN! Anarchists are Gonna Get Your Mama!
26 Jul 2004
As the political conventions come closer, Boston and New York's law enforcement brace for protests. In their battle to protect the citizenry from itself, police and FBI (with the help of a lap dog media) are using an age-old tactic: Demonize the Anarchists!
I was listening to CNN Radio in my home this morning when a broadcaster started a new story on yet a new "elevated terror threat.” This time, the "threat" was centered around an "unconfirmed" report that a domestic group had plans to attack the media at the upcoming Democratic National Convention. Who was this menacing group? The anarchists.

This is nothing new. The anarchists have never had a fair shake as far as the media is concerned. It should be obvious since anarchism stands against most of what the media (and of course the government) stands for, especially the modern anarchist movement.

During the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, anarchists protesting corporate control of the planet were made to look like demons sent from hell. Why would anyone be angry at corporations who do so much good, the corporate owned media asked? All the while, ignoring very rational arguments for protests like the destruction of the environment, the trampling of labor rights, corporate contempt for human rights, growth of the military and prison industrial complex, and the basic homogenization of American culture. Legitimate reasons for anger were ignored, trivial aspects of the anarchist movement were amplified, and an active campaign of discrediting the anarchists began in earnest.

Following the protests in Seattle, anarchists in the Northwest came under heavy state attack, especially in the media. Much effort was spent focusing on a few broken windows and little on the massive police violence during the WTO protests. How many times were the Anarchists deemed as violent as compared to riot police who shot rubber bullets and concussion grenades at nonviolent protesters, tear gassed residential neighborhoods, and pepper sprayed anyone asking questions (including a city councilman once)? The word of the police and the government is taken as truth, not to be questioned.
After Seattle, law enforcement worked to infiltrate as many groups in the anti-"globalization" movement as it could. The next group to be targeted were the ones who protested the 2000 International Monetary Fund meetings in DC. While government repression was massive in DC for those protests, the demonstrations still went on largely as scheduled.

The next major demonstration for the anarchist movement was in Philadelphia over the summer of 2000. Whereas Seattle was seen as a success, DC a draw of sorts, Philly was a different story. A massive campaign was initiated in Philadelphia to infiltrate, disrupt, and attack anarchist groups protesting the Republican National Convention later that year.

These attacks began with the mass arrests of anarchist who were in the process of making, not bombs, but puppets. Over 5 dozen people were arrested in one sweep of "violent" anarchists who were making the large props for the marches that were taking place in the days to come. When the police called a press conference to explain the gloat over the mass arrests, the "keepers of the peace" never said that these people were making puppets, instead that they seized "chemical agents" (which was actually paint for the puppets and paint thinner for their brushes), bottles for Molotov cocktails (meaning just about any bottle laying around the warehouse), large slingshot-type devises which anarchists would use to hurl fire-bombs into the crowd (which were slings to hold the large puppets. They just made up the fire-bomb part to scare people) and "homemade pepper spray" (which was just a simple pot of soup, as most people call the "dangerous substance").

All of this sounded absurd at the time, but the media bought it, reported it as fact, and never bothered to double check on the accuracy of the police report. Or do a retraction of what was reported when it was proven that what the police said was not true. If law enforcement says it, then it must be true. Why would the police have a reason to lie? They've never done it before. Especially not in Philadelphia. (This is the cue for the critical reader to remember the corruption scandals of Frank Rizzo's Philly Police Department in the 1970's, the MOVE bombing of 1985, and the Human Rights Watch condemnation of the Philly P.D. of the late 1990's.)

These arrests were followed up by very public arrests of the radical "leadership". The heads of ACT-UP and The Ruckus Society were arrested and held on $1,000,000 bail. A charge of murder usually doesn't even get bail set that high. Of course, the corporate media never bothered to examine why the police were doing this. It was just accepted that it was for the common good. By the time the Republicans had left Philadelphia, over 500 protesters, many, if not mostly anarchist, lingered in the city's draconian jails.

The corporate media's role in society has become to protect corporate interests and actively work to discredit any threats, no matter where they come from. The anarchists were giving a message that the corporations and the government didn't want people to hear. So they put them in jail until no one cared anymore what they had to say. Demonize a group and no one cares what happens to them. It's been done before with relative success: the anarchists and other radicals during World War I, the communists in the 1950's, the Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement in the 60's and 70's, MOVE in the 80's, Waco in the 90's, and back to the anarchists again.

The media's tactics remain the same. First scare the public about their message and don't listen to any positive or critical things they may have to say. Then, stand-by as the government cuts off the head of their leadership. Uncritically report on as many public arrests as possible, even if the evidence is fragile and shaky. Report everything the police say as fact, no matter how ludicrous. Soon, the public will think law enforcement is justified in doing whatever it has to do to stop the "menace" and effectively squash any future dissent.

The Arab and Muslim community knows this well. An ongoing attack has been waged against them since the 1980's and have only intensified since 9/11 using these same tactics. The media has been very instrumental in this task, exemplified in the case of Sami Al-Arian (, a University of South Florida professor and community activist who has been imprisoned for over 16 months without trial on "secret evidence" that he was involved with terrorists. Much of what has happened to Al-Arian and his family could not have been done without the media's help.

This is a recent example, but there are countless others that go back as far as we want to look. Sadly state repression of dissent and media demonization of the dissenters has a long history in this country. One could say it is as American as apple pie.

As the elections come closer, and more people decide to brave their own fears and "take it to the streets", we will surely hear more about "elevated terror threats" or "unconfirmed reports of" the boogeyman coming to get us. People will be told to be afraid of anarchists with slingshots and feel safe around police with machine guns, tear gas, pepper spray, concussion grenades, armored personnel carriers, etc. The public will be told to fear the kids wearing all black in the streets, but feel secure in the knowledge that snipers in all-black are on every rooftop in Boston and NYC. It's a tricky game of deception they're playing, but an effective one nonetheless.

Knowing this, we should still have hope that the average person will see through this charade. They've been able to filter out a lot of the lies about the war in Iraq and the "war on terror." It's with that optimistic utopian mind that most Anarchists possess that we can hope the public will also be able to see through this "fog of war."

However, if history can be a reliable benchmark for what's to come, we can expect a repressive state to fight back using whatever weapon they have at their disposal. And if history can truly be relied upon to gauge what weapons the state will use, we shouldn't be that surprised when we see that their first choice will be the one they like to use the most-the corporate media.
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