WTO: What really went down!
Your story on the WTO debacle [8/3] was probably the most comprehensive and unbiased of any that I have read in Seattle. Given that, the Seattle Weekly, along with every other major news outlet, missed one of the most salient if not the most salient point about the events that occurred on the morning of November 30, 1999.
I was on the streets that morning and this is what really went down. At about 8am the streets began filling with protesters bound on stopping the opening ceremonies of the WTO conclave. One of the corners filled with protesters was 6th and Union, just south of the Sheraton, myself amongst them. At approximately 10:30am, with hardly any warning, the police sprayed the protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas from the line the police had created across the east side of Union. The crowd moved off the corner.The police regained that intersection. My thought was, "How crass. These people are being peaceful." About an hour later I was at the corner of Pine and 6th and heard the sound of breaking glass. My thought then: "Don't be stupid. Don't give the cops reasons to bash heads."
So the point that I am making and that wasn't made by the media is that the cops were the INITIAL aggressors. No damage had been done until after the cops saw fit to attack the crowd at 6th and Union. The cops set the tone. And this has never been reported in the media.
I was incensed and dismayed when I picked up the August 3rd Seattle Weekly. The image of a police officer as an "evil pig" bloodying up the streets with "gentle turtles" screams prejudice. It reminds me of WWII era propaganda and editorial cartoons with highly exaggerated depictions of other ethnic groups. How is it that our "politically correct" society allows calling the police "pigs," but any other use of degrading names or pictures is immediately rebuked? Certain groups of people, including the police, are still generalized and targeted for hate.
Additionally, it seems from the cover that the SW report blames the police officers entirely for the problems that surrounded the WTO meetings. Yet the feature inside points out many other factors and people to blame. So, was it proper to connect the cover picture with the report? Not for all the police, their families, and their friends who see yet another example of hatred for them. Not for the authors of the article whose points are overshadowed with such a harsh visual statement. If you choose to print such demeaning and blatantly biased images, save them for an opinion page. Use the cover to accurately represent what's inside.
I looked forward to reading the Weekly's WTO report [8/3] after hearing Geov Parrish discuss it on KCMU. I had to roll my eyes, however, when the first group listed under "Who do we blame?" was the "infamous 'Eugene' anarchists." How original and thought-provoking that one paragraph was. I especially loved the unsuccessful attempt to demonstrate that property destruction is a violent act: "Stand between a window and a flying rock and tell us that don't hurt!"
The point is, people were throwing rocks at windows, not at other people. Let's look at your analogy further. Carpentry is violent: "Put a thumb between a nail and a hammer and tell me that don't hurt!" Hell, walking is violent: "Lie down between a foot and a sidewalk and tell me that don't hurt!"
I myself was a "peaceful" protester during WTO and was, at first, very angry at those who weren't. Since then I've come to feel differently. Destroying property is breaking the law, but is it always wrong? The acts of destruction during WTO were committed against stores owned by corporations who, on a daily basis, are destroying the world and its inhabitants in the name of higher profits. The response by Paul Schell and the police was to uphold the law by infringing upon civil liberties, protecting those with property from those without.
Women committed nonviolent crimes so that I could have the right to vote. I have a similar respect for those who destroyed property with the intent of bringing attention to the many issues surrounding WTO and the hope that someday economic and environmental justice will prevail.
While I would never expect the Weekly to embrace property destruction as the best method of protest, could you at least make it look like you did some deeper analysis?
Hip-hop: For everyone!
I recently read an interview with Dave Eggers in Harper's where he talks about selling out. He points out that those interested in the selling out of things are the same people who don't really get those things in the first place. And to me, Joe Schloss has missed the point of hip-hop entirely in his article "Hip-hop's Internet problem" [8/3] by suggesting that hip-hop is being sold out on the Internet—that having more people discover the music will lead more people into the culture, and somehow he puts a negative spin on that. I suppose he thinks these poseurs don't deserve his props. Well, Joe, don't give them any props. But don't write an article about a cultural movement that is very accepting, that gets up on a soap box and preaches acceptance, and tell people that they don't belong, that they somehow don't deserve to be a part of it. Everyone, regardless of how deep their knowledge of hip-hop is, deserves to be a part if they so choose.
Moreover, Okayplayer is one of the seminal hip-hop sites, and to dis it is to dis the most positive side of hip-hop. Okayplayer has moved from a band's site to an important forum. And I would be willing to bet they are happy that 14-year-olds from Norway are participating in discussions. It means the message is making it out of Philly. And to me, that's what its all about. Spreading the message to the masses: acceptance, spirituality, creativity, education, and most of all, equality! Mos Def talks about what hip-hop is on the song, "Fear Not of Man," and he says, "if hip-hop is about the people and hip-hop won't get better until the people get better then how do people get better? Well, from my understanding people get better when they start to understand that they are valuable." Telling people they aren't valuable because they came to hip-hop through the Internet is simply working against hip-hop.
Gunn: Amazing, brilliant!
Angela Gunn's aping of Wallace Stevens to skewer the dot-com/vc world ["Thirteen Ways of Looking @ a Dot-Com," 8/3] is the most amazing and brilliant exercise in intellectual cross-pollination in the history of the written or spoken word. There may be . . . I don't know . . . six or seven? readers who can keep up with her.
While I enjoy reading Angela Gunn's take on the high-tech world, she makes a grievous error when she writes that "every piece of writing ever created in your lifetimes . . . is someone else's property. Problem is, it's not artists' property" [Kiss my ASCII, 8/3]. Wrong.
As a freelance writer, I own my stories. They are copyrighted in my name. I also own the copyright to three books. What I normally do is sell the First American serial rights—in essence a license; electronic rights are negotiated separately. The same is true for most other independent writers and authors. Gunn talks about newspaper staff writers—I assume she means journalists—who produce "works for hire." They're employees. In return for their copyrights they get stuff like health insurance and somebody else paying half of their social security tax and unemployment benefits.
Maybe Ms. Gunn has spent too long in cyberspace for, when writing about writing, she clearly was in touch with a different reality not shared by many people nor the law.
FREDRIC ALAN MAXWELL
Angela Gunn responds: I'm happy for Mr. Maxwell, but he needs to get out more—around other authors, and perhaps around a few lawyers if his nerves are up for it. I freelance for other publications and in the past few years have been confronted with increasingly onerous contracts, going beyond the traditional first North American serial to encompass (I'll quote) "the exclusive, fully sublicensable right to publish and otherwise exploit the Work in all media and forms of expression now known and hereafter developed throughout the world for the full term of the copyright in the Work and any extensions and renewals thereof." My name after the doesn't mean much under those circumstances. That's for nonfiction book-length work; as for freelance newspaper and magazine journalism, I refer Mr. Maxwell to coverage of Tasini et al. v. the New York Times et al. (www.workinglife.org) for depressing frontline data on how things are for freelancers attempting to retain secondary rights to their work in the year 2000. In any case, his attempt to divide "journalists" from "writers" is at best like trying to divide ice from snow and at worst part of the process of self-categorization that has put the publishers at the helm of the Titanic that is copyright.
Connemara isn't a small town near Galway (assuming John Longenbaugh is referring to the city) ["Gravely mistaken," 8/3]. It's an ancient province, the western part of Galway the county. Martin McDonagh, however, was born and raised in London, and has never lived in Leenane, the townland he uses for his trilogy of plays.
As Aidan Arrowsmith writes in "Plastic Paddy," "McDonagh has been subjected to the discourses of authenticity, having been labelled an 'awfentic Cockney Irishman' in the GUARDIAN." Fintan O'Toole suggests McDonagh's work is "a working through of the processes and obstacles of second-generation identity construction," a love-hate relationship with the country of his parents' birth and his forced childhood holidays.
The reality of McDonagh's plays is a self-indulgent misrepresentation and distortion of history-as-projected-personal-drama rather than the weight of the past in the present. Nor is it an accurate portrait of the people of Leenane and Connemara, not to mention of Ireland as Mag "in all her selfish, dreary neediness."
These plays would have been considered bad Abbey fare in the 1950s. Their popularity here and now may be linked to the American taste for backward Irish stereotypes. Or ignorance of the British colonial context and steady change in the North of what is mistakenly (and outdatedly) perceived to be a "recurring tragedy." So we have another play from Martin McDonagh, the Irish Brit: "high comedy and latent violence from its first scene on." It's tiresome to hear the praise.
John Longenbaugh responds: Apologies about the geographical mistake; it was made under deadline. I raised somebody's Eire apparently. The subtext seems to be that since McDonagh isn't a "real" Irishman, his criticisms of Ireland is suspect. I say horsefeathers. McDonagh's plays routinely premiere in Ireland and have received as much praise there as in London or New York. Just because he doesn't go all misty-eyed about rural life doesn't mean he's not a trenchant social critic. As to whether or not the Troubles in Northern Ireland are a recurring tragedy, one always hopes for the best, but the experience of the last 30 years suggest that the peace process is ongoing and sadly subject to setbacks. There are clearly no easy answers.
Roger Downey deserves a huge thank you for his incredibly insightful article on the third runway fiasco ["Dead in the water?" 7/27]. What a genius he is to recognize the political crap that rolled over all the people, reason, and logic in trying to shove this runway into the most densely populated and most unreasonable spot in the region for political greed! We now have a daily cloud of pollution sitting on our neighborhoods from the hauling and dumping of dirt. Our noise pollution buffer on the west side in the form of 50-plus year old trees has been stripped away. Fish-killing sediment and other strange pollution is entering Miller Creek. People around this area are getting and dying from more cases of cancer than elsewhere in the state. On top of being constantly abused by all this, we are awakened by aircraft noise at night! How much must any group suffer so the rest can have convenient travel plans? The PSRC wants us to take even more of this already unbearable situation? God forbid!
I am disappointed at your article on the Green Party ("It's not easy being Green," 7/27). Most troubling was the casual acceptance of Al Gore's wonderful environmental record. This is a lie. Enviros know that Gore is a sellout on the environment. A group called Environmentalists Against Gore has formed to educate people about the wide chasm between his rhetoric and his actions.
I also resent your portrayal of the Greens as "earnest, but not quite professional. . . ." What defines "professional"? Does it mean wearing a blue suit with a red tie, talking out of both sides of their mouth regarding labor and the environment issues, taking campaign contributions from and doing the bidding of big business? That's what the two "professional" parties have given us. It seems to me that the first qualification for being professional would be being earnest. I look forward to articles about the Green Party that are more complete and balanced.
Bugs: Save them!
After reading David Bowman's laudable response to your "gallingly insensitive" article, "The Beast in Your Backyard," [7/27], I felt compelled to make a couple of points that Mr. Bowman (unwittingly, no doubt) left out of his worthy letter.
Legal/political actions against sport hunting, fur-harvesting, circuses, rodeos, and leg-traps are all very well, but only think of the incalculable slaughter of innocent living things that goes on all around us, unaddressed, every day! I refer, of course, to the thoughtless and immoral destruction of flies, mosquitoes, spiders, fleas, and yellowjackets. Just because they don't happen to be "cute" or "cuddly" or have "backbones" doesn't make them any less alive!
I call for an immediate moratorium on flyswatters, sprays, insect traps, flea powders, and big stomping feet! No feeling person could fail to be revolted by the hypocrisy of a so-called "animal lover" who would crush ANY innocent being just because it irritated him. Think of the millions of inoffensive bugs callously crushed under car tires every day! I demand an immediate ban on all motorized travel!
And what of bacteria? Viruses? These are living things! They ingest, excrete, reproduce, and (for all we know) dream. How can the wholesale slaughter of these tiny creatures be tolerated by a just society? Antibiotics are murder!
Please recall Mr. Bowman's rallying cry, which I quote: "Remember, it doesn't matter what the species is: they were here first and deserve to be protected—which means it's time to quit encroaching on their habitat." The fact that "their habitat" may be your own body is merely an effete distinction.
I found your article by Brian Miller and Desmond Fleefer with regard to wildlife ["The Beast in Your Backyard," 7/27] out of line, offensive, dispassionate, and full of the same "shit" that the authors accuse the animals of making! These two heartless "geniuses" propose killing any animal that interferes with human pleasures. If these animals are guilty of the crimes of urinating, defecating, littering, carrying disease, and reproducing, then I guess these two fools (Miller and Fleefer) need to look in a mirror, for it seems to me that they, as well as all humans, do the very same things. These animals have just as much right to live here as we do, and as post-script, if those intolerant souls do not want beavers eating their $500.00 rose bushes, maybe they should just plant grass!
>UPPER MONTCLAIR, NJ
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