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World Social Forum’s true colors dimmed by Press report

January 28, 2010

Jeff Smith contributed to this post.

The Grand Rapids Press ran an Associated Press story about rallies in the streets of Porto Alegre Brazil, where the 10 Years World Social Forum Seminar takes place, January 25 to 29. From the get-go, the story uses charged language to paint the obligatory picture of crazed communists and socialists ranting against capitalism and corporate greed. The story begins, “Thousands of leftists massed Monday to kick off five days of railing against unfettered capitalism.”

By framing the story with this language, the AP reporter makes it easier for readers to quickly dismiss the actions and desires of thousands of people from around the world who are striving to make the world more livable. A more honest introduction might have stated that thousands of regular people representing hundreds of NGOs and grass roots social justice groups were in the streets proclaiming that another world is possible–an alternative to the broken world that those in power are shoving down the throats of the hungry, homeless, unemployed, disenfranchised and environmentally poisoned. “Unfettered capitalism?” That’s newspeak for the neoliberal capitalist economic agenda that views human beings as nothing more than a resource or a market.

The Press account continues, “Accompanied by thundering drumbeats and samba blaring from sound trucks, a crowd of exuberant activists estimated by police to number 25,000 marched through Porto Alegre waving communist flags and shouting socialist slogans. They assailed corporate greed as the main reason the world plunged into an economic slump.”

Looking past the intentionally repetitive reference to communism and socialism, doesn’t this sound like a blast? Imagine 25,000 exuberant Grand Rapids area residents taking to the streets—not to dress like zombies or wait in line for souvlaki—but to celebrate a plan for ending poverty, discrimination, war and environmental destruction.

The article also fails to mention that the city government of Porte Alegre is on board with the World Social Forum, and that the World Social Forum was first held in Brazil with many Brazilians now engaging in participatory economic policies, called participatory budgeting. Participatory budgeting is where citizens take an active role in determining the government budget for the towns and cities they live in. These citizen groups are responding to the consequences of economic policies that are most often driven by “corporate greed.”

However, the term “corporate greed” is yet another whitewashed word. Again, it is the neoliberal policies that unleashed this greed that have led the economy to where it is today. Policies like NAFTA and CAFTA, have, for example, put Americans out of work by relocating manufacturing in Mexico, while dumping cheap corn there and destroying the livelihood of more than one million Mexican farmers.

In another interestingly twisted sentence, the story reports, “Participants said the forum is especially important this year now that governments from the United States to Europe are moving to play bigger roles in managing the global economy.”

In actuality, it is not sovereign governments who are in control. The engines that propel neoliberal policies, the IMF, WTO and World Bank are autonomous institutions that set policy that overrides any government control. These power brokers have nothing to do with democracy. In fact, they weaken democracy and mute the voice of the people. Their international standards trump our own nation’s laws.

The Press chose to shorten the AP story’s closing quote. Gustavo de Biase, a 22-year-old Brazilian, said, “We want to distribute the riches to people. We’re fighting for a more equal society and we’re saying ‘Down with hunger’ and ‘Down with war.‘” By shortening this WSF participant’s statement, readers lose a clearer sense of what people really are organizing for.

The Press fails to mention that a gathering similar to the World Social Forum takes place in Detroit this June, the US Social Forum. GRIID plans on being there to report on what happens at that gathering and how people will be organizing to address issues like war, poverty, racism and global warming.

One Comment leave one →
  1. assivaIderi permalink
    May 14, 2010 10:22 am


    I’m a student from Raanana (Israel).

    I have to analyze how much time someone spend on internet.

    There are websites which are a guilty pleasure, but there are websites which only have a visits duration of 40 seconds.

    I would like to know how much time do you spend on internet (day/week/month).

    Thanks for your help!


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