Brian Holmes on 31 Jan 2001 13:26:45 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Davos as armed camp

Journalist Dan Gillmor comments on the barbed wire at Davos and wonders if
"the Swiss and the Forum understand how much this police-state stuff is
fueling the outrage." He hopes that "the corporate and political leaders
here are listening."

I think they're in a bind.

A key social dynamic in democratic societies - and one that explains the
power of direct-action campaigns - is that the police repression deemed
necessary to stop a protest movement only fuels it, the police excesses
proving the legitimacy of the protestors' griefs. Call it a "multiplier

The elites understand that. After the late 60s/early 70s, repression was
lifted from all moral, cultural or lifestyle choices in the developed
countries - i.e. sex, music, and drugs - as a way to defuse the "aesthetic"
side of social protest. Marcuse called it "repressive tolerance." (Holland
seems to be the model for it. An exception is Britain, which politicized a
youth movement by outlawing techno culture with the Criminal Justice Act of
1994. Thanks for helping make Reclaim the Streets, Mr. Major!)

Similar efforts have been made since the 70s to accomodate strictly
political protest in every way possible, with the nice result that the
specific effects of protest campaigns on legislation and on corporate and
governmental process have actually risen, despite the diluting effect of
integration/compromise/sellout, etc.

However, destruction of private property - "breaking windows at a local
McDonald's" - is still intolerable, as is the dispruption of official
proceedings through unauthorized entry on private or restricted property.
Which is why these tactics are being used right now, with mainly positive
effects I'd say, even if they make the moderate activists a little nervous.

Two solutions then present themselves to the authorities: either keep the
illegal activity and its repression out of the media, in which case it can
have no multiplier effect; or make the activists be perceived as criminals
with no legitimate cause. So far, the first tactic appears impossible for
the protests against capitalist globalization (and Internet helps keep it
that way). The second tactic is what we see emerging this year in the
communiques of the global institutions, as they struggle to integrate
critique, promise reform, and thereby discredit the activists.

So far there is zero reform, Davos is an armed camp, the RCMP is building a
wall around a neigborhood of Quebec City for the Free Trade Area of the
Americas talks, and the WTO is set to convene out in the Aarabian desert.
The global police state looks bad and the ball is in the court of the

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