Activists Protest G20 While US Media Talk Trivialities
Protests continue in Los Cabos, Mexico, during the G20 summit of world leaders, though learning of these demonstrations—especially if one lives within the United States—is quite a difficult task for consumers of the establishment media.
On Monday, activists unfurled a giant “one trillion dollar” bill to represent the money given in fossil fuel subsidies every year, and the group Avaaz.org says it collected more than 750,000 signatures for a petition calling for a shift to renewable energy.
But rather than discussing environmental policies or austerity measures, NBC’s Chuck Todd obsessed endlessly over the body language between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Obama.
“Body language experts are going to have a field day interpreting this Obama-Putin joint statement,” Todd tweeted Monday.
However, unwilling to leave that analysis to the experts, Todd took his own thoughts to the airwaves the following day to participate in a segment on MSNBC devoted entirely to the body language between the two leaders.
Todd wasn’t alone in this superficial coverage. CBS News breathlessly reported about the little “shared eye contact” between Putin and Obama, and lamented that they two men did not “appear to express much personal warmth following a two-hour meeting.”
The AP reported that the leaders “hardly looked at each other,” and yes, “shared little eye contact,” before adding that aides say the media shouldn’t draw conclusions from the “chilly body language,” but, oh well, here’s 500 words about it anyway.
Superficial media coverage during the G20 summit becomes all the more glaringly wasteful when considering the real, substantial stories unfolding in a country where there is widespread, severe poverty, underscored by the presence of the twenty richest economies in the world. According to the country’s National Council of Social Development Policy Evaluation (Consejo Nacional de Evaluación de la Política de Desarrollo Social, CONEVAL), as much as 44.2 percent of the Mexican population (over 49 million people) live below the poverty line.
"Superficial media coverage during the G20 summit becomes all the more glaringly wasteful when considering the real, substantial stories unfolding in a country where there is widespread, severe poverty, underscored by the presence of the twenty richest economies in the world."
It’s these issues of mass poverty, inequality and policies threatening the environment that have brought protesters from all over the world to Mexico.
Lacy MacAuley, an Occupy DC activist currently at the People’s Summit in La Paz, Mexico, said La Paz is the closest activists can get to the G20 Summit because Los Cabos is under such heavy security:
“No one can travel to or from Cabo unless they are a documented Cabo resident. They have even closed the schools and hospitals. I’ve heard a story from a woman whose pregnant family member in Cabo was told that the hospital would not even be open if she were to give birth during the summit. They were lucky: The baby was born last week. This is just another example of how the G20 acts with total disregard for everyday people—they make decisions behind closed doors that impact all of us, decisions that serve the corporate elite of the world, and leave the rest of us out. We need to build our own solutions to the crises of the world, and move beyond big institutions like the G20.”
Juan Beristain, a member of the Mexican Electricians Union (Sindicato Mexicano de Electristas), who is also at the People’s Summit, said the G20 has no “moral or political responsibility for the people…yet they have more power over us than the governments of our countries.”
Hector de la Cueva, a member of the Mexican Action Network Against Free Trade (RMALC), said activists are protesting the G20 because they want to “make sure that the people’s voices are expressed for the rest of the world.”
“We are here to make sure that our story, the 99 percent story, is heard,” said de la Cueva.
A protester who travelled from Spain’s indignado movement told Democracy Now! that the anti-austerity struggle is worldwide.
“It’s a matter of resistance to the politics of neoliberalism, to criminal policies of the G20, the IMF, the World Bank, the European Union, and our own Spanish government and other governments of the world, such as the one we are protesting today in Mexico.”
Where these stories aren’t being told is in the establishment media. Voices like the ones above are entirely shut out of the conversation so pundits like Chuck Todd can blather about things like body language, because talking about such things is easy and doesn’t threaten the precious ideologies of the elite.
"This kind of terrible coverage has become par for the course as the mainstream media..."
In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that the second Chuck Todd says something to challenge the hegemony of the G20, he’ll be taken off the air. As a result, we get less talk about wealth disparity, environmental destruction and food security, and more talk about Putin’s chilly body language.
This kind of terrible coverage has become par for the course as the mainstream media prioritize reporting on every banal detail unfolding within the halls of power, in the boardrooms and within the vestibules of summit headquarters, while the stories of the teeming masses protesting the events outside go unreported, or at best, under-reported or irresponsibly stereotyped by bias media figures (see any Erin Burnett segment during the first weeks of Occupy Wall Street).
During the NATO summit in Chicago, reporters from the big media networks isolated themselves within the summit itself, and while it’s certainly important to keep tabs on what the most powerful players in the world are up to, it’s also the job of a responsible reporter to ask the thousands of people outside why they’re peeved. And then maybe—and this is a super-crazy idea—give both parties time to discuss their feelings.
Tragically, the media continues to miss an opportunity to document the fascinating lives of these protesters, and to discuss meaningful problems facing the world today. By limiting their subjects to the one percent, the media thereby limits its scope of conversation. Hence, we wind up with Chuck Todd talking about body language and no one learns anything.
© 2012 The Nation