Re: "Anarchists" (Was Re: clarification on WTO protests)

phil osborn (
Sat, 11 Dec 1999 22:18:09 PST

>From:>Subject: "Anarchists" (Was Re: clarification on WTO
>Date: Sat, 11 Dec 1999 10:13:43 EST
>In a message dated 12/5/99 12:01:14 AM Central Standard Time,
> writes:
>< regarding the media's use of the word "anarchist" in connection with
>violence at the Seattle WTO protests >
> > It is discouraging, though, to see such an utter disintegration of
> > in social discourse, especially from the established media, who one
> > think would at least bother to check the readilly available references
> > subject before launching into an extended description.
>Discouraging it may be, but hardly surprising. Reporters and editors tend
>use words in the way that they think the words will be understood. Thus
>word "liberal" is invariably used to mean statist left-leaning politics and
>ideology in the US with such universality that even scholarly writers
>feel they have to qualify their use of the word with the term "classical"
>when they employ it in its original sense. That term has become
>lost to public discourse in its original meaning, such that many people
>they have to use the word "libertarian" now to express what "liberal" used
>With regard to the word "anarchist", for better or worse, the way it is
>used here is very, very far outside the mainstream usage of the word. Even
>for fairly well educated people, the word connotes bomb-throwing crazies.

What bothered me about this case was that the writer did spend quite a bit of column space trying to define "anarchist" - and not as synonymous with 'bomb-throwing crazies - but ended up only giving a long series of vague references to the kind of political activities that anarchists engaged in or specific non-essential goals that anarchists advocated. One could not possibly have gained the least idea what the term actually meant from that article, even though the writer spent quite a lot of effort trying to convey that information.

I have occasionally - on many occasions over the decades, actually - been party to activities that got media coverage. It is always an eye opener to read the coverage and see just how much stuff they typically get wrong, even when all the information is right there for the taking. Of course, one has to read H.L.Menken to see how bad it can get - as when Menken would make up stories out of whole cloth just to have something to report, in his early reporting days. Or perhaps take a simple drowning of a drunk dock worker and turn it into a great tragedy, inventing sick mothers, kids, etc.

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