Toward the end, this article actually gets relevent.

Ed Craig                        [EMAIL PROTECTED]
Taxi (I need an income)         GNU/Linux (I can afford a Free OS)
Think this through with me, let me know your mind...    Hunter/Garcia

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2004 22:51:53 -0800 (PST)
From: MichaelP <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: [L_act]Mumbai WSF: Media Is Message

Media Is Message
        By Naeem Mohaiemen 20/01/2004 At 15:17

As I was chatting with Danesh, one of the volunteers, I commented on
the lack of familiar software. He laughed quietly and replied, "We say
another world is possible! Well, how can a new world be created on
Windows platforms?"

WSF: Dateline Mumbai, January 16, 2004
Media Is The Message
(By Naeem Mohaiemen --   [EMAIL PROTECTED])

"Another World Is Possible" says the WSF's slogan, brightly flowing
from flags along the highway. "The World Is Not Enough" proclaims an
Economic Times' business insert (un-related to WSF). I look at that
juxtaposition and find a reflection of the mainstream media's reaction to
WSF. Hyper-capitalist, fast-paced Mumbai was an odd cradle in which to
host the WSF. If activists are puzzled by the location choice, the Indian
media is equally confused by the event itself.

Uncertain how to deal with the WSF, the media has alternated between
ignoring the event and condescending to it. The weeks prior to January
16th, the newspapers mainly ignored the press releases flowing out of the
Goregaon media center. As the week of the event approached, the statistics
forced even conservative papers to take notice. 100,000 delegates from 114
countries are registered for 1,200 workshops and 1,000 stalls. The
alternative media is a bold presence here -- 2,000 registered journalists
are covering the event, with simultaneous translation into 10 main
languages. Faced with these imposing stats, even the staid Times Of India
has finally begun covering the event. The first few days, the news-boxes
appeared in the Metro section (on a page called "Spicy City"). I kept
scanning the pages looking for something substantial. A steady stream of
Shahrukh Khan (the Star Academy Awards are this week), Sharad Pawar (new
Congress coalition talk), Riya Sen (Munmun Sen's daughter bares
bejeweled-tummy), and Salman Rushdie ("I am just here to support Padma")
flooded the pages-- but hardly any WSF news made the big headlines.

On January 15, The Times printed, above the fold, a photo of flying pink
flamingos at the Sewri mudflats. The caption said, "Pink on Mumbai's
Horizon (And The World Social Forum has still to start)".

Organizers were puzzled by this crude and gratuitous equation of the WSF
with "red", "communism", etc. In fact, by my estimate, this is a very
archaic and ineffective form of critique. The organizers are seeking
alternative forms of globalization and economic development.

This is hardly a "red" position in 2004 -- in fact, many mainstream groups
advocate similar reform. In fact, the hard-left is represented by Mumbai
Resistance (MR), which is boycotting the WSF and holding an alternative
forum. MR says the WSF is too mainstream and dominated by big, "corporate"
NGOs -- they even object to groups like Friends Of Earth and Greenpeace.
There is even controversy over the WSF's use of Ford Foundation funds for
the previous year's WSF.

The opening day of the Forum, the Times finally dedicated a full page of
coverage to it. Seeking some familiar image to comfort readers, the Times
picked a Bollywood mural for the front page -- even though the mural in
question was part of an exhibit critiquing globalization's impact on
culture. Inside, among a few good stories, there was still an air of
condescension. One piece began, "The world is washing up at Goregaon, even
if the local rickshaw driver doesn't know why." The article went on to
talk about "hammers and sickles" (a silly exaggeration), "bewildered
videshis" and "the Western Express Highway rapidly turning red". In spite
of this tone, there was some grudging respect because of the "galaxy of
high-profile speakers," including Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, Shabana
Azmi, Arundhati Roy, Mary Robinson, Ahmed Ben Bella, Vandana Shiva, and
Mustafa Bargouthi.

Special focus was also given to peace campaigners/musicians like Junoon,
Indian Ocean and Gilberto Gil. In fact, the safe areas of music, theater
and art garnered the most positive media coverage.

Finally, in another nod to star power, the Times editorial page ran an
interview with Joseph Stiglitz, author of "Globalization & Its
Discontents" and one of the star speakers at WSF. In the introduction, the
writer called him "the outsider who came in from the cold" -- an odd term
for a former Chief Economist of the World Bank and advisor to the Clinton
administration, but appropriate given his new role as a vocal critic of
unfettered free market dogmas.

Even when giving flattering coverage to the high-profile participants, the
papers still slip into a tone of "Who are all these people, and what do
they want?" In MidDay's special feature, a chart highlighted five star
speakers, and then added a section called "Who Has He Pissed Off?" Typical
entries in this section are the ones for Stiglitz ("The World Bank and the
IMF-- he resigned over disagreements") and Jose Bove ("McDonald's -- he
demolished an outlet"). But the more sobering one is for George Monbiot,
Guardian journalist and author of "The Age Of Consent." Under "Who has he
pissed off?" runs a list of horrendous travails in the line of reporting:
"He has been shot at, beaten up by military police, pronounced clinically
dead and had a metal spike driven through his foot."

Anticipating the mainstream media's dismissive or lopsided coverage of the
WSF, the event organizers have focused heavily on creating their own media
infrastructure. Following the model of and many other
decentralized news groups, there has been a big push to create
self-generated press coverage, without depending on the major outlets.
Although the opening day of the WSF has at times seemed overwhelming, the
Media Center has been humming along like a smoothly oiled machine. Walking
into the Media Center for the first time, I faced a bifurcated selection
system. There was one room for "Alternative Media," and a much larger
section for "Mainstream Media." Driven partially by the better ratio of
computers to people, I registered as "Alternative" and headed to the less
crowded room. It was clear that technology and media was a key focus of
the planning committees. Naresh Fernandes, formerly a fixture of New
York's journalism scene, was one among many organizers who worked round
the clock to set the center up.

On opening day, we were pleasantly surprised to find the Media Center full
of two hundred computers, fully wired and connected over high-speed
Internet lines. A few technology veterans were being assisted by dozens of
young volunteers. As with much technology, the younger the volunteers, the
better they were able to troubleshoot problems. Even with outlandish
requests (one French journalist wanted to install her Palm Pilot software
on the machine, until I pointed out she would be using a different machine
every time), the volunteers are handling it with calm perseverance.

In keeping with the WSF spirit, None of the machines have Microsoft
Windows products. Instead, the Free Software Foundation is running
Linux-based free operating systems, with open-source software like Open
Office (Debian Project) and Mozilla web browsers. As I was chatting with
Danesh, one of the volunteers, I commented on the lack of familiar
software. He laughed quietly and replied, "We say another world is
possible! Well, how can a new world be created on Windows platforms?"


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