Jun 19th, 2024 by Clark Humphrey

Dating-site founder revives local art mag; mayor’s niece claims racial profiling by SPD; MAX crash victims’ kin want Boeing to pay billions; GOP candidate for gov ‘jokes’ about turning Evergreen campus into homeless prison camp.

Nov 29th, 2020 by Clark Humphrey

Microsoft’s business-meeting surveillance and ‘scoring’ plan; local doctor’s COVID precautions pay off; Amazon accused of warehouse-safety cover up; UW football’s big comeback win.

Nov 22nd, 2019 by Clark Humphrey

Tim Eyman announces a run for governor (and gloats in front of Sound Transit’s board); the Viaduct’s last piece is toppled; ’96 Spokane bomber won’t be executed—yet; how important was Gordon Sondland’s testimony?

Jul 1st, 2019 by Clark Humphrey

The long-stalled backyard-cottage bill FINALLY passes; using high-tech sensors to help orcas and salmon; John Oliver and others rant about Amazon; I rant (briefly) about social media.

MISCmedia MAIL for 11/29/16: ‘BRAND’ OF SHAME
Nov 28th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Let’s face it: a lot of the GOP’s rural success is due to “branding.” They’re the party “for” rural whites; just like there are cigarettes “for” women. And with similar results among the end users. Further topics today: A hate crime right here in Seattle; why one white woman believes white people SHOULD march with Black Lives Matter; rebranding STEM education with eco-conservation (or vice versa); and the revenge of the WTO.

Aug 31st, 2013 by Clark Humphrey


  • Turns out there’s a word for these massive fan-made visual displays at soccer matches. The word is “tifo.”
  • The NY Times notes that Amazon hasn’t asked for a dime in extra tax breaks for its big Seattle development schemes.
  • Meanwhile, could Amazon start its own wireless cell-phone network?
  • Even the rarified realm of Seattle sushi, there are problematic “bigot diners.”
  • After almost 50 years, the Francine Seders Gallery in Phinney Ridge closes this December.
  • After 22 years, the radio station known as “The Mountain” is leaving the air, sort of. An Internet feed and a digital sub-channel will continue the format (but will they have live DJs?).
  • The UW experiment in “mind control” won’t immediately lead to anything useful, like helping disabled people regain control of their limbs or anything.
  • “Celebrity architects” don’t always design monumental, scenery-dominating houses in the countryside for fat cat clients. Sometimes they do it for themselves.
  • In keeping with my occasional claims that we’re entering a long attention span generation, the Guardian claims that big epic novels “are back.”
  • It’s not just McDonald’s workers who are getting screwed over. Franchise operators allege the company’s been overcharging them with rent and fees.
  • Coca-Cola’s marketing a stevia-sweetened “Coca-Cola Life” drink, with vague claims of “healthiness,” but only in Argentina.
  • Could the building blocks of life on Earth have come here from Mars?
  • It turns out that Larry Summers, the onetime Harvard president who may be nominated to head the Federal Reserve, was involved in the World Trade Organization and its 1999 efforts to force big financial deregulation upon all its member countries. (You may remember a little protest when the outfit had its convention here.)
May 2nd, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

Darn, this is gettin’ retro. And not in a good way.

Just like on N30, a serious mass protest against the rule of big money was the target of an attempted hijacking.

Yep, another “black bloc” of masked vandals claiming to be anarchists busted stuff up.

As if that was any more a “political” act than the busting up of stuff last June in Vancouver.

Meanwhile, many thousands more people participated in real May Day protests.

They made statements, made banners, spoke, sang, rapped, networked, and forged connections.

Their goal was not to feel powerful, nor to get their testosterone rocks off, nor to “live without dead time.”

It was, and is, to change the direction of the world.

Socially, politically, and especially economically.

That’s a mighty tall order.

But that’s what Occupy ____ is about.

No single demands.

No simple solutions.

No instant utopias.

No small dreams.

Nothing less than the end of greed, cronyism, and megabuck-influence-peddling; and the revival of democracy.

Apr 30th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey


The whole Occupy movement is staging a nationwide spring “season premiere” Tuesday.

Mayor McGinn has personally warned the local protests just might turn violent, deliberately invoking memories of the WTO riots. (Yes, those really were 12 and a half years ago!) That’s an odd thing for a self styled progressive to do.

Local organizers, in contrast, are billing their events as a “Day of Solidarity, Wonderment, and Merrymaking.”

They’ve got a whole day of speakers, rappers, and musicians at Westlake Park, and a march to the Wells Fargo tower.

And they’re calling for folks to leave work and school, refrain from shopping and banking, to think of Tuesday as a one-day general strike.


May Day has been principally a Euro-radical thing for so long, it’s hard to remember it started with the American labor movement, in its first courageous drives for basic workers’ rights (and the corporate/governmental violent reactions to same).


Meanwhile, BBC economics commentator Paul Mason takes a gander at the new wave of protest-related visual art (a movement accelerated, but not started, by the Occupy protests). Mason believes this populist underground work could be the start of a new art movement, one that could render obsolete “contemporary art” as we know it (i.e., something made within a rarified bohemian elite for sale to “the multimillionaire-oriented art market”).

Mar 12th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

Learn how we and our immediate forebearers ate!

I’m participating in a History Cafe session about old Seattle restaurant menus. It’s 7 p.m. Thursday at Roy Street Coffee (the off-brand Starbucks) at Broadway and E. Roy on curvaceous Capitol Hill. It’s sponsored by KCTS, HistoryLink.org, MOHAI, and the Seattle Public Library.

Be there or be yesterday’s “fresh sheet.”

  • The World Trade Organization (remember them?) sez Boeing gets unfair subsidies from the U.S. gov’t.
  • Are an ad agency’s “homeless hotspots” at the SXSW music festival really more demeaning than the Seattle company that  still calls itself “Bumvertising“?
  • No, Michael Medved. We’re not secretly jealous of Rush Limbaugh and his awesome power. We’re disgusted by his puerile stupidity, bullying, and bigotry (and yours too).
  • The Oregonian won’t run the Doonesbury comics about the GOP’s war against women. A local cartoonist responds by depicting the paper’s readers choosing to “abort” their subscriptions.
  • Is there really something particular about the training of soldiers at Lewis-McChord that’s led to these dreadful stories about abuses of power in the Afghan field? Or is it just a coincidence, based on the fact that the base has grown so big, with so many troops transferring in and out of it?
  • One of the 1980 American hostages in Iran would rather not see history repeat itself thank you.
  • Blogger/editor Maria Popova believes websites should formally adopt a “curator’s code” identifying direct and indirect links via special unicode symbols.
Aug 26th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

Here’s something I haven’t seen in a while. A new print zine. Eight photocopied pages, issued at an attempted regular frequency.

Even the content within it parties like it’s 1999.

It’s called Tides of Flame: a Seattle anarchist paper. Four issues have been produced so far.

Its slogan is “joy — freedom — rebellion.”

The joy promoted here is principally the joy of busting stuff up and calling it a political act. Yep, we’re back with the flashiest (and, to me, the least important) aspect of the ol’ WTO protest, the dudes who confused destructive hedonism with revolution.

Particularly in the first issue, which starts out with a photo of a shattered and tagged window at the Broadway American Apparel store. This occurred as part of a “direct action” episode earlier this summer during gay pride week. The zine describes it as “an unpermitted dance party” staged by “uncontrollable elements within the queer and anarchist circles.”

Why did they hate American Apparel, which puts gay rights slogans in its ads? Because the company’s been “endorsing the legalization and normalization of queers…. Clearly, the attackers had no intention of being either legal or normal that night.”

The first issue also contains a well-composed ode to the contradictions of urban “alt” culture. (Even if the essay starts by referring to “the useless phallus of the Space Needle.” Anyone who looked at its curves and angles can see it’s a feminine symbol!)

Other issues defend the prolific grafitti artist Zeb and promote “fare dodging” (riding buses but refusing to pay).

But mostly they’re against things. Cops. Prisons. Bureaucrats. Banks and the economic elite (an admittedly easy target). Urban gentrification. “Cutesy street art.” Wide swaths of modern society in general.

As with most U.S. “radical” movements built on the wild-oat-sowing of young white people, the Tides of Flame zine and its makers give emphatic simple answers to questions about the outside world, but raise unaddressed questions about their own program.

Can they reach out to make coalitions beyond their own subcultural “tribe”?

Have they got any ideas for building a better world, beyond just smashing this one?

At least there’s a sign the zine’s makers are asking some of these questions among themselves.

That sign is the zine’s regular “Forgotten History” section, recounting past radical actions in the city and region, including the Seattle General Strike of 1919.

(There’s more of this recovered history at the site Radical Seattle Remembers.)

May 12th, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

I should have written about this topic back last November, around the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, and of the surrounding protests that totally upstaged it.

It was the peak of what could, in retrospect, be called “grunge politics.”

There were plenty of other movements and philosophies at work during the WTO protests, but this particular trend is one that had its greatest moment that week.

It was a time when busting a window at Niketown seemed like a provocative act, when white kids could dress up like Mexican Chiapas insurgents and imagine they were overthrowing something bigger than any mere government. They were, in their own minds, driving a stake into the diseased heart of global commerce itself.

This was a movement, or trend, that was less about changing the world and more about personal expression. It was about expressing strongly felt, if one-dimensional, notions of good vs. evil and us vs. them.

They insisted they were not a target market, that they would not be defined by corporate marketing. Even if they were defining themselves in large part on the basis of their consumer choices in music, attire, transport, food and drink.

The typical proponent of this attitude/lifestyle (male version) was the sort of dude I met a lot at places like Linda’s Tavern and the Six Arms in the late 1990s, and then later at the old Tablet newspaper.

The ideology for the grunge-politics adherents I knew only partly overlapped the ideology of the Olympia radicals and Riot Grrrls from earlier in the 1990s. These Capitol Hill folks I knew weren’t as big on gender issues as the Olympia kids had been, and weren’t at all into the “straight edge” scene (clean and sober partying).

Mostly they had no agenda, because they weren’t vocally in favor of much of anything. What they were “for” was being against stuff.

I’m thinking of one particular guy. We’ll call him Geoff (not his real name). He and I would get together occasionally at a Pike/Pine bar or coffee houes, to agree to disagree.

He firmly believed everything in the world beyond him and his own subculture was the enemy—that big, amorphous enemy that the hippies had called “the Man,” and that the Riot Grrrls had called “the Patriarchy.”

Everything wrong in the world was the fault of Those People. You know, those sap masses out there in Mainstream America. Eating meat. Watching television. Unquestioningly obeying the dictates of the corporate media.

Geoff repeatedly expressed contempt for everything he felt Those People stood for. This included America’s mainstream political system. Organizing, building coalitions, persuading people from other walks of life to join together in a common cause, were things he found boring and useless. He thought of himself as “too political” for any of that.

No, to him “being political” meant publicly protesting, and privately complaining, about everything he was against. Which was a lot.

The things he spoke out against ranged from the epic (wars) to the personal (commercial “alternative” fashion accessories on sale in the malls).

There was one thing he was unquestioningly for. At the time, it was called “hemp.” In more recent years, it’s been called “medical marijuana.”

Of course, Geoff’s reasons for being for it had little to do with the carefully prescribed alleviation of physical pain, and had nothing to do with the promulgation of industrial fibers.

I once argued with Geoff about pot smoking. I said it turned too many people into pacified submissives, and that no real movement for true social change could come from it. He stared at me vacantly and asked me in a droning monotone if I had some.

Which leads to the current marijuana initiative, I-1068.

Its proponents are now gathering signatures across the state. It doesn’t claim any noble non-recreational justification. It’s about pot, and asserting the right for any adult in the state to have and use it, for any purpose. No excuses, no sanctimonious fronts.

This is actually progress.

This is a generation, or a piece of a generation, getting up off of its collective protests and actually doing something.

Which is what I told Geoff, those several years ago, I didn’t expect him and his pals to ever do.

I was wrong.

(Cross-posted with the Capitol Hill Times.)

Dec 6th, 1999 by Clark Humphrey


  • The city has returned to “normal.” That means, instead of the eerie yet somehow empowering sense of calm that pervaded over downtown during the two days after the Wednesday night cop riot, there was the more familiar, more materialistic chaos of Xmas shoppers looking at and getting stuff. In a way, mighty disappointing; in another way, to be expected, now that both the out-of-town protesters and the out-of-town WTO delegates they were protesting against are gone.
  • Could the multinational, multi-cause coalition we saw in Seattle last? It actually could, I think. I saw a sticker on a male protester’s jacket: “Owls Don’t Kill Jobs. Greed Kills Both.” Loggers and mill workers aren’t really helped by accellerated clearcutting of forests; it just means their jobs and communities are destroyed a little later, a lot more permanently.
  • Was it just a few weeks ago when I wrote that the end-O-history, total-rule-by-global-business guys were on an apparently unstoppable roll? After WTO, that seems at least a little less likely.
  • I know at least one person who quit working for Microsoft three days into the protests. She says after a taste of real empowerment, she couldn’t stand the ruthlessly pro-corporate attitudes anymore.
  • It felt great (at least as one who wasn’t gassed or arrested) to have participated in such a big, seemingly-triumphant gatherings.

    But, as I’ve always said, feeling good about yourself isn’t enough.

    My past complaints about the Lifestyle Left were only partly about the subcultural isolationism and delusions-O-superiority endemic among too many hempheads, vegans, het-male-bashers, Earth-Firsters, Animal-Liberationists, etc. etc. They were also about the hippie-derived notion that “being political” has to be fun or thrilling or self-aggrandizing.

    Real political work, like most any real work, is mostly grind-work, and often is (or at the time seems to be) unsuccessful. Not only can’t hedonism change the world; but any zeitgeist centered around personal pleasure is all too easily taken over by corporate hipsters.

  • I’m still adding items to a long list-O-WTO-links.


A couple weeks ago, bigshot developers from Kentucky announced plans to raze 100 acres south of Tacoma (near Fort Lewis and McChord AFB), where some low-income housing, a trailer park, and a middle school now stand.

In place of all that, they want to put up a “Great Northwest” theme park.

Early accounts said the “proposed family-oriented park would include thrill rides. It would aim to highlight the ‘rugged outdoors’ elements of the Northwest, as well as its history.”

It’s a satirical opportunity just too damn good to pass up. And since Almost Live ain’t around to handle it, I’m gonna have to.

Here’s what I believe any truly authentic NW-themed tourist attraction oughta have:

  • Seasonal-affective-disorderland. Start your visit here at “The Depressingest Place On Earth,” where a special overhead dome keeps the “sky” unrelentingly grey and dim for a few midday moments; completely dark all the rest of the time. Soothe your quiet desperation at such merchants and attractions as the Jolt Cola soda fountain, the tanning-bed thrill ride, the Magic Prozac Dispenser, the Imgmar Bergman screening room, and the Cry-In-Your-Beer Garden.

    The fog machines shut off just long enough to reveal the desolate landscape of your next stop–

  • Clearcutland. Panoramic murals enhance the experience of being entirely surrounded by stumps and blown-away topsoil. Take the Abandoned Sawmill Ride, but keep your arms inside the tram car–especially when turning past Circular Saw Corner. See the hourly fights in the Lonesome Pine Tavern (the sign above the bar reads: “It’s called the Lonesome Pine because it’s not poplar”), as the hippie backpackers blame the unemployed loggers for having killed 90 percent of the forest and the loggers blame the hippies for not letting them finish the job.

    But see it all soon; each week, 50 square feet of Clearcutland is given over to the expansion of–

  • Sprawlland. Enter the showplace of material excess that is the Cabin Castle–a giant, meandering compound all done-up in “rustic” tones and overlooking the last remaining forested area of Clearcutland.

    Step lively during the walking tour; while the castle’s perky mistress (looking sharp in her Coldwater Creek apres-ski outfit) demonstrates each of its amazing luxury features (the indoor hot-spring surrounded by holographic rain-forest images; the sauna rebuilt from an authentic native sweat lodge; the bedposts made from real Inuit totem poles)–all while lecturing you about the importance of Simple Living.

TOMORROW: The park tour continues at, naturally, Gatesland.

(Suggest your own surefire tourist-attractors at our gregarious MISCtalk discussion boards.)


  • French writer Georges Perec could write entire books without the letter “E;” nowadays, folks in the Net biz can’t seem to write a single word that doesn’t start with it. (Found by Memepool)….
Dec 4th, 1999 by Clark Humphrey

AT THE END OF WACKY WTO WEEK, the situation’s still as strange as it’s been.

Here, some other views.

  • “I just know they’re going to turn the bandana face-mask thing and the black hooded-jacket thing into next year’s hot fashion. Either that or those heavy cop boots.”
  • “I saw some French protesters. Did you know the French acronym for WTO is ‘OMC’? Just like the band that did ‘How Bizzare.'”
  • “Do you think the police action was just a dress rehearsal for the expected Y2K riots?”
  • “I loved the Sea Turtle costumes. They were teenage mutant turtles. Too bad they weren’t ninja.”
  • “There were probably more Africans inside the WTO conference than there were African Americans in the protests.” “Yeah, but if you were a black kid, would you voluntarily place yourself in the cops’ gunsights?”

Meanwhile, Charlotte Quinn writes:

“Why is everyone suddenly feeling so sorry for The Gap and poor Nike Town? I think the violation of the protesters’ right of freedom to peacefully assemble is a larger issue than the WTO, and even the stupid windows of downtown being broken. I think the Seattle politicians have wrongfully decided to put the interests of the WTO over our right to peacefully assemble, and I am outraged. Seattle was declared in a state of emergency (because of the broken windows by a few protesters–yes, I call them that).

“These few glass breakers were yelled at and deterred by the WTO protesters. Immediately, after a window was broken the other protesters would step in and chant ‘no violence,’ or try to stop them. The police were just not there. I repeat: The police were not there. There just weren’t enough of them that first day.

“That was the mistake of the police. Nothing other than sheer stupidity on the part of Norm Stamper, who probably said, ‘We don’t need anyone else to run our streets. Well, on Tuesday you did, Norm. So guess what happens?

“Seattle is declared to be in a state of emergency because a few windows were broken. The police go hardline. the armed guard is called in, and everything goes haywire. the idiot police tear gas innocent people, and a no-protest zone is declared, the state of emergency effectively

curtails ALL protests outside the convention center, and any other place our peaceful demonstration might be effective.

“On Day 2, we are told gas masks are illegal to buy, sell or possess within Seattle City limits. Oh perfect. We can’t even protest your new weird laws, you’ll tear-gas us to death!

“I was at the protest at the jail, and I was joined by people who were protesting police

brutality. The steelworkers held a peaceful rally, and protesters left them to walk downtown, they were tear-gassed and beaten. Then the steelworkers who stayed were tear gassed.

“I had missed the eve of Day 2, the Capitol Hill incident–stories I can’t even believe. Police just completely tear-gassing, shooting and beating hundreds of non-protesters for just existing!

“People are really angry that there is a curfew imposed, people here are outraged that there is a ‘no-protest zone,’ and people are ALL saying that the police have over-reacted. This

is, I can’t emphasize this enough, a peaceful demonstration. The cops are attacking peaceful people! Over and over again.

“Day 3: Police chief Norm Stamper comes on TV saying he never said the term ‘No Protest Zone;’ that it was something the press made up. KOMO-TV anchor Kathy Georzten cuts to several incidents where the police are saying to protesters, ‘You can’t go through here, this is a no protest zone.’ A rare sight of media pointing a finger at the government.

“Then the Mayor appologizes, sort of. The citizens of Capitol Hill are not all poor; some of them are very affluent and they are outraged the police brutality has come up here.

Things changed after the Capitol Hill incident. The ACLU started talking about a suit against the city. We had no tear gas at the jail; a couple Seattle City Council members showed up to talk; the mayor even negotiated with the protesters. I went there, sure I would be tear-gassed, and was shocked that I wasn’t.

“Still, I want to know why I can’t protest in your ‘no-protest zone’ if that’s not what you call it, Mr. Stamper. We are protesting the WTO and excercising our right to assemble peacefully. You try and stop us and you will lose, if not here, then in the courts.”

WTO SOURCES (most-recently-added first):

MONDAY: We hope to go lighter and discuss a proposed Pacific Northwest theme park.

Dec 2nd, 1999 by Clark Humphrey

MORE ABOUT THE ANTI-WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION events in Seattle, which by Thurs. morning will probably have led to 500 arrests.

An email correspondent writes:

“A buddy of mine in Lower Queen Anne told me one more thing about the violent protesters. Since he works in the U District as a delivery driver, he gets a peek in the frat houses, dorms, etc. He told me that there was an ‘event factor’ that attracted a good portion of frat boys interested in being ‘anarchists for a day.’ While he did not witness first hand violence by these folks, he did see them ‘gearing up.'”

That not only would not surprise me, but it sure does match up with some of the faces and emotions I saw, at least among one group of vandals. Real anarchists don’t have color-coordinated hoods and face masks with LA Lakers logos on the back. Real punk-rock anarchists don’t flash fake gangsta hand signs at one another.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, which I’m not, I’d wonder whether at least some of the window-smashers were political conservatives out to incite anti-leftist public opinion.

Different vandals, it should also be noted, had different agendas. The first few waves of window-smashers targeted specific businesses punk-anarchists love to hate: Nike, McDonald’s, The Gap/Old Navy, Starbucks, Bank of America. Subsequent smashers and spray-painters took to just about any available blank wall.

Another correspondent writes:

“I don’t think a lot of the vandals had an ounce of ‘symbolism’ in their actions. To me, it looked more like opportunistic criminals. These people started coming out of the woodwork about the same time most of the real protesters started leaving, around 4:30 or 5.”

Knute Berger writes:

“It wasn’t a city sold out, and shut up, by developers. It wasn’t a city too civil to say what was on its mind. It wasn’t a city overrun by consensus. It wasn’t a city showing off its pretty mountains and tasty coffee confections for the cruise ship crowds. It wasn’t a city where the cops, with their new black riot gear and armor, were saying, ‘Have a nice day.’ This was a city that trashed our unofficial motto, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’ Often what was said was silly. ‘Fuck you, Nike’ or ‘Capitalism destroys all life’ doesn’t take you very far. But the honesty that comes with a fine rage is a fresh wind, something to clean out the cobwebs of our stale politics and civic discussions.”

“Jumangi” writes:

“Most had never been to a protest, had never been gassed, had never been arrested.

“Unusual for comparitively ‘sleepy’ Seattle. People of all ages, elderly, babies in strollers, political left and right, punks and vandals, everyone with their favorite cause, stomping and yelling, rappers, estimated at over 40,000. The three major television stations gave it all-day coverage; so journalists were kept happy doing ‘real’ stories. Much more abstract than the simple issues during Vietnam days. Complete disruption of the downtown business district–no traffic, no shoppers–bonfires, broken glass, graffitti, anti-Nike demonstrators wearing Nike shoes, expensive Gore-Tex parkas made in Malaysia, some driving away in Lexis autos, police in Star Wars riot gear, blame the vandalism on ‘out of towners’ from ‘San Diego.’

“London hooligans seemed much more destructive even though WTO wasn’t in London that day.”

Wednesday’s crackdowns on all downtown protest activity were intended to restore stability; instead, they replaced one sequence of surreal scenes with another. Instead of thousands of anti-WTO protesters, hundreds of anti-police-brutality protesters came to Westlake Center, explicitly to defy the No-Protest Zone and get arrested. Some of them later gathered at the Electrical Workers union hall in Belltown (soon to be demolished for condos), then marched to Pier 62/63 for a Steelworkers’ rally.

These were much smaller groups than Tuesday’s peak crowd, but just as diverse; ranging from striking Kaiser steelworkers to seven topless “Lesbian Avengers” sporting body-paint anti-WTO slogans. Others on Wednesday donned clown noses; still others wore T-shirts scrawled with “Non Violent Protester” and “Who Paid the Thugs?”

Then as night fell, police took after any and all protesters, violent or not, inside the No-Protest Zone or not; culminating in tear-gas explosions in the Pike Place Market and Belltown. KING’s Dennis Bounds called it “as close to a police state as I’ve seen.” Corporate-conservative Sen. Slade Gorton, naturally, was quoted as lambasting city officials for not having cracked down even harsher and sooner.

As I post this late Wednesday night, with cops liberally exploding tear gas throughout Capitol Hill after any ald all stray protesters, the ultra-weirdness shows no signs of letting up.


TOMORROW: The last of this for now, I promise.

Dec 1st, 1999 by Clark Humphrey

THE PREVIOUSLY-ANNOUNCED CONTENTS for today’s net-column have, as you might expect, been pre-empted by the major mega-weirdness in Seattle on Tuesday.

So many things, so many odd and amazing and disgusting and just plain strange things, have gone on this day (I’m writing at 9 p.m. Tuesday night) that I know at the start I can’t do it justice.

But I’ll start by noting this was a media event first and foremost; on all sides of the WTO debate.

And, as it happens, I’m writing this while the CBC is running a hyper-slick documentary about Marshall McLuhan, who knew what “media events” really meant even back in the days of press agents staging spectacles to get their clients into the newsreel.

In this day of email and teleconferencing, the foreign ministers of all the 135 or so World Trade Organization member countries, and their minions and lackeys, didn’t really need to meet at one time in one place (let alone in a place so full of and/or accessible to tree-spikers, third-generation punk anarchists, and white gangsta-wannabes).

(But then again, past anti-free-trade demonstrations (and, in some cases, police over-reactions) have been in such supposedly turmoil-free towns as Vancouver, Montreal, and Geneva.)

Anyhoo, the WTO chose to come to Seattle, just weeks before the big 0-0 year thang, as a way to gain attention for its agenda, in what the group was apparently led to believe was North America’s #1 or #2 friendliest town toward its message–that Sacred Business is the end-all and be-all of all human endeavor in the post-Cold-War, pre-Millennial age.

After all, this is the town that has pushed onto the world “gourmet” coffee, mediocre software, and the machines that made the whole international jet set possible.

But appearances can deceive. Seattle may be Microsoft Ground Zero, but that means it’s also HQ for disgruntled MS refugees (and bystanders such as myself) who’ve had just a little too much of the deification of Gates as God, Ayn Rand as the Goddess, and money, power, and acquisition as the only worthy ends of human existence.

It’s also a town with a heavy organized-labor heritage, a town of old and neo hippies and punks, and the town that taught New York City how to impose and enforce an upscale monoculture on an increasingly reluctant populace.

Add to that mix, the means of communication and transportation that can bring protesters from all over into one spot almost as efficiently as information and products can be transported out, and you get what KCPQ called “Seattle Under Seige.”

Let me briefly attempt to explain what happened.

There was the WTO convention itself, gathering all these dignitaries to engage in closed-door confabbing about tariffs and quarrantines and environmental concerns that limit commerce and other potentially arcane stuff.

Then there were the big, officially-permitted protests. They involved some 40,000 or more union members, church members, and other members of “respectable” quarters of society, marching to protest an organization which symbolizes the rule of business over contemporary life and the rule of a few huge mega-corporations (not all of them U.S.-based) over business and, via stooge outfits like the WTO, over governments.

Then there were the unauthorized demonstrators. These came in all assorted flavors.

People who wanted media attention for specific trade-related causes (WTO crackdowns on individual countries’ health and species-protection laws).

People with causes related to international affairs in general (denouncers of China; supporters of Cuba).

People whose causes had nothing at all to do with WTO (people who hate meat or fur, or who like Mumia Abu-Jamal or hemp).

Street-theater artists.

Civil-disobedience practitioners who trained weeks in advance for nonviolent actions to try to shut the WTO conference down.

And, yes, a few dozen thugs who called themselves anarchists.

I saw some of these sanctimoniously violent boys smash store and car windows, spray-paint walls, and overturn Dumpsters. I didn’t know any of them personally, but I’ve known (and lived with) plenty of their ilk. White males utterly and incurably convinced of their own complete moral superiority to all other white males. (While they smashed stuff up, women and minorities pleaded at them to stop their unproductive jerk-off actions.)

These random incidents, and the nonviolent street-blocking actions of the separate civil-disobedience groups, joined to provide authorities with the excuse to bring out the threatened-in-advance forces of over-reaction. Police scattered parts of downtown with tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets during the hours just before and just after the AFL-CIO-run authorized protest march. Once the union people left, the whole downtown core was declared a “State of Emergency.” An overnight curfew was proclaimed, and was enforced by some heavy-handed cop tactics.

But it didn’t end there. Well into the night, demonstrators continued on Capitol Hill, outside the curfew zone. Only now, the remaining hundreds of protesters were protesting not WTO but the police over-reaction earlier in the day, and getting more police over-reaction for their trouble.

So much, for now, for Tom Robbins’s old proclamation of Seattle as “The City of the Nice.”

TOMORROW: More on this.


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