How the G8 was spun
LONDON Freelance Branch invited Lucy Michaels of Corporate Watch to set the scene for the G8 summit in July. We got an info-blast about the G8. This contrasted with much of the reporting of the deals under discussion, which could have paid pay more attention to the small print. How much privatisation of health, education and essential services is the price of the headlined debt relief, for example?
Lucy reminded us that the G8 has been part of the architecture of global governance since 1975, when six countries' leaders met in Rambouillet, France to discuss the turbulence in the global economy as a result of the 1974 oil shocks. "Despite the serious political differences between the world leaders on a raft of issues", she said, the G8 meetings and the communiqués and declarations that come out of them are "intended as a way of reassuring everyone that ultimately they all agree. It is these images beamed across the world, of the world leaders looking relaxed in their linen suits, that are supposed to reassure us - and the markets - that everything is just fine." This is why the media presence at the G8 is vital to the proper functioning of the event, which saw see 5000 of the world's journalists descend on Gleneagles.
The nature of the G8 as a photo-opportunity was reinforced, Lucy said, by the fact that the company hired to run the media centre was Jack Morton Worldwide. This "experiential marketing agency", based in New York, is part of the PR conglomerate Interpublic. In its own words, JMW "creates experiences to improve performance, increase sales and build brands". Other clients include: General Motors, Bank of America, IBM, Pfizer, Gillette, McDonald's and CNN.
The story that had obsessed The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald for the past year had been the shadowy anarchists coming up to Scotland to cause destruction. Stories of infiltration, intimidation and Molotov cocktails filled their pages. This "blatant misrepresentation and exaggeration" seemed to be aimed at everyone except Make Poverty History campaigners. If the media stopped and listened, she said, they would have found out that Dissent!, a mobilisation of non-hierarchical activist and anarchist networks, m, mainly focused on positive community-based projects highlighting alternative ways of organising society cy contrasting with the G8 and the neoliberal economic system.
The aim, Lucy believes, was to ensure that the Make Poverty History protesters came across as the "good protesters" supporting the UK government in its efforts to persuade the other world leaders to support the New Labour cause for greater aid, debt relief, trade for Africa and Tony Blair's place in history. The "bad protesters", who "have an equally legitimate right to protest", are the ones who suggest that it is the current economic system that has contributed to impoverishing Africa and creating climate change - and that the G8 is a cornerstone of that system.