TELEVISION, MOVIES, AND ANTIGLOBALIZATION

An important byproduct of the terrorist war will be the effect on antiglobalization politics. A measure of that effect is, as they say, coming soon to a theater near you.

At this point, the effect is far from obvious. After its successful disruption of a November 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, the movement gained potency. But it lacked both organization and coherency of message.

Since the terrorist attacks against the US on Sept. 11, factions within the movement have diverged. Some say they'll refrain from the street confrontations and vandalism formerly central to their activity. Others say there will be no change.

The number of demonstrators at a WTO meeting Nov. 9 in Doha, Qatar, will provide an indication of the extent to which overall tactics have changed.

A more subtle but important gauge of the future of antiglobalization will come from television and movies in the developed world.

The antiglobalists have derived much influence from popular reverence for activism stoked by modern fiction.

In movies and television programs, heroes frequently are people who stop things: regular folks who like dogs and abuse credit cards and who, against overwhelming odds, derail the plans of corporations or military services and push cold-hearted leaders of those cold-hearted institutions onto their knees.

In this plot formula, oil companies and their executives make convenient villains.

Before Sept. 11, the modern culture had become worshipful of obstructionist stunt artists. It thus became distressfully tolerant of the lawlessness extremist groups use to attract attention.

Terrorist murders have raised general skepticism about extremism in all its forms. The antiglobalist factions planning to moderate their tactics obviously understand that message.

Do moviemakers and television producers share the insight?

It would be refreshing if popular fiction began to reflect the reality that people who deliberately get in the way of things are usually not heroes. They are usually only hooligans.

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