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Jewish World Review July 25, 2001 / 5 Menachem-Av, 5761

Robert W. Tracinski

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Barbarians at the G8 -- THE leaders of the world's most advanced nations, plus Russia, met over the weekend at the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, to discuss ways to increase trade and international cooperation -- about the most peaceful and civilized thing that the world's leaders could possibly do.

They did so, however, surrounded by a decidedly uncivilized sight. Metal barriers 20 feet wide sealed off their travel route; 20,000 police were on hand to fend off violent demonstrations; palaces where the meetings took place were guarded by police snipers; most of the leaders spent their nights on a ship in Genoa's harbor, guarded by a flotilla of military vessels. As this article goes to press, it is still early in the summit, yet angry mobs have already begun hurling firebombs across the barriers, and one protester has been shot by police.

The sight of the world's leaders meeting under siege conditions is a scene that ought to remind us of the last days of the Roman Empire, when the very core of civilization was threatened and eventually overrun by a horde of barbarians.

But this is not the significance given to the protests by most reporters and commentators.

The first major anti-globalism, anti-trade riots -- two years ago in Seattle, Wash. -- were met with a certain degree of shock, but the protesters were passed off as merely foolish (for denouncing trade, for example, while wearing tennis shoes made in Indonesia) or as misguided idealists. When they rioted again in Quebec, the attacks were duly noted in the press -- but not reported in much depth or widely discussed. The novelty had worn off.

Now, the press has practically become inured. A Reuters report from the eve of the summit is typical. It focused on the "surreal" security preparations and quoted complaints from Genoa's mayor that his city had been taken over and emptied out by police. The protesters themselves were not even discussed; demonstrations were merely mentioned in passing as one of many problems facing the G8 leaders, along with slowing economic growth and diplomatic disagreements on Third World debt. CNN followed the same approach, presenting firebombs and shootings in Genoa, not as breaking news, but as merely one part of an international news roundup. In short, violent attacks by protesters have become an expected and almost accepted part of international trade relations.

Bear in mind, however, the goal of these protests. As in Seattle, they are designed to block the streets, to disrupt meetings, to impede the flow of diplomats to and from summit events. The protest groups vary in the extent to which they embrace the open use of violence -- but they are united in their goal of physically interfering with these international summits. They all share the goal of using physical force to suppress trade negotiations.

Why is this not recognized as the danger that it is? Imagine what would happen if these protesters were on the political right, if they were, say, militia-movement nuts protesting U.S. involvement with the United Nations. Let us suppose that these groups were to mob every major UN conference with the goal of forcibly shutting down meetings. Such protests would, appropriately, be compared to the tactics of the Nazi Brownshirts.

Yet today's leftist protesters are more vocal, more persistent, and more numerous than their right-wing counterparts. And worse, their goals are fully consistent with their tactics.

They forcibly shut down international trade meetings because they want to forcibly shut down civilization. Ask yourself: What are the anti-globalism hordes protesting for? If you draw a blank at this point, it's not your fault. The protesters are not for anything. Their goals can only be described as a list of the things they are against. They oppose the most peaceful form of cooperation between nations: international trade. They condemn the spread of art, ideas, and even cuisine as "cultural imperialism." They oppose the existence of large-scale productive enterprises, i.e., corporations. They are belligerently anti-technology, anti-industry, and -- because it is the world's center of industry, technology and trade -- anti-American. Not all of these protesters are anarchists, but anarchism is the fullest expression of their position. Anarchism consists of the desire to break down any kind of organization, cooperation, and trade -- by eliminating their foundation: the rule of law. It is the protest of the barbarian against the "constraints" of civilization.

This is an assault that needs to be taken more seriously. As in ancient Rome, when barbarians do not meet with resistance -- both physical and intellectual -- civilization is in trouble.

Comment on JWR contributor Robert W. Tracinski's column by clicking here.

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