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Anti-globalism movements and the Internet

May 20, 2010

From globalization, cultural. 2010. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved  May 20, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://search.eb.com/eb/article-225007

Anti-globalism organizers are found throughout the world, not least in many management organizations. They are often among the world’s most creative and sophisticated users of Internet technology. This is doubly ironic, because even as NGOs contest the effects of globalization, they exhibit many of the characteristics of a global, transnational subculture; the Internet, moreover, is one of the principal tools that makes globalization feasible and organized protests against it possible. For example, Greenpeace, an environmentalist NGO, has orchestrated worldwide protests against genetically modified (GM) foods. Highly organized demonstrations appeared, seemingly overnight, in many parts of the world, denouncing GM products as “Frankenfoods” that pose unknown (and undocumented) dangers to people and to the environment. The bioengineering industry, supported by various scientific organizations, launched its own Internet-based counterattack, but the response was too late and too disorganized to outflank Greenpeace and its NGO allies. Sensational media coverage had already turned consumer sentiment against GM foods before the scientific community even entered the debate.

The anti-GM food movement demonstrates the immense power of the Internet to mobilize political protests. This power derives from the ability of a few determined activists to communicate with thousands (indeed millions) of potential allies in an instant. The Internet’s power as an organizing tool became evident during the World Trade Organization (WTO) protests in Seattle, Washington, in 1999, in which thousands of activists converged on the city, disrupting the WTO meetings and drawing the world’s attention to criticisms of global trade practices. The Seattle protests set the stage for similar types of activism in succeeding years.

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