A Run on the Bank

Attack of the Activists

For many observers, the antiglobalization effort is something to be snickered at while watching CNN. Few people understand what all the fuss is about. Another problem is the appearance of antiglobalization activists in the media and, to some extent, in real life. It's hard to take anybody seriously when they look as if they've just hiked to the protest from the latest Phish show. Gigantic puppets do not help the case.

Those with a cursory understanding of the IMF and the World Bank express utter bewilderment at the protests. After all, the IMF lends money to Third World countries so that they can build the infrastructure sorely needed to compete in a global market, and the World Bank regulates the global money market. If these dreadlocked hippies are really siding with the poor nations, how can they be protesting against giving those nations money?

The problem with this view is the staggering amount of debt Third World nations have accrued since the inception of the IMF and World Bank in 1947 at the Bretton Woods conference, wherein the winners of World War II assured their continued world dominance. The World Bank essentially became a loan shark for poor countries, so that now, many of those countries are on the brink of economic collapse -- worse off, in fact, than before they started borrowing so much of our sweet, sweet American cash. Moreover, with global corporations becoming more involved in the process, antiglobalization advocates aver that our own governments are being conquered and occupied by businesses -- what antiglobalization poster girl Noreena Hertz calls "The Silent Takeover."

With poor nations only getting poorer despite the efforts of the World Bank and with the well-evidenced assumption that governments are more beholden to corporate interests with each passing year, the antiglobalization effort picked up steam. Many readers may remember the violent protests that kicked the WTO meeting out of Seattle. A year later, in April 2000, protesters arrived in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate against the IMF and World Bank, which held a weeklong meeting there. What followed is documented in Breaking the Bank, which has its Florida premiere at Cinema Paradiso on Monday.

The documentary is the result of work by independent outlets obviously indebted to the antiglobalization movement. A great deal of the film covers the strong-arm tactics of D.C.-area police. Obsessed with preventing another Seattle-type event, D.C. police went to work on protesters; the film documents multiple occurrences of street blockades, confrontational cops, and what can only be called police brutality. When not focusing narrowly on the heavy-handed actions of the Establishment, the film does a nice job of showing how the disappearance of American jobs is the result of global poverty. Not, as big-business proponents would argue, the other way around.

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Dan Sweeney
Contact: Dan Sweeney