The "Battle of Seattle," a large civil protest that led to sporadic rioting in 1999, is commonly portrayed as influential in the sociology of Western activism, and in the contemporary history of social movements and the left in the First World. The "Battle of Seattle" was a "Summit protest" a protest aimed at the intergovernmental and intercorporate summit meetings that occasionally occur, usually in a "world city," such as Seattle, Milan, Melbourne, etc.

Why has this event achieved influence in the scholarly literature?

The "Battle of Seattle" is sometimes considered influential as it allowed diversely structured, motivated and politically motivated groups to construct a weak shared collective identity. In contrast to the "Parties" of the past, the event seems to have been organised by a protest "network," with a far looser collective identity of programme and organisation than previous left parties or movements. It is often suggested that "the internet" allowed organisations and participants in the protest to form a collective identity. How did the internet assist in forming "collective subjectivity" for the Seattle protest?

In addition:

  • As 1989 is commonly portrayed in the history of the left as the moment when the possibility of a collective left program for widespread and radical social change, organised through bolshevik influenced communist parties, collapsed. Has the role of "The Battle of Seattle" and subsequent "Summit Protests" been overstated in terms of the coherence of a post-1989 shared revolutionary political identity?

  • Did the political violence of September 11, 2001 destroy the political sentiment that developed around the "Summit Protests" in the first world?

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    Is it influential? I had never even heard of it until this question. – Joe Mar 21 '13 at 3:37
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    Welcome to History - Stack Exchange. Can you please add some details to your question, or at least leink it, so the people who are not familiar with the subject have easy access to description? Also can you link or quote the source for claiming that this event was influential. – Darek Wędrychowski Mar 21 '13 at 4:25
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    I'm trying to understand what "allowing protesters facilitating weak identity ties through the internet" means, but my English is not good enough. – Darek Wędrychowski Mar 21 '13 at 4:33
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    (Note to self: follow-up question on "battles that rhyme" :) – Drux Mar 21 '13 at 7:54
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    @DarekWÄ™drychowski - It means someone was writing their sociology thesis, and "using social media" didn't sound jargony enough. – T.E.D. Mar 21 '13 at 12:08

You are referring to the 1999 Seattle WTO Ministerial Conference Protests.

It is historically notable for breaking ground in two respects:

1) The way it was organized by the Direct Action Network (pdf) - their organization techniques allowed very different political allies to effectively communicate and collaborate with each other. This was more in-person rather than on-line, but it innovated processes and strategies (such as total consensus) that are still being effectively used today.

2) The way it was reported by the Independent Media Center, aka Indymedia. Indymedia relied on firsthand accounts, photos and videos by the participants, and provided a way to publish them directly on the internet in near real-time. This method of reporting on protests and other fast-moving political events (such as the Arab Spring) is now widespread, and use vehicles such as Youtube and Twitter - and this all began in Seattle in 1999.

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