Africa · Uncategorized

Dangers of trivialized war reporting

Not that long ago, the US was engaged in a staredown with Russia over launching an attack Syria to punish it for allegedly using chemical weapons to kill civilians. Russia refused to back down and made some strong counterpoints to the US’ supposedly solid evidence. I don’t want to be callous but I’d strongly advise against accepting the Western “evidence” about the chemical attacks and to be skeptical of the reporting done on that attack and on the conflict so far, which in my view has been skewed towards the anti-regime rebels.

This LRB article takes a wider look and gives a sound criticism of war reporting especially in the last few major conflicts. What’s especially pertinent and harmful is the simplification of these conflicts by media, often describing conflicts as between oppressive evil regimes/dictators and heroic opposition rebels. What’s also relevant is how Western powers (US, Britain, France etc) have been involved in these conflicts and taken advantage of faulty media reporting to influence public perceptions. In addition, the opposition in Libya or Egypt (anti-Mubarak protesters) has often been rather media-savvy, taking advantage of social media like Youtube videos and Twitter to press their cause, which often generates sympathetic coverage and propagation from Western media -sometimes along the lines of “these people use Twitter, they’re just like us, they’re the good guys blah blah.” Hence when the general public, for instance you and me, reads and views these reports, it’s easy to be taken in and believe the general simplified narrative of the conflicts.

Instead of just criticisms, the writer gives actual examples. The “victories” over the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 and over Iraq in 2003 by the US were not real military wins, which would explain why so much fighting and instability occurred, even to the present day. Much more recently, Libya presents a good example of a conflict becoming the hot topic for a period of time, before being bypassed for the next conflict or controversy or whatever passes as the story of the day. The country was easily rid of Muammar Gaddafi, but since then it’s descended into chaos and violence. Even the killing of the US ambassador last September hasn’t been solved as yet. Coming back to the current conflict hotspot –
What’s been happening in Syria for the past two years is terrible, but the US has been right to not intervene. Let’s hope it stays that way.

“Conviction that a toxic government is the root of all evil is the public position of most oppositions, but it’s damaging to trust one’s own propaganda. The Iraqi opposition genuinely believed that Iraq’s sectarian and ethnic problems stemmed from Saddam and that once he was gone all would be well. The opposition in Libya and Syria believed that the regimes of Gaddafi and Assad were so demonstrably bad that it was counter-revolutionary to question whether what came after them would be much better. Foreign reporters have by and large shared these opinions.” 

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