As a genocide it ranks with the century's biggest--the Armenians, the Jews, the Cambodians. But this spring, as Western officials marked the 50th anniversary of the Nazi Holocaust, no one--least of all the U.S. government--lifted a finger to stop the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans. And U.S. media coverage played along with the Clinton administration's policy of handwringing. Almost daily since the Rwandan genocide began on April 6, broadcast media have aired horrific accounts and the major papers have featured the story on their front pages. The media seldom wavered, however, from their habitual racist portrayal of African [...]
The Cold War Guerilla: Jonas Savimbi, the U.S. Media and the Angolan War By Elaine Windrich (Greenwood Press) Elaine Windrich dedicates her book to "the Angolan victims of the Reagan Doctrine," whose numbers continue to escalate as "freedom fighter" Jonas Savimbi ravages the country after refusing to abide by the results of a U.N.-organized election. Meanwhile the West looks the other way, after having armed him in the alleged interest of "bringing the Angolan government to the bargaining table." The Cold War Guerilla is about the selling of Savimbi to the U.S. public from 1976 through 1990, a joint effort [...]
White people kill black people--no big news. Black people threaten white people (or their property)--very big news indeed.
The assassination in April of African National Congress leader Chris Hani illustrated this truism yet again. While South African blacks reacted with rage and anguish to the killing of a popular and eloquent leader, U.S. media were more likely to respond: What will this mean for us white folks? For the murder of a major political figure—Hani was the top vote-getter on the ANC's executive council, and widely considered a possible successor to Nelson Mandela—coverage was remarkably fixated on the effect it would have on political negotiations between the ANC and the white government. "Death of Popular Figure Raises Fear [...]
The locale may have been on the other side of the world, but the media language was straight outta of South Central. From George Bush's warning about "armed gangs ripping off their own people" to media tales of a land of drug-crazed looters, we were urged to see the U.S. intervention in Somalia as a replay of the L.A. riots. Certainly, for all that the media repeated that this was a "humanitarian mission," there was a great deal of focus on the "enemy." Time magazine (12/14/92) headlined its report "Taking on the Thugs," with a two-page photo of armed Somalis [...]
Media on the Somalia intervention
The first question national media need to ask themselves about Somalia is: Where were we? In January 1991, six leading relief agencies warned that 20 million people in Africa faced starvation unless food aid was forthcoming--mainly in Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia. (See Hunger in Africa -- A Story Still Untold, Extra! September 1992) In the fall of 1991, U.N. officials estimated that 4.5 million Somalis faced grave food shortages. In all of 1991, Somalia got three minutes of attention on the three evening network news shows. From January to June 1992, Somalia got 11 minutes (Tyndall Report, cited in Inter [...]