Unabated Banality of Western Media

Yemeni children closing their ears to the sounds of bombardment by US-Saudi led coalition

By Khan Khawar Achakzai  

"This isn't Iraq or Afghanistan...This is a relatively civilised, relatively European city" - CBS foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata

This time, war is wrong because the people look like us and have Instagram and Netflix accounts.It's not in a poor, remote country any more” - Daniel Hannan, The Telegraph

"It's an important question. We’re not talking here about Syrians fleeing...We're talking about Europeans."- BFM TV France

RECENTLY, the Ukraine crisis was played on a loop on leading Western news channels while ghastlier predicaments in other parts of the world were read out as passing comments, alluding to a moral relativism and an odious indifference to ‘some’ lives by the Western media. What needs to be understood is that this indifference and relativism were not perchance, but form a constant theme of reportage in the West, across all sorts of Journalistic and reporting ideologies.

Representations are underpinned with ideologies and are complicit with power and control. In the Foucaldian sense, those who “represent are the ones who own the gaze”, and use the power to define and produce those who are represented, like Foucault suggested that “subject is produced by discourse”. The language-power exchange can be found in his ‘Incitement to discourse’ pointing out to the premises of “subjugation at the level of language”. Ski Hung Ng explains how language “maintains and reproduces existing dominance”.

Therefore, words control!

When the Russian forces entered Ukrainian borders, the very same day there was an Israeli airstrike in the town of Quneitra, which lies near the armistice line on the Golan Heights, numerous airstrikes by Saudi in Yemen and US airstrikes in Somalia. All of them together could hardly manage a few minutes on-air on most of the news channels and an equally indisposed response by the perfunctionaries and champions of human rights all over the Western world.

The insouciance and detachment in reporting which Western media has now gone on air to pronounce openly as “less civilised world” points towards what the media had been subtly suggesting over years in order to successfully reinforce racial hegemony of West over East by constructing an entirely different visibility for them.  The French theorist Jacques Rancière believed that an image does not just represent itself in isolation but rather, “belongs to a system of visibility that governs the status of the bodies represented and the kind of attention they merit. The issue is knowing the kind of attention prompted by some particular system.”

The angst and disappointment was conveyed by holding Russia responsible for inflicting upon the white races something which was a natural retribution meant only for the “inferior” people of Syria, Afghanistan and Libya. What was meant for the “non-civil” had come to pass the “Civil”. The reporting was rife with comments that reeked White-Supremacy, racism and Islamophobia.

But it is not just the syntax that is racist, it is the innards of the western media that have thrived for years on blatant racial prejudice. Newsrooms have been trite with demonised cultural representation of Muslims, Africans and Latin Americans by employing a vocabulary of distortion and pseudo-rhetoric; of gendered portrayals and racial stereotyping in order to satisfy a self-righteous idea of some vacuous “civility”.  News anchors have successfully manipulated the Western psyche into believing that those with a darker skin tone or a flatter nose or a certain attire are of a lesser humanity and have justified the need of flying F-16s over their heads so as to scare the savages into realising the authority of the civilised lighter skinned blue eyed blonde haired race “who look like us, eat like us, use Instagram and Netflix and we would love to have as our neighbours”.

The images of Syrian or Palestinian children with blood oozing out of their ears or eyes popping out might disturb the aesthetic sensitivities of Western intellectuals but their moral and humanistic sensitivities remain largely unfazed.

The racism and hatred is strident and unapologetic when discussing Muslims. The Western media has been triumphant in “defining” as Islam (in Foucaldion sense) what E. Said believed to “belong to the discourse of Orientalism, a construction fabricated to whip up feelings of hostility and antipathy against a part of the world that happens to be of strategic importance for its oil, its threatening adjacency to Christian world, and its formidable history of competitiveness with the West”.

They have served both as propagandists and expositors of the Western aggression, justifying its every action, from grand thefts of natural resources to gruesome bombings of civilians, by spelling out the non-white as a threat to their self-conceived, opaque and morally banal idea of a reductive civility, over and over again.

Thousands of years ago in Greece, anyone who did not speak Greek was automatically relegated as a barbarian, an uncouth “Other” that was to be fought. The otherisation was carried out in theory by historians like Herodotus by constructing a nefarious image of the Scythians and the Persians, often by fanciful imagery. The otherisation paved way to what are known as the Scythian campaigns of Darius which caused widespread damage to Scythians and their allies.

Similar fanciful imagery by the dilettante of the Military-industrial-media complex, have come up with a deliberate disregard for both history and current actualities of their “subjects”. The shallowness to the fact that effulgent civilisations date back to a remote history for these races and regions when compared to West. After all, weren’t the Saxons and Vikings still raiding and killing savagely across Europe, drowned in the illiteracy and barbarism of the ‘Dark Ages’ when Muhammad Ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi had already finished half of his theorems on algebra and the city of Córdoba had more than 600 libraries? What about the earliest Chinese, Mesopotamian and Indian civilisation, the mysteries of which continue to awe the finest of White races till date.

But in the words of Cesaire, “their false objectivity, their chauvinism, their sly racism, their depraved passion for refusing to acknowledge any merit in the non-white races, their obsession of all glory for their own race”, in order to justify a sacred and congenital right to Renan’s “regeneration of the inferior or degenerate races by the superior races”, which he considered part of the “providential order of things for humanity”.

The disregard is laced with considerations of power, what Edward Said calls, “a conceptual framework around the notion of us-versus them, in effect to pretend that the principal consideration is epistemological and natural- our civilisation is known and accepted, theirs is different and strange— whereas in fact the framework separating us from them is belligerent, constructed and situational”.

Aime Cesaire in his poetics of anti-colonialism holds not only the sadistic governors and “colonialists who flog” responsible for plundering but also also the “venomous journalists, goitrous academics” who are in the essence of reality the tools of torture openly or secretly supportive of the hateful slave trade.

These venomous journalists have created grounds for Western Imperialism by acting as its advocates and cheerleaders . They have proclaimed impunity over themselves and the blood thirsty expansionist enterprises by either legitimising representational inequality or by propaganda.

“A civilisation that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization.” — Aime Cesaire


Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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