Me, Myself and I-dentity

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Where’s the Context???

Lately I’ve been wondering about the mainstream media’s overwhelming lack of analysis in regard to current events. Sometimes it just baffles me. Mostly this is manifested in reporting a story in very simple terms, free of critical thinking, and without any attention to relevant historical/political contexts. The troubling part is there are people who rely solely on CBS nightly news for an analysis of the world around them and do not view any alternative media.

Representations in the media have a huge impact on the way we perceive the world around us. Haiti is just another example of this, especially with the recent elections, in which major fraud has been alleged.  While every news article mentions the fraud, there is rarely any analysis of the political situation beyond that. The country, as a whole, has been given several buzzwords that never fail to show up: failed state, corruption, disaster, dictatorship, etc.  While some of these may be a reality,  it seems the reporting becomes embedded in these terms without any investigation of the complexities of Haiti. It almost legitimizes these characteristics, we accept them because ‘it it what it is.’ Dismissing an entire country as doomed is the easy way out. Haiti is not simply a remote island which has existed for hundreds of years entirely isolated from the outside world! I wonder what effect it has when inherent in all international reporting concerning a country, is the idea that there is no hope, that no opportunity for progress or justice exists. Sadly, this type of coverage happens with many countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. I am not suggesting we ignore  or overlook the sad realities of certain areas, but we cannot simply state that corruption or violence is occurring… and not bother asking why.

Shouldn’t journalists have an obligation to, as accurately as possible, report on a story? To at least do some backup research? The truth is, the people we assume are witnessing the ‘action’ firsthand may not be much more aware of the situation than we are- staying at a luxury hotel, unable to speak the local language, isolated from the local population, struggling to meet a deadline…. This is often a major issue with war reporting or disaster reporting.

Not all ‘media’ is like this-of course there is the random blog or journalist who really strives to give matters a fair and comprehensive view. But the truth is, most Americans rely on mainstream media outlets to find out what’s going on and form opinions. These opinions can be extremely dangerous, when they are based on misinformation.  It’s almost as if they’ve failed us. Often times, they don’t ask the right questions. And that’s where organizations such as Wikileaks pick up, truly revolutionizing the way we view ‘information.’ I don’t doubt Julian Assange is a strange guy with probably some questionable motives in mind, but clearly he is considered a massive threat-some even going so far as to call WikiLeaks a terrorist organization and anti-American.  No one can argue that they are putting issues like government accountability and transparency in the forefront, something that most journalists either don’t do, or have the power to do. This has created an almost antagonistic relationship between WikiLeaks and the media. Someday we will know the lasting effects of organizations like Wikileaks on our outlook, but for now we can at least access some of the information that usually journalists don’t bother asking about, or questioning…

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Wow!!!! They Had Elections in Haiti?! Where was I?

Haiti held its first elections since the January 2010 earthquake this past Sunday. The elections were marred by accusations of fraud by many candidates and voters. Many votes were not counted or were destroyed, and as a result, many Haitian voters took to the street in protest. Thus, a time meant to be a representation of democracy, and overcoming obstacles, became simply one more blow to Haiti. Or so I’ve read…

Now I don’t know about others out there in cyber land but I didn’t hear much of anything in the mainstream media about these elections.The last time Haitian elections were a big deal in the U.S. was a few months ago when Wyclef Jean announced he was going to run for office.

He was everywhere.  Every news station talked about him. All the papers ran stories about him, as the former member of the Fugees declared his candidacy. However, he was disqualified from the elections on the grounds that he had not lived in Haiti for five consecutive years. And again, reports on Haiti went from constant to almost non-existent. The issue that has remained in the news is talk of the recent cholera outbreak.

Even when the New York Times or the Washington Post talks about the elections, they find a way to connect cholera to politics. I have found the Haitian news networks don’t appear to do that, they address the issue of cholera, but for them it doesn’t appear to have any bearing on the elections. It seems to me as if though the constant state of fear Americans live in even seeps into our media coverage of other countries.

Every paper also seems to stress the idea of the ‘poor’ Haitians, that things just keep getting worse for them, as if Haiti is the only place in the world where politicians steal elections, I wonder if I can think of another country divided over questionable election results….hmmmmm…

I would like to welcome Haiti to democracy. Democratic governments are filled with questionable votes, shady politicians, and massive controversy. So if you really think about it, Haiti is right on track to becoming just as confused as the rest of the free world.

The articles in the mainstream media are mostly written by reporters with no ties to the Haitian community. The outcomes of the elections have no impact on their lives. We see dramatic stories about reporters going into Haiti, and asking Haitians what they think about the elections, and their hopes for the future. They ask everyone the same questions, maybe what they should be doing is asking election officials how are they going to ensure this doesn’t happen again. They should also question Haitian political activists and find out if they plan on addressing the current election issues.

When you turn your attention to Haitian news websites such as,Haiti Libre, we see a simple approach to telling the story of the elections. On their site you can follow the elections in detail, or read stories that are short and to the point, describing specific incidents of violence at the polls. There is no B.S. It’s simple and straight to the point: this is what is happening in the elections, and and something must be done.

I don’t think all the pomp and circumstance is necessary in ever news story. Our media is built on attention-grabbing headlines, not insightful reporting. It leads me to wonder: if the elections had gone smoothly, would we have heard anything about them at all?


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Cloudy With a Chance of Doomsday…..

Check out this really interesting interview with philosopher/cultural critic Slavoj Zizek, who has been referred to as the “most dangerous philosopher in the West.” His prognosis for the future isn’t exactly a positive one though he does state:

“There is light but the only way to the light is through courageously confronting darkness”

Are we living in the end times? – RIZ KHAN – Al Jazeera English.

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Is that a pixelated blob in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?

There’s been a vast amount of controversy going on around the full body scanners that have been placed in airports around the US. People argue that it’s much cheaper (and more effective, if you see the images that these machines produce) to train bomb sniffing dogs and have them roaming the airport. Or maybe even bring your own dog to the airport and have him sniff out who you’ll be sitting near on the plane, hey at least it won’t cause cancer!

The public has been told over and over that these images are deleted out of its system right away, and that they aren’t saved and will never surface. Ooops.  I guess that’s the type of situation that constitutes people to turn around and say “never say never” followed by “does that pixilation make my ass look big?”.

100 images were controversially placed on the tech blog Gizmodo out of the 3,500 reported to have been saved onto the Gen 2 millimeter wave scanner.

What’s the public’s reaction to this? Well one comment was the title used for this article, and the others are outcries that this is what happens when a Democrat is in office as well as those who don’t care, but wish that the pictures released would have been from a team of swim suit models instead of what appears to be, mostly men in suits who aren’t in the prime condition of their lives.

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Can you handle it?

In an effort to drive away ‘fundamentalist’ potential immigrants to Denmark, the Danish People’s Party has called to show breasts and women on the beach in an introductory required film for applicants. There is no mention of religion in that particular article or many, though let’s be honest: It’s obviously about Muslims and the tightening immigration policy towards those that come from Muslim countries. They have assumed that by showing these ‘edgy’ images of life in Denmark, it will deter that demographic from desiring a life in Denmark. The Netherlands took similar measures a few years ago.

Instead of  dismissing this situation as ludicrous (which it is,) it deserves a closer examination. It’s interesting to see what exactly these policy-makers have deemed offensive to a “Muslim Fundamentalist” concerning life in the so-called free world-two men kissing in a meadow, women in bikini’s on the beach, bare breasts, etc.

Immigrants move to Western Europe for a multitude of reasons-some of them very serious. I doubt a liberal response to homosexuality is a major playing factor. The otherwise mandatory Dutch film is not shown to immigration applicants from Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan or highly-skilled workers within a high income bracket.. Whether these films may be effective or not (I vote no), this is a prime example of a state instituting policies to curtail immigration to what they consider culturally and economically ‘desirable’ immigrants.

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Where will they strike next?!?!

It sounds like a tagline from a 70’s B movie, but after 9/11 it was the foremost question on many peoples minds, explained Tony Karon, an editor at Time magazine and blogger on Rootless Cosmopolitan.

The horrific images of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C on September 11 were permanently seared into the minds of millions by the relentless 24 hour news cycle, but the images themselves were not unlike what we see in any of today’s big budget action movies.

The constant barrage of Michael Bay-esque explosions and screen time for Osma bin Laden videos have encouraged public support for military actions in the Middle East, at times when perhaps such actions were not entirely justified.  Shortly after 9/11, only six percent of the country felt going to war with Afghanistan was a mistake; in August 2010, CNN found that 58% were now opposed to the war.  In April 2003, after claims by President George W. Bush that Iraq had WMD’s, support for US invasion was at 74%; by August that number had fallen to 41%.

So where will the next media report take us in region?

As stories of Iran’s nuclear program proliferate the nightly news, calls for invasion of the country are also growing.  Some journalists, such as Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic, point to the threat to Israel that “a nuclearized Iran represents.”  With Goldberg throwing around claims that, “a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people,” it’s no wonder this alarmist view is gaining traction.  It should be the media who dispels these types of claims, rather than disseminating them. Karon wrote in his piece, “Two Minutes to Midnight?” that:

America’s march to a disastrous war in Iraq began in the media, where an unprovoked US invasion of an Arab country was introduced as a legitimate policy option, then debated as a prudent and necessary one. Now, a similarly flawed media conversation on Iran is gaining momentum. … Perhaps someone in our media hothouse could take just a moment to ask why, outside of the United States and Israel, there is no support—nada, zero, zip—for military action against Iran.

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Support the Indie Screen scene: Watch “Lucky”

A few days ago I attended a test screening of “Lucky”, a film shot entirely in South Africa and in Zulu Hindi and English. The movie centers on a little boy who loses his mother to AIDS and runs off to Durban to attend school. In the midst of his struggles in the city, he meets an elderly Indian woman. As they begin to see the humanity in each other, we are quietly reminded of the long and painful history of racism, segregation and distrust that has shaped them. For more information check out:

http://www.brooklynfilmfestival.org/films/detail.asp?fid=672

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“Let me be clear, Obama is not a Muslim.”

But almost one quarter of Americans think he is, according to a Time poll taken in August. Personally, I’ve heard the President refer on multiple occasions to his Christian faith, so what gives?

As part of my midterm project for Media and the Middle East (taught by upcoming guest lecturer Tony Karon), I’ve made a short newsreel looking at how the media influences American attitudes toward Obama’s faith and the religion of Islam.

Note: In reference to past posts and class discussions on the power of social media, after posting an early version of this video on Youtube titled, “Media influences on Islamophobia” and sharing the link on Facebook and via email with friends, in 24 hours the video received only a few more hits than the final version titled “Let me be clear, Obama is not a Muslim” did in just over 2 hours. The power of words is indeed alive and well on the internet.

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Do you know who Omar Al-Bashir is?

Axis of Reason took on a fun project this week. We’ve been discussing the role of celebrity ‘humanitarianism in Africa.’ Most specifically, we were wondering whether most students would recognize celebrities affiliated with the Darfur, as opposed to Omar Al Bashir, current president of Sudan and also indicted on charges of war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

What do you think???

 

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