Sunday, July 02, 2006
The Role of Media in the Promotion of Global Apartheid
AFRICAN FOCUS By Tafataona P. Mahoso
Reprinted From the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail
IT has been our major preoccupation in this column to wonder whether journalists, activists and politicians engaged in the humanitarian crusade against Zimbabwe in the last 10 years actually read and understand their own messages, especially as these messages are exhibited and orchestrated through the global mass media.
Two issues of the magazine Index on Censorship (November-December 1994 and January 1996) attempted briefly to deal with this question.
In the January 1996 issue, Caroline Moorehead and Ursula Owen contributed an article "Time to think again: Why is an ever-growing group of articulate, dedicated people achieving so little (in the field of human rights and humanitarian intervention)?"
In the aftermath of the first Gulf War, the collapse of the Somali government and the genocide in Rwanda and the Balkans, the two women attended a big seminar for human rights organisations and experts in July 1995 at Oxford University and wrote: "No one any longer denies that human rights violations are occurring today at an overwhelming rate . . . nor does anyone deny that knowledge of these events has never been greater. No other generation has ever known so much, so quickly, so graphically. There have never been so many reports, on every violation and every country, so well written and so accessibly presented . . . Why then, as a group of human rights experts asked themselves at a seminar in Oxford in July, is all this knowledge having so very little effect?"
What the writers contributing to Index on Censorship, like some of our journalists, failed to appreciate is the fact that the idea of a small minority of specialists at a remote retreat in a racist country believing that they can find the answer to human rights violations and humanitarian suffering on the globe — that idea alone is part of the problem, part of the reason why humanitarian intervention exhibits itself as terror. That idea is the basis for apartheid and the imperialist dis-selection of the different "other" which produces a selective and racist conscience masquerading as universal humanity itself. For Zimbabwe, for instance, Oxford University in England is associated with Cecil John Rhodes and the terrorising and looting of Southern Africa. It cannot suddenly hold the answer to the protection of human dignity everywhere.
In the same issue of Index on Censorship, Stanley Cohen also wondered about the problem: "The human rights movement is one of the few survivors of the Enlightenment project. It not only upholds the ideal of universal values and standards (as opposed to the reality of global apartheid and selective conscience), but it also assumes that information about their (alleged) violation will (also) produce universal moral and emotional responses . . . It is just this faith that is contradicted by the daily practice of human rights work . . . (Human rights) information circulates in a closed circuit made up of other like-minded organisations, governments, United Nations and other inter-governmental agencies, lawyers and academics . . . Much human rights information remains in this loop, endlessly circulating in reports, self-referential official documents, fact-finding missions, commissions, inquiries, UN and legal texts."
As we have observed many times in this column and, as Professor Edward S. Herman demonstrated in The Real Terror Network, the problem is that the real owners and movers of the human rights industry are key players in the real terror network who are motivated to finance and orchestrate human rights crusades in order to cover up their own role in the global terror network.
By concluding that human rights work was failing only because the experts lacked media expertise, the Oxford seminar in July 1995 played into the hands of the real movers of the global apartheid network. The real terror network is sophisticated at manipulating the mass media and it welcomes those who believe universal human dignity can be protected through media noise precisely because the network is quite capable of buying and using the mass media as much as it is capable of organising, sponsoring or bribing the noisiest human rights agencies, making sure that Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka and Jan Egeland land in Harare, Zimbabwe, and never ever refer to Fallujah, Iraq, or dare to visit it.
Those in the "loop" of global apartheid, those compromised by "the real terror network" end up asking diversionary questions to mystify the debate or they have to despair. In their 1996 intervention, Moorehead and Owen wrote: "As the fiftieth anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights approaches, there is a sense of crisis in the human rights world, for, as with humanitarian aid, no one, any longer, knows where to go next."
They were not referring to the whole world when they said "no one". They were referring to the experts and journalists locked in the real terror network masquerading as a human rights industry; they were referring to the activists and journalists circulating within the loop of global apartheid re-baptised as the humanitarian community.
It hurts the individual specialists, activists and journalists to be told this truth and the only way to assure our readers that this is the truth is to do analysis of humanitarian reportage, that is to hear some representatives of the experts, activists and journalists confessing innocently.
Let us look at one example of an African country where the foreign agitation for "regime change" succeeded and the humanitarian community got its wish, unlike in Zimbabwe where the people have so far refused to be fooled.
Alex de Waal felt uncomfortable about the role which human rights and humanitarian NGOs came to play in Somalia after the collapse of President Siad Barre’s government in 1991. De Waal would have felt even more embarrassed if he had gone into the causes of the "regime change" before discussing the contradictions of so-called humanitarian intervention. Nevertheless, some of what he acknowledged is significant for our consideration of the role of humanitarian rhetoric in promoting or worsening terror and aggression. Global apartheid makes it difficult for the human rights activist or expert to put herself or himself in the place of the dis-selected "other". While criticising the humanitarian NGOs, De Wall still identified with them rather than with the Somali people.
After the much-prayed-for "regime change", the actual change differed from what anyone had imagined. So many of the foreign NGOs and agitators left the country, to escape the breakdown of law and order. De Waal observed: "A handful of international NGOs stayed . . . In the absence of a police force, they had to provide their own security. Without a ministry of health, they could formulate their own medical policies . . . Aid workers . . . had to take on the jobs of diplomats, security experts, news agencies, policy advisers, as well as administering their own programmes."
In other words, "regime change" in Somalia was exciting for the foreign NGOs who proceeded to invite their governments to occupy the country. But it was terror for the people of Somalia.
The media policy of Somalia also came to be controlled by NGOs. Still, we have not come to the fullest extent of the consequences of the regime change which these media and their "civil society" often demand. De Waal reveals that Somalia was the first time in the 21st century that NGOs "successfully called for Western military intervention".
He also admits that the humanitarian benefits of the massive external intervention in Somalia were questionable at best.
Philip Johnson of CARE (US) responded to Alex de Waal in the February 1995 issue of Index on Censorship; and his biggest concern was over De Waal’s description of the dependency of so-called humanitarian NGOs on Western military intervention (the real terror network) which, depending on the side one is on, can be characterised as a form of wholesale terrorist aggression.
In the January 1996 issue of the same Index on Censorship, Stanley Cohen questioned the kind of "knowledge" gathered, organised and deployed by so-called human rights organisations. He observed that it was not self-evident who the audiences of human rights communication were, what use they made of human rights information and what improvements in the real-world conditions of real people this information made.
The experts and NGOs rarely consult those at the receiving end of humanitarian propaganda.
For the last 10 years or more, Zimbabwe has experienced first hand the direct and indirect effects of this "humanitarian" information and reportage.
In order to put in context the examples of media terror used against Zimbabwe in the last 10 to 15 years, it is important to provide a global imperial context. On August 17 1984, Garry Wills, a writer who lectured at Johns Hopkins and North Western universities in the US, published an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer on the problem of self-fulfilling prophecies in history. The article was called "From missile gap to terror gap: Self-fulfilling prophecies".
The author said that US politicians, including the late president John F. Kennedy, were responsible for creating the myth of the missile gap, the fiction that the US had fallen so woefully behind the Soviet Union in the development of nuclear missiles that it needed to develop a crash programme to catch up quickly. "We frightened ourselves by casting a shadow — then the shadow came alive and chased US." A nuclear missiles production race between the USSR and the US was fuelled from a 1960 election campaign gimmick.
But for our purpose here, the critical points to remember are that the myths of the missile gap and terror gap were developed and popularised through the media. In order to develop both myths, it was necessary for the drivers of global apartheid to devalue the lives of "those people over there" while selecting themselves and their allies as the only ones who deserve human rights, human dignity and international protection against terror. That is the essence of global apartheid which explains Guatanamo, Abu Graib, and the illegal occupation and looting of Iraq at the height of the "human rights" crusade. In a world based on dis-selection and discrimination against the different "other" over there, humanitarian intervention quickly becomes terror against that "other" who must be devalued and dehumanised in order to justify apartheid and its terror policies.
In order to make the world believe that a real terror gap exists between the imperialist powers and the rest of the world, atrocities over there have to be concocted and pictures doctored in order to create the humanitarian crisis over there which helps to avert attention from Vietnam, Abu Graib, Fallujah, Guantanamo and other hell-holes.