31 October 2011

Media is spin but it need not be

One of the most inspiring slogans I’ve encountered is the tagline used by ‘Indymedia’, i.e. the Independent Media Centre, which was established by various independent and alternative media organizations and activists in 1999 for the purpose of providing grassroots coverage of protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle.  It was a simple proposition: ‘Be the media’.  The suggestion was that we don’t need to have things described for us; we can and should exercise our minds to obtain information, assess veracity and engage in dissemination ourselves. 
The internet helps, certainly, but one should not be complacent for the forces of infomanipulation, to coin a word, are not unaware of the potential of the internet to subvert their machinations.  Search engines are not innocent; those who wish to misinform deliberately craft websites to structure what might appear to be ‘random’ searches so that particular opinions get formed.  Thus one needs to search intelligently and consistently look for alternative renderings and analyses in order to obtain a better understanding of events, incidents, personalities and processes.  For the most part, however, the version of the mainstream media wins the day.    For the most part, we are not the media.  For the most part, media is spin. 
Take the coverage of the so-called Arab Spring for example.  The mainstream media went berserk, as it did when George W Bush illegally invaded Iraq.  The ‘enemy’ was clearly identified, suitably tagged (brutal, dictator, tyrant, despot, etc. were frequently used words), and the largely uninformed consumer of mis-truth were egged on to purchase uncritically the mainstream version of things.  Now consider the fact that the protests in Libya at the beginning of the ‘Libyan Spring’ were nothing compared to the magnitude of protests sweeping the Western world as I write with thousands upon thousands mimicking the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement in countless cities, and hundreds upon hundreds being beaten, arrested and tortured.  Consider also that NATO moved into Libya to enforce a No-Fly-Zone in order to protect civilians from alleged attacks by President Gaddafi’s Air Force whereas  the same media institutions that saluted this move is tongue-tied when it gets to demanding a similar security devise for Afghan and Pakistani civilians who are being regularly bombed by US Air Force drone attacks.  Spin is selective, clearly. 
Then we get the Australian network ABC, taking a leaf out of BBC and Channel 4, shamelessly showcasing the lies mouthed by ex-terrorists without bothering to check credentials or reliability of claim.  We also have someone called Paul Cleary, writing for ‘The Australian’ claiming that ‘Tamils are still enslaved in northern Sri Lanka’, citing a Tamil National Alliance MP (E. Saravanapavan).  Cleary could have done a background check on the MP and his party and their servility to the LTTE and consequent grief at the vanquishing of that terrorist organization.  He could have done a compare-and-contrast about how Sri Lanka handled the issue of displaced civilians vis-à-vis the conditions of IDP fallout from US-led attacks on Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, not to mention the rescuing of some 300,000 civilians held hostage by the LTTE, resettlement of more than 98% of them and the rehabilitation and reintegration of thousands of ex-terrorists.   
Cleary paints a bleak picture which would give the impression that there are hundreds of thousands languishing in refugee camps while those who are not are being totally neglected by the government.  Saravanapavan is mischievous enough to tell only a fraction of the story.   He claims that 800,000 Tamils are living as ‘slaves’.  The man clearly needs to check the dictionary meaning of the word ‘slave’ and ask himself if his party was not slave to the LTTE and was not in fact de-slaved by the Sri Lankan Government when the slave-master was liquidated.  Cleary could have gone back to the basics of writing a news story.  He didn’t.  He spun or let himself be instrument of spin.  Deplorable.
The Northern Province, contrary to Cleary’s claim was never ‘controlled by the Tamils’. The Tamils were controlled by a terrorist outfit and parts of that province was controlled at gun-point.  The impression created is that there was some kind of benign Tamil ruler operating in the Northern Province, for he claims that the area is ‘now run like a military dictatorship’.  Spin, clearly.
Cleary was interviewing a foreigner and has the out of saying ‘I was quoting him’.  ABC, on the other hand, knew what it was about.  Meens Krishnamoorthy, appropriately frilled for camera by ABC, was a member of a terrorist outfit and someone who underwent weapons training.  Her associates include international criminals who raised funds for terrorists, facilitated arms-procurement and acted as spokespersons for terrorists, the pin-up boy being a rogue who goes about dressed as a Catholic priest, ‘Father’ Emmanuel. 
Meena Krishnamoorthi, like many other Tamil Australian citizens who were or are members of either the Tamil Youth Organization and/or Australian Tamil Congress, were members of a non-Australian armed group. Therefore, over and above the fact that credibility of statement is severely compromised by the fact, they have violated the Australian Constitution, especially Crimes Act No 13 of 1978 which covers ‘Foreign Incursions and Recruitment’.  ABC and all other media institutions that purchased ABC Spin are guilty of aiding and abetting all those who have transgressed.   
Is ABC naïve, ignorant, incompetent and moronic? I think not.  ABC, like Channel 4 and BBC, like Al Jazeera and all the mainstream networks in the USA and Europe know very well what they are doing.  They are spinning as though their lives depend on it.  In fact their lives do depend on it, sadly. 
So, does spin always work, always win the day for the spinners and their masters and mistresses?  Not always.  The continent of Africa didn’t buy the spin on Muammar Gaddafi.  The entire world didn’t buy the spin on Iraq.  Not purchasing didn’t alter the course of history as blueprinted by the USA and her allies of course, but it seems that spin is losing its potency.  Slowly. 
What spin cannot purchase has to be obtained by fire-power.  This is what we are seeing all over the world.  On the other hand, when 99% of the people rise up against the 1% who keep them down, spin can’t do much and bullets can’t do all. 
The most formidable bulwark against spin and bullet, in the final instance, is the truth and collectives determined to weed out the lie.  It is good to be the media.  It is imperative that we be the media.  Everywhere.  Here in Sri Lanka too. 

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You can always be a syndicated columnist

fayaz said...

lovely article..

fayaz said...

some western powers are really smarting over the killing of the LTTE; it cant be over the garnering of electoral votes amongst tamils in these countries; its got to be much more than this and my guess is the possibility of oil or something more precious in the north and de stabilising india through the south..
Hail Mr Rajapakse; you did us proud and i don't personally care about what your opponents say about u n your brothers.. this land is yours and u r my king !