Not all media houses are up to doing good

Editor, RE: “Deconstructing a bogus news article” (The New Times, November 8).


RE:Deconstructing a bogus news article” (The New Times, November 8).

That’s very far from what ordinary readers, listeners or watchers of news (especially in many African countries, including Rwanda) do, or are able to do. They assume that what they see on or are told by the likes of BBC, CNN, VOA, France24, RFI, Reuters, AFP…must be the gospel truth.

They have little understanding of the way these organisations are either directly owned by the governments of their countries, or even when they are nominally independent remain at the service of their states as instruments of soft power (and always to push their countries’ perspective of global events and reality).

And just because something is reported in different outlets means nothing, they all use material generated by each other or their agencies (Reuters or AFP), often incorporating them in different parts of their own reports, in such a way as to give the impression it is their own original material and thus giving the unwary listener, reader or watcher (the overwhelming majority of people) the impression of a wide range of concordant voices, when in fact the range of sources is extremely narrow but the repetition in different and ostensibly separate media outlets has created an ‘echo-chamber’ effect.

We have seen this effect in many recent media storms when the Western powers have wanted to create the groundswell or at least the impression of a groundswell for ‘humanitarian’ bombing or other intervention in the designated victim state of the moment.

The groundswell of public opinion is entirely in the media working closely with the state.

The majority of citizens may in fact be against the proposed action, but their voice will not be allowed to be heard in full or allowed to deter Western leaders’ determination to intervene in what they consider national security under the guise of humanitarianism (often nothing more than the commercial interests of a few powerful corporations or even individuals).

And if, as in the case of Burundi or Rwanda in 1994, there are few such interests, benign neglect (Henry Kissinger’s advice to President Ford in the 1970s) will usually be the policy even in the face of what they know is impending catastrophe.

There won’t be a groundswell of popular (i.e. media) pressure, because the media works in lockstep with the elite and the elite see no advantage in intervention. Only a few desultory statements will be issued here and there to provide cover for plausible deniability tomorrow when disaster has happened.

And only countries like France will act—usually on the side of the wrong people—because its ability to punch above its actual weight in geopolitical councils requires its influence with the large numbers of African satraps must never be eroded by assumption of power in those quasi-colonies by elements it does not or cannot control.

Finally, I detest the term ‘news consumer’. People are either readers, or listeners or watchers—and collectively they are audiences or readership. Those who turn us into consumers rather than people want us also to become markets rather than communities or society.

I don’t consume news—I read a newspaper, watch TV or listen to a radio.

Mwene Kalinda


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