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A tasting menu of the world

September 24, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, about the Media to be specific, and frankly, I think I was really naïve to have believed in even 50% of what’s printed on the newspaper. ‘Media in the Age of Globalization’ is the course that made me realize my innocence, in a good way though. The professor brought up an example to show us how manipulative the media can be in our first lecture, and I was shocked to the core.

Prepare yourself for a little bit of history here. It was the Iraq invasion of Kuwait back in 1990 (yeah I know it sounds ancient, I wasn’t even born!). There was a girl, Nayirah, from Kuwait, who testified before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and told the world a shocking story. It was a story of how the Iraqi soldiers broke into a Kuwaiti hospital that she was working in, picked up the infants from the wards and threw them on the ground, just for the sake of taking the medical equipments and transporting them back to Iraq for their own use.  It was reported by every news agency, TV channel, magazine, radio station – you name it.

The ruthlessness of the Iraqi soldiers shocked the whole world, the great peacekeeper aka the United States included. The Americans started to think ‘it’s time for them to take action to stop these horrible things’, and here comes the economic sanction imposed on Iraq by the UN, followed by military intervention. It starved and killed hundreds and thousands of innocent Iraqis, forcing Iraq to ceasefire.

Then you might think: okay, the war started, people died on both ends, ceasefire, the end. You are so wrong. So was I. It turns out that what Nayirah had said was a big fat lie. There were no brutal Iraqi soldiers and dead babies, not to mention taking away the medical equipments. She did that because she was the daughter of the Kuwait ambassador to the US. Politics. Again. Countless of people died in Iraq because of a lie, a lie that the media made  it looked like a truth by language and images.

Now you know why I said I was naïve in the first place. How can we not be when we see a 15-year-old girl, crying when telling a horrible story? That’s exactly what it was though, a story, instead of a truth of what actually happened.

‘We learn, so that we don’t somehow stumble into starving thousands of children to death.’ I’m learning.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. samanthac permalink
    September 26, 2010 12:52 am

    thanks for reading and commenting guys!

    What I really do think is that maybe we (or is it only me?) are the ones to blame because we don’t analyze what was written carefully before making decisions in believing what’s truly happening out there.

    I’m not denying that newspapers are struggling to survive, but that’s exactly another reason as to why they should dig deeper after Nayirah’s testification – the story got attention, the papers could sell more if they continued featuring it. But well…that was 20 years ago, and it’s just one of the many examples that my professor used.

    What you said about nothing’s stopping people from putting a story our there and have it spread around, and that we shouldn’t confuse a report with ‘the truth’ are exactly the point of the course I’m taking – we learn how to filter what’s fed to us every day through the media and be a ‘smart’ reader. And I really hope I can be that one day. 😀

  2. Yello permalink
    September 24, 2010 2:36 pm

    Wow, you picked on newspapers? I agree with TopDog and I’ll add to what they say…Newspapers? Seriously? Please, dear blogger, look to the very MEDIUM you use. There is your entity to “blame”.
    Newspapers are struggling to survive because people turn to the internet. The loss in readership means a loss in advertising and a loss in profits. Many many newspapers are closing down. Former bastions of truth and freedom are forced to fold because no one cares about ‘truth’ anymore. The thundering bulwarks of fact and honesty that were the presses of Fleet Street have been silenced. These days newspapers cannot afford to have a journalist investigate a story for a few weeks. They can’t afford to fly them out to the scene as it were. They can barely afford decent reporters in the first place.
    And the answer is staring you in the face.
    Big business finally silenced the voice of the people. They drove it online where it has become meaningless, where everything is expected for free so that professional journalists find it hard to get a regular pay check. Facts can be written and rewritten by anyone with a computer. There are no records anymore. Websites can be deleted, as journalists saw in the subsequent questions around the 9/11 attacks. Information can be changed and you can’t ever prove otherwise because there are no back copies sitting in the morgue for you to check. There is absolutely nothing to stop anyone putting a story out there and having it spread around.
    Newspapers used to make truth available to the common people. Unless people change their ways, they are going to die out, and then truth will be a commodity for whoever pays the most.

  3. Topdog permalink
    September 24, 2010 1:42 pm

    Great blog! I agree that lies can be spread through the media. But the media itself is not really to blame here. At face value, someone lied, and journalists who are not super humans, were taken in by the lie.
    I think what you’re getting at is that you would have liked the journalists to have all the facts before telling you Nayirah’s story. They should have taken the time to get other witnesses, to find some sort of evidence to back up her claims. Yet I bet that you are one of the first to surf the web for your news sources. You want them right now! You and billions of other consumers demand instant “news”.
    This means that any journalist who wants to keep their job, doesn’t wait for all the facts. They go with the story as they have it. And as far as them reporting the story of being Nayirah’s testimony it should have – and in most cases probably was – reported verbatim or with the caveats “she said” instead of stating it as fact.
    Never confuse a report of what someone says as being “the truth”.

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