Monday, 10 October 2011

Change the story

There was, I thought, an interesting comment from Mariéme Jamme from Senegal on "Start the Week" this morning about our view of Africa today. Speaking about our view of its being full of corruption and failure - whereas in reality there's a lot of good news from the continent - she partly blamed the BBC for giving "negative narratives" (fed by the NGOs). Shuyun Sun agreed in relation to the Western media's cover of China. There is, it seems, a narrative, a world view, which we are adopting, fed largely by an intellectual/political elite who dominate the news outlets. 

We need to be on the look-out for the way our perspective on current affairs and indeed life itself gets skewed by the mass entertainment/information machine. It should be a warning sign that entertainment and news are twinned at the hip. Really hard news, which disturbs our comfort, is not likely to have much of a look-in. The way the entertainment industry works is to soften us up with a series of warm-up acts until at last we'll no longer be shocked at the comedian's blue jokes or obscenity. In other words we have our normal perspective changed. It's the way, of course, that propaganda works - to pump out enough half-truths (the most diabolical sort of lie) until our grip on truth and reality is sufficiently loosened so that we believe the opposite to where we started. 

Mariéme Jamme describes herself as "a proud African woman". Her comments struck me in the context of the BBC's coverage of two events in her continent: one was the brutal suppression of a demonstration by Coptic Christians in Cairo, protesting about the partial demolition of one of their churches with no intervention from the police, with 25 or more fatalities and over 200 hospital admissions. Should one be bothered one can read the shocking facts. Meanwhile more extensive coverage was given to the Development Minister's announcement that Malawi was having its aid grant cut by £19 million because of persecution of homosexuals. Why, I wondered, did the government choose to cut aid to Malawi and not Egypt, or Pakistan, or China? Was the announcement simply a calculated step in establishing the coalition's liberal credentials?

I came across this trenchant post on Archbishop Cranmer's blog: Cairo: 23 homosexuals slaughtered by Egyptian Army, in which he simply points out the inconsistency of using our standards of behaviour for judging recipients of compassion.

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