In the howling wind, comes a stinging rain
See it driving nails
Into the souls on the tree of pain
U2 produced Bullet the Blue Sky in 1987 as part of it’s famous The Joshua Tree album and many applauded the song for Bono’s powerful vocals and the excellent use of instruments. However, few are aware that the song is more than just a piece of art, it’s a commentary on society. In fact, the song describes the civil war in El Salvador and the atrocities occurring in the country at the time.
The recent unrest in Sudan and the relative surge of activities in Venezuela got me thinking about the amount of attention different crisis get in mainstream media. Why is it that some crisis gets more media attention whereas others are not well reported? Everyone knows about the European refugee crisis, the rise of ISIS in Syria and the presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but the world surely doesn’t end there, does it?
If I were to ask you about Africa you would give me stereotypical answers such as poverty, hunger and war. So, that idea is firmly instilled in our head. And if I asked you about South America you would tell me about the beaches of Brazil, the football culture and the depletion of the Amazon rainforest. It is not wrong to hold these stereotypes, it’s fine because they are embedded in some logic and facts. But is that all there is to these regions?
What about Africa? What about the fact that Uganda was experiencing the largest refugee inflow due to the civil unrest in South Sudan at the same time migrants were fleeing ISIS held territory to Europe? And what about countries like El Salvador and Honduras suffering from extreme gang violence and poverty for almost thirty years due to forgotten civil wars? What about the diplomatic tensions between Qatar and the rest of the Middle Eastern countries?
It is indeed baffling why these countries have not gained the attention; they deserve considering the tragedies that have been occurring there for years now. It is not an accident that these regions are underreported, there are reasons for this. One, United States of America. Take the case of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, because the US intervened in these countries, the crisis was widely covered by American media and naturally, the rest of the world followed suit. Even recently, when Donald Trump did not recognize Nicolas Maduro’s rule as legitimate, Venezuela too has received its share of media attention. But since America has little to no interest in Africa or South America (yet) the media does not prioritize these regions as part of their stories. So, the US is an influential element in determining the amount of attention a country/region receives in international media.
Two, complexity of events. Although there are multiple variables in the wars in Syria and Afghanistan, there was a clear distinction made of the good guys (America) and the bad ones (non-state actors) in the media. Which is why these stories were easy to follow and widely reported on. It was a very generic storyline – soldiers fighting terrorists and nobody bothered to question it beyond that because we felt that it was being sufficiently reported on, but that is the exact flaw in reporting – not many explain the details of the cause, the different parties involved which leave consumers with a general idea. In Africa and South America or even Qatar for that matter, the complexity of events is higher which is evokes lethargy amongst the mainstream media to do extensive research and report about it. This is not to say it has not been reported on because news outlets like Reuters, New York Times, Al Jazeera always stand out in excellent reporting on issues far and wide on every possible subject.
So, underreporting and low quality of reporting remains a problem around the world and even though there are certain news outlets that do a great job at covering events/stories that everyone pays attention to, it is certainly not enough to cause a drastic change in the media’s attitude towards issues. But we must do our part too, to seek out new stories and educate ourselves about the happenings of the world and force the media to diversify its focus instead of isolating it in a single direction. So, as Michael Jackson said,
I’m gonna make a change,
For once I’m my life
It’s gonna feel real good,
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right
Written by: Aayush Mohanan