Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Egypt and the failure of the so-called fourth estate

One feature of the on-going epic failure and collapse of our so-called fourth estate, namely the news media, is its penchant for making itself the news even in the midst of something as monumental as the Egyptian uprising, which quickly brought Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule to an end. Of course, I am referring to nothing else except the lamentable assault on CBS News reporter Lara Logan at the hands of some male protesters. Let me be clear up-front, Logan was certainly the victim of a violent sexual assault. Sexual assaults are reprehensible, morally wrong, which is why such attacks are universally condemned and punished by civil laws, as they should be. Before cutting to the chase, it also bears noting that Logan was rescued by members of the Egyptian military, along with some concerned Egyptian women who were nearby. So, without blaming the victim in the slightest, I do not mind stating that I find it a media failure that this became the story in the final days of the uprising and continued to be the story for several days afterwards. Are we really to believe nothing else of this sort went on in the lawless atmospehere during the days of protest?

As he so often does, Peter Hitchens writes very lucidly about this matter. He begins by wondering about a couple of things concerning Logan’s assault, namely why it isn’t always made clear that she was sexually assaulted by protesters, as well as why the fact that her attackers shouted "Jew, Jew, Jew at her" was not much reported. As regards the Western news media’s narcissism, he concludes that certain, relevant details, like the Judophobic taunts of Logan’s assailants, can be left out because they do not fit the approved the narrative, which holds "that the removal of Egypt’s government is a good thing," unequivocally. In the square where the main protest took place, mob rule, "with all the horrible dangers involved," was in effect, but the news media, according to Hitchens, decided that "people power" sounded "so much nicer." The result of this no doubt "strategic" decision was that a "violent sexual assault on a Western woman, tinged with Judophobia, doesn’t fit this picture," especially one carried out by protesters.

As a long-time foreign correspondent, who continues to spend time in the Middle East, Hitchens also goes on to note what anyone who has spent time in this region knows, namely "that a disgraceful and shaming Judophobia is common in that part of the world, even among educated and otherwise civilised people." He is quite correct in noting that only "a very few reports of the Cairo revolt showed posters of the deposed President Mubarak defaced with crude Stars of David reminiscent of Nazi graffiti." "I suspect," he continues, "the men involved also regarded Ms. Logan’s perfectly normal Western dress as improper and sluttish," an honest view that also does not fit the narrative of the "'lovely, warm-hearted' crowd" of the pie-eyed Western media's 1960ish imagination.

I guess all the phenomenon of significant world events turning into stories by the media about the media is simply an indication that this is much easier than finding out and reporting on what is really happening and has the added advantage of appealing to our prurient interests. This is why I am a believer in what is now called the 5th estate- people on the ground, in the action, just tweeting and blogging away. Sure, they have no editors, but this only insures that they are not constrained by ideologically-driven official narrative, even if other motives drive them. Maybe writing from self-declared or obvious viewpoint is more honest than pretending to be objective.

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