Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Libya and the Media = Fail

Gaddafi on Al Jazeera, a reality check we aren’t getting from any other media here in Australia:

I sent off a letter to The Australian yesterday. it didn’t appear long with the others on Libya today:
I’ve been watching the increasingly horrifying situation in Linya unfold over the last few days via twitter, the Al Jazeera web site and whatever informal sources I could find. The reporting of this revolution has been appalling in the mainstream media, including your own report, “Muammar Gaddafi’s rule teeters on brink” (22/2), which reports it as a side story in the context of the other Middle East uprisings. This one is of a whole different character. A crazy government has declared war on its own people who, largely unarmed, are taking on tanks, heavy weapons, fighter aircraft, bombs and mercenary snipers. The real story of Libya is the incredible bravery of the Libyan people, acting with almost no outside support against a regime that values its own survival over all else. The other big story about Libya is how world leaders have stood by making mealy-mouthed statements about the need for peaceful dialogue while a bloodthirsty megalomaniac is letting all hell loose. As I write, at least 9 Libyan ambassadors have defected, indicating how isolated Gadaffi is from his own people. While much of the information out of Libya is unverified, you could report it as such. All you have to do is watch twitter and Al Jazeera, and summarise the general picture. Largely ignoring what is happening should not be an option.

As a computer science academic I am proud of the way technology my field developed has made it possible for the Libyan story to be heard, and for the protesters to organise against overwhelming force. Are you proud of the way you have allowed this story to unfold while largely ignoring the detail?

I’m not holding my breath for the follow-up I sent today to appear:
Muammar Gaddafi has the remarkable distinction of uniting old-time lefties and short-sighted western powers into mealy-mouthed platitudes about a situation that demands instant action. This revolution is all the more remarkable for the way an initially unarmed civilian population has fought back against extreme violence. But what is really remarkable is how the story is getting out despite the abject inattention of mainstream media. How many of your readers, I wonder, know what the February 17 movement is? How many know that people in Libya have resourcefully found ways of getting their story out, including gruesome pictures of bodies blown apart by artillery, amateur video footage and eyewitness reports, despite the best efforts of a police state to lock everything down tight?

Rupert Murdoch is attempting to storm into the Internet age by selling an iPad newspaper. How pathetic. This is one of the biggest stories of our time and you are reporting it as if nothing is happening unless you can get a reporter there.
 Here are some places where you can find out what’s really happening:
Many people are still arguing this on the old cold war divides. The instant Gaddafi ordered soldiers (and worse, foreign mercenaries) to start shooting at his people with heavy-calibre weapons, he put himself beyond the norms of reactions to crises. That some of what has happened is not being widely reported in the media doesn't reduce the horror of it. Al Jazeera is doing a good job of reporting with limited sources, and you can find out a lot of you know where to look on twitter (try #feb17 and #Libya as well as the links above).

In short people in Libya and the rest of the Arab world are not in revolt over imperialism, capitalism Islamism or any other ideology. They are just sick of others telling them what they should think and how to live their lives. Many of them are so sure of their cause that they are taking on tanks and artillery with their bare hands. And -- remarkable, winning. no thanks to mad mullahs, no thanks to the west, no thanks to leftist anti-imperialists.

There is a big lesson in this and we should stop prattling on with the old rhetoric and platitudes, and absorb the lessons.

For those who rely on the mainstream media, this is what is really happening:


Sou said...

Al Jazeera is the source of choice for many issues, but they are having a very hard time getting info from Libya like everyone else. But at least they are working on it. Twitter is good, but of course not all that reliable. It's hard to tell what's real and what's not, but you can get something of the gist of what is happening.

So much is going on in the world at the moment.

Philip Machanick said...

Absent reliable sources, the media can report using unreliable sources and qualify their story. The general trend of the twitter stories has been reasonably accurate even if details may sometimes be wrong.