Saturday, January 23, 2010

Haiti coverage is not the media's finest hour

"And in disaster after disaster, at least since the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, those in power, those with guns and the force of law behind them, are too often more concerned for property than human life. In an emergency, people can, and do, die from those priorities. Or they get gunned down for minor thefts or imagined thefts. The media not only endorses such outcomes, but regularly, repeatedly, helps prepare the way for, and then eggs on, such a reaction."

The above is a quote from "Covering Haiti: When the Media Is the Disaster," by Rebecca Solnit, which appeared in CommonDreams on Friday. Recommended vis-à-vis NPR & mainstream media reporting on Haiti. It's a lengthy article covering their obsession about "looters," "panic," and "security" since the earthquake on January 12th. The article begins,
Soon after almost every disaster the crimes begin: ruthless, selfish, indifferent to human suffering, and generating far more suffering. The perpetrators go unpunished and live to commit further crimes against humanity. They care less for human life than for property. They act without regard for consequences.

I'm talking, of course, about those members of the mass media whose misrepresentation of what goes on in disaster often abets and justifies a second wave of disaster. I'm talking about the treatment of sufferers as criminals, both on the ground and in the news, and the endorsement of a shift of resources from rescue to property patrol. They still have blood on their hands from Hurricane Katrina, and they are staining themselves anew in Haiti.
I encourage you to read all of it.

The article is also featured on TomDispatch. Additionally, I recommend you read the spot-on critique at Lenin's Tomb, which rips apart the media, too.

1 comment:

  1. Solnit wrote what sounds like a kick ass book that is sort of the reverse 'Shock Doctrine'. I have heard her interviewed a bunch of times about it. But basically, she shows that in times of disaster, people come together with love and solidarity and justice and transcend the crippling norms their societies force on them in everyday life. And she argues that these times show a glimpse of the other world that so many of us believe is possible. See:


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