January 21, 2007

WHEN TRUTH HAS MANY SHADES AND COLOURS...

After Saddam Hussein was hanged to death in a barbaric manner, preceded by a mockery of a trial remote controlled by Uncle Sam, arguably the biggest and most brutal bully in the history of the world, news channels like CNN showed sanitised footage of the former Iraqi dictator meeting his maker. If you believed the footage shown by global giants like CNN and Fox News, the hanging, in itself a deeply offensive and repulsive act, was done in as ‘dignified’ a manner as possible. Till a few years back, people like you and me had no choice but to rely on media outlets controlled by the neo-Imperial powers of the West to get information about events across the world. Remember the first Gulf War of 1990-91, when merciless pounding of Iraq by American bombs was shown on CNN almost like a Star Wars kind of movie or a fantasy?

Fortunately for the world, media behemoths like CNN, Fox News and even BBC, who behave more like propaganda instruments of the West, can no longer hoodwink people of the world so easily. Take the case of Saddam Hussein. Mobile phone cameras secretly captured the real barbarism of his hanging and what do people of the world get to see? Sectarian security guards heckling, taunting and abusing Saddam moments before the hanging and even worse, his head lolling at a grotesque angle, with bloodied gashes across his neck. Even the most die-hard neo-con would find it tough to defend this outrage and widespread revulsion compelled President George Bush to say that what happened should not have happened.

Yet, if news channels like Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya and Telecosur did not exist, people across Asia, Europe and Latin America would have never got the opportunity of the true face of American Imperialism at its worst. I am certain that CNN, Fox News and BBC would have continued to carry sanitised footage of the hanging, with bland words announcing some meaningless things. Thanks to alternative media outlets like Al-Jazeera, the propaganda tools of the Imperial West could not get away with the duplicity they have been practising for decades.

In a rapidly globalising world where giant media conglomerates seek to constantly suppress, twist, distort and even manufacture news from the third world, these alternative media outlets are performing a critical role in history. They are having a powerful impact on people across the world. In any case, genuine democracy means space for opposing and conflicting opinions and points of view. Without these channels, the world would get only one opinion and only one point of view – that of the neo-cons in Washington fantasising about dominating the world – no matter what the cost to human lives and dignity.

Once upon a time, there was some conscience left in media in Europe and America. The Vietnam conflict that spanned the 1960s and half of the 1970s was a shining example of a ‘free’, ‘fair’ and ‘fearless’ media from the First World exposing crimes committed by First World leaders. It was brave European and American journalists who exposed the atrocities committed by American troops in Vietnam. It was a series of truthful and horrifying accounts of the war in Vietnam that convinced the American public that their country was involved in something terribly wrong, immoral and even unwinnable.

I am sure the First World must still have brave journalists, photographers and cameramen who must be appalled at what is happening in Iraq. I am sure they must be eager to expose the atrocities being heaped upon innocent people in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan. But the problem is, where will they expose the atrocities? Surely not in Fox News? Since the 1970s, as compellingly documented and analysed by intellectuals like Noam Chomsky (who has written a brilliant book Manufacturing Consent that exposes the double standards of Big Media in the West), corporate interests have completely taken over the media, leaving no room for dissent.

Even as the entire world condemned the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, American media supported it blindly, sent ‘embedded’ reporters who dished out propaganda and generally behaved like a cheer parade. Even now, with almost 70% of Americans disapproving, Big Media still hesitates to call this disaster a disaster.

That’s where institutions like Al-Jazeera and Telecosur come into play. The American media and establishment may not like them; but I know that they will at least not parrot the propaganda dished out by the Big Media. And how the American establishment hates these new comers! During the invasion of Iraq, Al-Jazeera was the only channel showing footage and stories from its Baghdad office that was uncomfortable for America. Surprise, Surprise, a precision American bomb and missile destroyed the office of Al-Jazeera in Baghdad!

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