Wednesday, November 5, 2008

From Bush to Obama – The Killing will Continue

Dear students,

At the risk of being branded cynical, I have chosen the above headline to celebrate the victory of Barack Obama, modifying it from the headline of an alert, “From Blair to Brown – The Killing will Continue”, dated 23 July 2007, published by one of my favourite websites “Media Lens”.

We know the importance of the first para in any story (the intro, or the lead, or the lede); how it ought to hook you and make you want to read on. Here is the first para of the above piece, published by Media Lens when Gordon Brown took over in 2007 from Tony Blair, who had become the British prime minister in 1997.

“The first truth of American foreign policy is that it is formulated to maximise corporate profits and state power. The second truth is that it is perennially sold to the public as a mission to spread freedom, democracy and human rights. The third truth is that the first two truths apply regardless of whether the Republicans or Democrats hold power.” (Taken from “From Blair to Brown – The Killing will Continue”, Media Lens Alert, 23 July 2007.

This direct and heavy dose of reality is required to counter-balance the heady hysteria that may engulf you, given that a “black” man has become the 44th president of the USA.

The authors of the above piece go on to address the moorings of British foreign policy itself:

“The first truth of British foreign policy is that it is also formulated to serve elite power. The second truth is that it is rooted in unwavering support for US policy, including participation in attacks on defenceless Third World targets – the reason London, not Stockholm, has been subject to September 11-style suicide attacks.

"The third truth is that this foreign policy is always sold in a way that echoes US claims of humanitarian intent, so lending a veneer of international legitimacy and support. It is of course very much easier for a “coalition” to claim to be expressing “the will of the international community” than it is for a rogue superpower acting alone.

"The fourth truth is that these truths apply regardless of whether Labour or Conservatives hold power. Finally, because the collision between the reality and appearance of policy becomes increasingly obvious over time, the fifth truth is that a change of British government is always said to herald a change to a more moral foreign policy. This transformed policy is always said to be driven by idealistic new minds acting out of revulsion at past ‘mistakes’ – the slate can thus be wiped clean and media gullibility rebooted to the default setting.”

If you read Indian newspapers (between the lines) and watch our TV channels (between the images), you will grasp the truth of what the authors say. With the signing of the nuclear deal, India too is slowly becoming part of US foreign policy. And if Obama starts to signal that attacks on “defenceless Third World targets” like Pakistan are called for, in order to flush out the terrorists, I am sure the Indian government will jump to the bait.

Like my lectures on truth and objectivity, this piece is like the tip of an iceberg: intended to arouse and provoke. Please navigate the links and comment here itself. Remember, “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.”

Warm regards,

- Joe.

Pune, Wednesday, 5 November 2008.


Gauri Gharpure said...

much matter to think about.. the links provide a substantial background (and support) to the piece.

I slightly digress here and ask you about ambiguos / niche reporting and how to tackle it.

Example-- Reporting on the Indo- US Nuclear deal

Sir, of all the writings I read abt the nuclear deal ( some very seriously while preparing for the current affairs paper) I could grasp nothing much. again, when the trust motion came up following Left's opposition to the deal--- in spite of wide newspaper and TV coverage--- the core of the matter still seemed alien to me, and many others with whom I confessed my inability to understand the deal in a clear light.

It may be my ignorance or lack of reading, but still... Could not the entire reportage, right from July 18 2005 till the culmination in 2008 trust vote, be done in a more common-man friendly manner?

Vinita Deshmukh said...

Hi Joe

Firstly what a lovely intro to your blog! Wow!

Went through the piece and thanks for the interestng perspective.

all the best


Joseph M. Pinto, Pune, India said...

Hi Gauri,

I agree with you entirely. The entire reportage, right from 18 July 2005 till the culmination in the 2008 trust vote, could have certainly be done in a more common-man friendly manner.

In the mainstream media, there was a great deal of what I will repeatedly called "obfuscation". This means an easy issue is deliberately and needlessly made out to be difficult so that people say, "How awesome!" and get intimidated or repelled.

The Hindu and Frontline were the only two print publications (I have read) that took a lot of pains to simplify the issue. But because, N. Ram, its editor, is known to be sympathetic to the Left parties, especially the CPI(M), the mainstrean media ignored their views.

Besides, the print media in India, led by the TOI, had had already decided that the N-deal was "good" for India's future, simply because signing the deal would suck India into a lasting embrace with the great USA.

So the style of presenting the N-deal was two-pronged. First, pack it with so much jargon and technicalities that none but the inner circle of super experts would dare to even try and make sense of the mumbo-jumbo.

Second, paint the Left as crazy anti-US dogmatists, so that whatever little sense they spoke would be ignored by the common masses. The Left fell into the trap like silly purists and left the UPA. So whatever little influence the Left could have had was gone.

Signing the N-deal was an intrinsic part of the inexorable process of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation (I will label it "LPG" henceforth), that is going on.

Even the collapse of the markets is a natural consequence of LPG. Look who is suffering in India! Now that the gamblers and speculators on the share market are sinking, they are rushing to the government for public tax-payer money to rescue them.

These are the self-same free-marketeers (US President Roosevelt used to call them "banksters" to rhyme with "gangsters") who are the champions of LPG, when it suits them.

Warm regards,

- Joe.

Gauri Gharpure said...

Sir, awaiting the cliche write-up. Also, lots of updates on the blog, check it at your convenience