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Armed militia backed by foreign mining interests fight for control over valuable resource rich areas in an African nation. To most who are dependent on the mainstream western media the news is delivered colonial style.
Civil unrest sparked up in xxx African nation between tribes x and y. Tribes x and y have had distrusts for centuries, bla bla bla….
Is this just a hangover from the colonial times where the colonist painted a primitive and monstrous picture of their colonies. Or is this an active soft control strategy?
In the past these propagandas served multiple purposes. It gave the colonisers the moral backing to their atrocities in the form of the white man’s burden. It broke the identity and pride among the people of the colonies and made them feel dependent on their masters for stability.
It still provides a means for countries to interfere in the matters of developing countries, break rising nationalism, legitimize coups and overthrow elected leaders.
There are two sides to the effect the documentary has
1. External image
2 Internal image
A lot has been said about the first and I would abstain from saying any more. I am happy that many Indians recognise the malice in it rather than parrot the theme set by the BBC. My real concern is about the second. For those of you who think that the documentary would help us in introspection and magically help us solve the rape ‘crisis’, reality is unfortunately quite different.
Let us be honest about the effect of media on our society, we try to dress, behave, think and live like them. We become what the media says we are, if they show us as a bunch of male chauvinists and female victims, we as a society try to live up to it and fit into that stereotype. It becomes the new ‘normal’.
The film maker is a resident of Copenhagen, and state run Danmarks Radio (DR) played an important role in the production of the documentary. It would only be fair to compare how they handle sensitive news involving their own.
2011 Norway Attacks
Anders Behring Breivik a Norwegian right winger in a well planned attack managed to set off a car bomb that killed 8 people and went on to gun down 69 people in the island of Utøya.
What is interesting to us in this is the media coverage and the effort put in to play it down.
He was widely portrayed as a deviant, an unstable person. His affiliations with right wing or the fact that he could plan and successfully execute two different acts of terrorism simultaneous at two different places was played down.
The public/media pressure in fact was so strong that two independent court-appointed forensic psychiatrists declared him as having some degree of mental problems, until it was struck down by the court and declaring him as mentally stable.
Right wing and neo nazi parties have found favour in the EU particularly in the recent year, even earning a significant voice in several parliaments. Whether a lone wolf Breivik was responsible for the attacks or if a well organised right wing group is behind these attacks we would never know.
But if western Europe is portrayed as the right wing hotbed as it might actually be, what effects would it have on the population, economy etc.
People would be worried to step out of their houses for fear of being shot at, actual criminals and terrorists would become bolder and more open about their activities. The economy would take a beating, the value and stability that we attributes to its currency the Euro would drop overnight.
The same sensitivity and responsibility afforded to its own of course does not extend to ‘others’. The others can be its own minority, I find it hard to imagine growing up as a Roma (people of gypsy origin). If the media constantly portray the Roma as criminals and beggars, it would be hard to see myself as anything other than the two. My identity would limit my career choices, growth potential, interaction with other, isolation from society. Such stereotyping is already affecting the many Muslims, Eskimos and people of African origin who have become increasingly isolated, cut off from the mainstream with limiting career opportunities.
The media has been very successful in portraying the stereotype of Americans of African ancestry as gang members, drug dealers and robbers unless of course they make it as sports persons or entertainers. This affects the self image of Africans, people who have nothing to do with the USA, who belong to a mostly agrarian society where they have a high dependence on their immediate society. Culturally they can not survive without being socially responsible and sensitive.
We are doing well in spite of our challenges
Like the African societies, the Indian social behaviour is affected by its agrarian roots. People in rural areas are historically conditioned to behave responsibly least they become an outcast.
The portrayal of larger than life lifestyles by the media, the stark reality of the migrant poor and the relative sense of anonymity that people get when they move to the big cities brings its own challenges. For one the cost to benefits ratio leans in favour of crime.
The false sense of anonymity is often the catalyst for misbehaviour, drug and sex crimes committed by western tourists be it in Thailand, Korea or Eastern Europe.
On a positive note when it comes to sexism at least for those who have made it to the middle class, the ratio of women working in the IT sector is often better than those of quite a few developed countries where IT is often male dominated. Unfortunately documentaries such as these can only instil fear in working women, restricting their opportunities and limiting their progress.