Media is one of the most influential factors that shape our worldviews and sense of self. This is why it is essential to question the information we are getting and view it critically. As an increasing amount of news pours in from around the world about humanitarian crises and genocides, we must take a step back and analyse how these important events are being reported and how governments around the world are responding to them.
Media bias in Western countries can be seen every day. Let’s look at the 9/11 attack for instance. The attack caused a state of frenzy on the global political scene. Terrorism suddenly became a global issue instead of something that only happened in Eastern countries. The USA has a Memorial Day for the people who lost their lives that day and the slogan, “never forget” is used to remind people of the heinous attack.
However, terrorism existed long before that incident and people were losing their lives to it every single day.
Was their suffering not glamorous enough for the media to report?
It is a question I ask myself often. Hate crimes are only categorised as such when they are committed against an affluent social group and white, European or American populations. This is not to say that crimes against these groups should not be considered seriously but to question why that same level of sensitivity and humanitarian aid is not extended to ethnic minorities who are facing the same fate. The USA’s response to the 9/11 attacks was also heavily laced with ethnic discrimination as they arrested suspects of the attack on flimsy evidence and used lethal force on them. A majority of these suspects were reported to be POC (people of colour) who were forcefully kidnapped with no trace of where they were taken. The term “global war on terrorism”, coined by American President George W. Bush, was used to justify these inhumane actions and has since been used as grounds for many subsequent genocides and atrocities like the occupation of Palestine and the detention of the Uyghur population in China. But is one hate crime enough of a reason to justify a series of others? The terror spread by the American forces also falls under the same definition of terrorism that they claimed to be fighting against but was not categorised as such and probably never will be.
When we delve deeper into world politics, we find that powerful Western countries only extend their support to countries that are financially beneficial to their economy. They tend to speak in favour of their allies and tactically withhold their opinions when their confederates are in the wrong. This strategic extension of support can be witnessed very clearly in the case of the ongoing Palestinian crisis, where the US, a close ally of Israel is openly supporting their actions and encouraging violence in the name of protection while people throughout the world condemn it and call for a ceasefire. This creates pressure on smaller nations to align with these powerful nations to earn their favour. They have to submit to the whims and manipulations of these powerful nations to protect their national interests and secure financial and humanitarian aid. This pattern has been observed since the era of the Cold War and continues to date.
The act of exerting power to extort and intimidate developing nations is a key element of neocolonialism. But how does the media contribute to it? Selective reporting aims to present a one-sided narrative of an issue to the public and gather support for one side. News sources around the world are influenced by the political ideologies of their national governments and Western countries are no exception. This explains the selective outrage created by media sources against specific groups as they invoke emotions of patriotism and support for the interests of the state. As a result, people lose their objectivity and lose sight of the cost at which their patriotism comes.
Yuval Noah Harari, one of the most influential writers of our generation and the author of the book ‘Sapiens’ has often quoted that, “the first decades of the 21st century were the most peaceful era in world history”. He only revised this statement at the commencement of the Russia-Ukraine war. But isn’t that ignorant? While millions of people were being killed in Myanmar, Palestine and the Uyghur genocide, powerful countries were blissfully ignorant of these atrocities and their mention in mainstream media was rare and often limited to a few lines. That is still the case today as these issues continue to persist. Just because the news of these events does not reach us, does not mean they are not happening. Millions of people are suffering every day, but their struggles are not validated just because of their race and ethnicity. Humanitarian sympathy comes with a subscription that can’t always be bought into.
We have established how selective reporting is harmful and contributes to neocolonialism and ethnic discrimination. But why does it concern you, the reader, who most likely does not belong to the affected demographic population? I would say that there are two reasons to view the information we get with criticality: a selfish one and the other, the very essence of humanity. Firstly, the political climate of the world sets a precedent for how authorities respond to those in need and what factors contribute to it. The second reason is very simple. It is important to understand the workings of global politics because it is your duty as residents of a free country to raise your voice against such atrocities and make governments listen to the voice of the people asking them to stop. In the context of the ongoing bombings in Gaza and the calls for a ceasefire, a student from our university beautifully quoted, “People will try to tell you that this is too complicated, and you will never fully understand it, therefore you should never speak. They want you to feel uneducated and unable to help because your voice is powerful. But it’s not complicated. You don’t need a PhD in Middle Eastern studies to understand when your heart knows what you’re seeing is wrong. You’re not only are you allowed to call it out, but you are obligated to.”
So raise your voices, evaluate your sources and rethink if your humanity is extended to all your fellow human beings or a select few.