Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai mayhem

Terrorism strikes India again, in Mumbai, as multiple attacks occurred yesterday. The targets included some locations where foreigners are usually present (the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, a cafe popular with tourists, etc.) as well as "local" spots such as a movie theater, a train station, hospital, etc. Many casualties are reported...

This blogger happened to tune into a couple of reports of this on television, and was appalled at some of the coverage, which was incredibly shoddy... In the first the news show was reporting on the violence, and the tone of the coverage was of the 'tsk, tsk, isn't this terrible' variety. Then a report came that perhaps British and American tourists were being specifically targeted in the attacks, and suddenly the tone changed radically, to a this is a 'grotesque, unacceptable example of terrorism' type coverage...

A little later this blogger tuned into the middle of the AC360 show on CNN.. (Ed. note: on the air was a guest host and not Anderson Cooper; this blogger didn't catch the name of the guests who were commenting on that section of the program; and while he jotted down a quick few quotes, they may not be one hundred percent accurate!). A guest was in the middle of saying "...India has joined the club of countries facing terrorism that is domestic with an international connection..." Huh? They've "just joined the club"? Hello!

The program and guests then blathered on and on about the United States - this is President-elect Obama's "first test"; what is he going to do?; his team is in close consultation with the Bush team; what might this mean to his Presidency; are the terrorists "sending a message" to Obama; etc., etc.

Listen up! As Doctor Phil might say, "It's not all about you!" This blogger understands that on a U.S. channel the coverage is fairly U.S.-centric. Hell, this blog is pretty U.S.-centric. But why do we have to act as if the US was the first to discover terrorism (on 9/11)? And why does the coverage have to be pitched as if it is all about the United States and our politics? This seems to be the norm...

So, when the bombs went off on the London underground on 7/7/2005, it was portrayed as "Britain's 9/11" and as if terrorism had just reached the U.K. Forget the fact that terrorism and bombs had hit the British for many years (e.g. killing royalty, the Queen's cousin Lord Mountbatten, in 1979; and narrowly missing killing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet in 1984 - both courtesy of the Provisional IRA). When bombs caused carnage in Spain just ahead of their elections on 3/11/2004, all of a sudden it was "Spain's 9/11" and terrorism had just reached Spain. Forget many years of ETA terrorism and bombings, etc. And now it's India's 9/11 and, like, wow, they've been hit by terrorism too!

From an AC360 blog entry by a CNN correspondent on the scene, "... Both President Bush and President-Elect Barack Obama issued statements, each strongly condemning the attack. Who’s behind this? Local reports say a group named the Deccan Mujahedeen claimed responsibility. Some officials say it bears all the hall marks of Al Qaeda. Mumbai is the mecca for western business men and women, many from America. It’s believed thousands of U.S. citizens own a city that is now under siege..." Huh? Is this implying that the attacks occurred here because of the thousands of U.S. citizens there (incidentally out of a population estimated at nineteen million!)

Wouldn't it be more instructive for their audience if CNN informed them not just of the current events, but also of the associated history stretching back several years - for example, the differences between India and Pakistan that contribute to the situation, of the role of the conflict in Kashmir in exacerbating relations between these two countries, of the inter-communitarian tensions that periodically flare up between Hindus and Muslims, etc., etc. No, that's apparently too much work, much simpler (and narcissistic) to act as if it is all about the United States and if the most important issues raised by this horrific occurrence are related to how a President-elect Obama will respond, if he will be strong, weak, blah blah blah...

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