Talking about them over there

19May08

The Western press has always dealt with the poorer World with contempt, confusion and ignorance.

It is easier to write condescendingly from a position of perceived superiority than look at another culture or set of values objectively. And perhaps this sells better too.

This happens for at least two reasons. Firstly, there is the flawed belief that we are “developed”, as if development has a measurable and verifiable endpoint, and that “they” are “underdeveloped” by that concrete yardstick.

On a mundane level, the effete AA Gill regularly patronises other cultures and complains about foreign restaurant meals in his Sunday Times Magazine travel column.

Writer AA Gill

The more dangerous side

But this type of arrogance has far more serious implications.

For example, Western academic arrogance perhaps reached its height in Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 book, The End of History, in which he argued that capitalism was the end of the global development process. Indeed!

Frighteningly, this spectacular hubris has filtered into the present and pernicious neo-conservativism in America, and further down into the right-wing and “liberal” press here. But, of course, these beliefs have long been manifest in the United States’ Brezinsky doctrine, a geopolitcal programme followed by successive presidents since the 1960s to impose the will, politics and economies of America on weaker countries.

Read anything on Iraq by Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondentfor the Telegraph, and it tends to be about what “we” must do, or how our troops are doing, often without even attempting to justify those stories from “the other side”.

The Independent’s Johann Hari, the archetypal liberal apologist for the Iraq invasion, at first reserved his humanitarian bias for our ill-equipped troops, but not for the innocent people being bombed, or those still suffering the effects of sanctions.

Both of these pale in comparison to the Independent’s corpulant, intransigent Bruce Anderson, who rained down paternalistic judgement from afar about our duty to intervene, usually without considering the human impact on Iraqis or Afghanistanis, or the profits for the Anglo-American military industrial complex.

Unpeople

Orwell, that bottomless source of quotes, called those who fall outside the reporter’s remit the “unpeople” – our crimes against whom are so unpalatable, they are best ignored.

This theme has been taken up by journalists and academic mavericks like John Pilger, Noam Chomsky and Harold Pinter, who are just as corruscating about the complacent Western Press as they are about the “democracies” it belongs to.

They also take the time and write at length to deal with foreign affairs fairly and comprehensively, even if they usually make comment and judgement.

George Monbiot

If you are looking for a reasoned and incisive comment on foreign development, globalisation, or even the Middle East conflicts, a good port of call is George Monbiot’s website or his artricles for the Guardian.

journalist George Monbiot

He is a fine journalist as his comments are less likely to be based on the received and unquestioned facts of Anderson’s armchair journalism, and his research tends to be more thoroughgoing, balanced and independently motivated.

A journalist should be an impartial and critical equal among equals, and whether a travel writer or war correspondent, they have a duty to respect other people and cultures.

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One Response to “Talking about them over there”

  1. 1 James

    your comment on hari is out of date and a bit weird.


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