Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Media and peaceful protest

I've taken myself out of the ever-churning news cycle for the last year or so and I think it's time that I submerge myself again in the media. It would be an exaggeration to say that the recent protests in Iran brought about this change, but it has got me thinking again about the importance of an accessible and independent media on society.

I'm no Clay Shirkey, so I'm not going to weigh in on the whole Twitter pwns CNN matter directly other to say that we still greatly underestimate the importance of independent journalism. Please indulge me as I quote myself from 2003,

A story on NPR's Morning Edition has alerted me to the work of Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall and a whole new way of thinking. These two men were responsible for the documentary, Bringing Down A Dictator. This documentary was shown on an independent television network in Georgia (funded by George Soros ("Georgia revolt carried mark of Soros", Globe and Mail, Wednesday, November 26, 2003 - Page A1) shortly before the country's 'velvet revolution'.

A free press doesn't just feed democracy. It feeds us. Want to end famine in Africa? Then support the work of a free press there. That's one of the recommendations of Amartya Sen that I learned from the Harper's article, Let them eat cash: Can Bill Gates turn hunger into profit?:

In the midst of a severe hunger crisis, agricultural subsidies do not make much of a difference. And in the face of famine, a reliance on market economies is as ineffective as a reliance on loaves and fishes or manna from Heaven. Even so, said Sen, famines are not terribly difficult to avoid. Prevention requires the speedy implementation of emergency income-creation and employment programs, in combination with the broader social infrastructure of representative democracy and a free press, which happens to be the best early-warning system. Famine happens when rulers are alienated from those they rule, he explained, and a functioning democracy is a simple way to remove such alienation. Famine happens when there is no free press, because rulers tend to feel embarrassed when photographs of starving children appear on the front page.

Even if the protests fail in their objective of an election recount, the images of thousands of people risking their lives to peacefully protest have provided a wonderful antidote to the vitriol we were -force fed in 2008 in order to prime the American public to support to 'bomb bomb bomb Iran'. Not to say that the American mindset that public protest is akin to low-level terrorism will go away quickly, if at all, from those who wield power.

In short, if can't find the information we need from the sources we are told to trust, we will look elsewhere.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mita, thank you for quoting us. Anyone interested in a broader set of resources about nonviolent resistance can contact me at jduvall@nonviolent-conflict.org. Also you will probably like this article by our academic advisor Cynthia Boaz on media coverage of the events in Iran: http://www.truthout.org/061609R
All best,
Jack DuVall