Wednesday, June 25, 2008
The Mugabe Equation
As the political situation in Zimbabwe deteriorates further by the day, I've noticed that the way the mainstream in this country reports it is truly bizarre. It is all a matter of perception, of what the sides "say" is going on, and no one can really sort it out, it's all African after all, and who really understands those people?
Every report I hear on the radio or see on teevee or read in the papers claims that "critics" declare that (for example) some 85 "murders" have taken place, or that Mugabe's forces have done this or that "bad thing," or that "international observers" claim such and such nasty business is going on, or that "the opposition insists" thus and so. Reporters on the scene describe what they see in great and awful detail, and still the anchors of the Zimbabwe desk are skeptics.
"We'll just have to see how this shakes out, thank you."
This is the universal approach of American mass media to the Zimbabwe political crisis, so I think it is fair to assume that it is the result of an industry-wide narrative adoption.
And I've wondered if this will be the pattern for coverage of the American political scene: no truth, just narrative, a narrative that favors McCain -- or rather, favors Power in the abstract -- and is skeptical of his opposition, yet presents everything as what people "say," or "claim," not -- ever -- what actually IS.
An extreme example of Zimbabwe coverage on the NewsHour last night:
[Note: the New Yorker cover illustration above is meant to convey an attitude in the media of detachment, it is not meant to imply that the New Yorker's coverage has been particularly faulty or that there is any particular New Yorker story being criticized here. In fact, the New Yorker has consistently been one of the better news operations on this and many other topics.]