Patterns of North American Pseudo-Coverage: What is really being done?
Some say that this generation of Facebookers, Tweeters, Instagrammers, and Tumblr-ers is becoming more vain with every post, like, and reblog. They say that today’s young adults have never known a time when the world took priority over self. But what if this concern extends further than the average media consumer; what if it encompasses the very news system by which we gain information, the system by which we come to know our world and our position in it?
Many of you smart and savvy readers are probably familiar with the notorious thirteen-minute Innocence of Muslims, a film created by an American filmmaker under the pseudonym Sam Bacile. While the morally abject and culturally ignorant film was uploaded to YouTube this past July, no measurable public attention was garnered until this fall–specifically, September 8th–when Sheikh Khaled Abdullah of the right-leaning Egyptian television network Al-Nas TV peddled the video to his viewers on live television.
Following the direct injection of the Islamophobic video into Middle Eastern media, the morning of September 11th saw a violent outbreak of rioting in Cairo, and by the afternoon, protesting in Libya’s capital. This led to what has been referred to as the `Benghazi Attack’: the trashing and burning of the U.S. Embassy, three wounded U.S. government officials, and the tragic death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Inevitably, this sparked controversy in the Western media world.
Countless Anti-Islam tweets, headlines, and newscasts all consistently containing the prefix ‘terror-’ began to appear as tension mounted in the weeks preceding the third presidential debate. Additionally, speculation relating to the root cause of the Benghazi riots shifted from the original Anti-Islam film to possibilities of a planned Al-Qaeda barrage to free its enslaved members, then to a general failure of U.S. Intelligence.
While the debate saw red and blue sides duke it out with “ground-breaking ideals” as their ammo, the reality of the arguments did not significantly veer from the pre-established status quo on foreign policy. However, Obama’s vague and widely re-circulated statement concerning the Benghazi attacks–”No act of terror…”–was by and large taken to mean the exact opposite, as a direct address to ‘this very act of terror…’, once again reigniting the mainstream news websites and independent blogosphere with countless mentions of terrorism and intelligence failures.
Coincidentally, after the debates and up until recently, this foreign policy issue dropped off the map entirely. At least, an adequate amount of seriousness about the matter did.
Only now, post-election frenzy, are we seeing the story resurface as some of Obama’s most high profile gangsters jump ship; namely, David Petraeus. The past military officer, public official, and Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, has, as you may know, stepped down due to discovery of an extramarital affair with his biographer–not to mention the speculation of revealed information regarding Benghazi within said emails. To add to the spectacular controversy, Petraeus, a four-star badge military officer credited with the dissolution of two separate wars first refused to testify at the upcoming Benghazi hearings. But recently he has changed his mind and agreed, so we must move on to the next most pressing issue: 1) WHY is the Benghazi hearing only happening now? 2) Will there be more significant public concern on the issue now that Petraeus is in the sex-scandal spotlight?
Within the past week, a myriad of anti-Democrats, political pundits, and popular culture personalities (including the hilarious Donald Trump) have filled the Twitter-sphere with exclamatory statements that compare Obama with Nixon, paralleling his, now, Benghazi with the infamous 1972 Watergate controversy. Arguably, Benghazi’s returned presence on the western radar is largely due to the Petraeus scandal. What sort of implications does this have on our news system? There’s a clear problem when the North American perception of the world is conditioned by internal spectacle.
The United States and by extension, Canada, have labelled themselves ‘liberators’ of the Middle East. In coverage of Benghazi, a subtle ‘Western superiority complex’ tends to kick in, at times casting a shadow over the real suffering and selfless protest happening among Libyans (not to mention Syrians, but more on that later). But what I am yearning to know, is how can we, as North Americans, become liberators – or adopt a libertarian mindset – when our news system is so helplessly narcissistic? Or when serious coverage of pressing foreign affairs is only considered amidst an entertaining presidential election, or the unexpected sex scandal? Why is it that mainstream news has, until Petraeus, adopted such a barren, almost passive tone on the matter? How are we supposed to know what’s really going on?
This is the burning question of desire public citizens often share. Is Benghazi really Obama’s Watergate? Quite possibly, the muddied waters of our news system will prevent us from ever knowing. We are only given a shattered mirror reflection of our society; we are the prisoner inside Plato’s Cave. So this is where we, as MIT students, go into critical thinking mode. The point to take into consideration here is the recurring pattern of news coverage; our news media need to drop the narcissism act, and start walking this talk of liberation.
Ainsleigh Burelle is a 3rd year MIT Honors Spec. student with a double minor in coffee preparation and cat appreciation. She is also slowly falling prey to the subliminal messaging embedded in The Walking Dead.