The Media Hates You, Pt. II

by Joshua Foust on 7/22/2007

Recall if you will my complaint back in March, about how U.S. publications seem to intentionally keep Americans in the dark about what’s going on in one of the wars they’ve started, but not any of their international readers. More recently, Bonnie Boyd ran a series of posts on the shaky news coverage of the place, in the process showing how bloggers, in a major way, are picking up the slack (by serving as aggregators and analysts).

I mention this because I ran across this clip on YouTube of a Canadian show discussing women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Indeed, it is depressing how even in Afghanistan, the rationale has shifted almost continuously. I think it is almost understandable here, as we assumed we could grab bin Laden and be done with it, and only later realized we would have to build a country from scratch. But the plight of women continues, with many choosing self-immolation over the humiliation imposed on them by modern Afghan society.

There is so much going on there, so much that is not good, so much that could be reversed if people here knew enough to raise the issue with the political leadership, it is truly galling. For example, there Malalai Joya, a woman to be commended for her courage, who may be recklessly endangering herself for the amusement and funding of the West. There are the mass graves being dug up, which are in such a state of disarray no one knows from what period of conflict they come—the Soviets, the mujahideen, the Taliban, post-Taliban. There is the rising tide of opium addicts, who are conveniently forgotten among all the freaking out over opium making its way to Europe (where, supposedly, people actually care about it). Or even something as simple as electricity, which is in pitifully short supply in most of the country.

No where will you find this covered in the mainstream Western outlets. Oh, the Times and the Post will devote a 400 word to it here and there, or they’ll run first-person accounts by their correspondents caught up in gun battles. But you get no context, no macro picture of what’s facing the country. Even on one of those universally agreed-upon issues—the right for women to live their lives as they see fit, without the threat of disfigurement or execution from the petty men who want them crippled and hidden—barely anyone realizes how much work remains to be done. They think the burqa was shed five, six years ago.

I suppose that’s why sites like this exist. Nathan originally founded Registan.net because the coverage for Central Asia was so spotty he wanted to fill in some gaps. And in the years since, a lot of homegrown bloggers have arisen (in places like neweurasia.net), and they have done an admirable job of picking up the slack. For local Afghans, however, blogging can still be risky, especially if they’re blogging in a local language.

So we’re left, barely knowing a thing about a country we invaded more than half a decade ago. It’s damned frustrating.

Update: Our freshest contributor here shows how this does not only apply to Afghanistan. But my frustration stems from a very real paradox: we are fighting a war our media barely covers and our politicians barely mention outside of vapid campaign speeches. That is not a success strategy.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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