The Unbearable Lightness of Kabul

by Joshua Foust on 12/1/2008 · 2 comments

Even wonder why the news only seems to cover the bombs in Afghanistan that target white people? I do too, and the Columbia Journalism Review let me ask why:

Soldiers often complain that “the liberal media” doesn’t report on what’s good. The axiom “if it bleeds, it leads” is largely true, and a lot of soldiers on the ground resent their good deeds going unrecognized. This complaint is somewhat misplaced: the war media doesn’t always catch what bleeds—and, in some cases, can create a misleading impression of calm. When looking at some of the unreported acts of violence in Kabul and even Kandahar, a rather different picture of the country emerges.

Anyway, as always, on topic comments are welcome.

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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 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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Paul C December 1, 2008 at 4:23 pm

I find it hard to get worked up about something that’s not just limited to Afghanistan, but is embedded in the very structures of journalism. Do you have any ideas about how these events might be covered without slotting neatly into the preconstructed narratives (“war on terror”, “liberal media bias”, etc)? Obviously independent journalism addresses that to some extent, but it’s a big ship that you’re trying to turn…

Kilted December 6, 2008 at 10:24 am

Mr. Foust:

Well, of course! Although all nations and peoples suffer from this syndrome, I think we, as Americans, are near perfect exemplars.

“It’s all about us.”

The story of Afghanistan, for America, is the story of what Americans are doing to help Afghanistan. It is a terribly parochial view, but there you go.

When I was in Kazakhstan (and, for two glorious weeks, in Mongolia), I encountered the same thing. I called it “isolationism abroad.” Expats would go to the Hyatt or Hilton to have a hamburger and Coke for lunch, instead of getting shashlik and Sary-Agash mineral water at a street vendor’s stand. It always reminded me of the BBQ scene in Apocalypse Now.


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