These Stereotypes Brought To You By Reuters

by Nathan Hamm on 4/18/2010 · 54 comments

One of the downsides of increased western media attention on Central Asia is a light peppering of dumb stereotypes that look ripped from the pages of the Fake AP Stylebook. A recent Reuters story has several that, if we’re really lucky, we’ll see repeated in every story about Kyrgyzstan until editors again start treating Central Asia like a mist-enshrouded land of dangerous monsters where nothing that could possibly matter to the civilized world happens.

First:

Almaz Atambayev, an interim deputy premier, arrived in the ancient Silk Road city of Osh in the south in a show of support.

Okay, nothing unique to Kyrgyzstan here. Everyone knows that any city in Central Asia should be referred to as being on the Silk Road because, unlike other cities between Rome and Beijing, nothing of any other historical significance has taken place in Central Asia. (Except for the Mongols. Or Tamerlane. But we gotta save those for special occasions.)

And a hat-trick in one sentence:

Any further turbulence in a country with a south-north divide is worrisome since the south lies at the heart of Central Asia’s most flammable corner where hundreds died in the 1990s in ethnic clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz.

Stories about Central Asia need to reference ethnic and regional rifts as primordial elements of social and political life just looking for any excuse to explode. And the Ferghana Valley needs to be treated like the pile of oil soaked rags next to an open fire that it so obviously is.

This one is my favorite though:

The new government, which has yet to be formally recognized globally, says it controls the entire nation, but the situation appeared fluid in the south, Bakiyev’s tribal stronghold.

Oh. Em. Gee. Does that make Bakiyev their king? Or is he just merely their chief?

Thank you to years of Iraq and Afghanistan reporting for this development. The clan BS has always been part of western reporting on Central Asia, but this tribe garbage is new. Excellent. All we need is for reporting on every Muslim country with a funny-sounding name to contain copious references to the natives’ tribal ways.

At least it’d give Robert Kaplan a few columns to write.


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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 50 comments }

DePetris April 18, 2010 at 10:41 pm

I have to tell you Nathan….your hostility towards Reuters is catching me a bit by surprise. Reuters is a major western news agency with thousands of offices and sources around the world. For the past decade, the wire service has been covering developments in the Middle East and South Asia (particularly in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India) as if it has regional expertise in these areas.

Central Asia, on the other hand, has never been covered in a thorough manner, partly due to western ignorance of the region and partly due to the base that Reuters is trying to cater due: the western audience. I hate to break it to you, but the hundreds of millions of westerners out there don’t care one way or the other about what happens in Kyrgyzstan. It is precisely this lack of interest why Reuters (and the AP for that manner) don’t do their homework whenever they write a little blip about the country.

The news business is just that, a business. The demand for Central Asian news in the United States, Canada, or Europe is simply not there (minus forums like these).

**Apologize for the double post**

Nathan Hamm April 18, 2010 at 11:25 pm

This isn’t about Reuters. That’s just who put this story out. And it’s not about the journalists, most of whom are quite good. And it’s not something unique to central Asia by any means. All that south Asia reporting gets all kinds of pointless flourish stuffed in (…”who, like all Afghans has only one name” comes to mind). It’s about t attitude toward the subject and the audience. No research goes into claiming the Ferghana Valley is seething hotbed of ethnic/religious/whatever elder hatred waiting to explode. It’s a lazy stereotype that’s been repeated for two decades because an editor thinks it makes the subject sound sexier to you, the audience. It’s cheap, hacky, and adds nothing to do with the actual story.

Thanks for the education, but come on. Do you really think hundreds of millions of westerners give a damn about what happens in South Asia or the Middle East? Do you really think that they don’t do their homework because no one cares about these “blips?” These same attitudes are evident in other international reporting (like Pakistan’s “lawless tribal regions,” to name one example). There are plenty out there who can do this reporting without the lazy stereotypes. I don’t know why they should be defended or excused here.

Grant April 19, 2010 at 12:25 am

A good deal more Westerners do care about the Middle East and South Asia because we have many strategic concerns in both regions*.
As for the mention of clans, in my research it did seem to me that clan-based connections are a strong force in Kyrgyzstan and many neighboring states. I’m not going to claim that I’m one of the great experts on the region with decades of understanding politics, but in my defense I have put effort into studying the matter. Of course the story doesn’t give any insight as to what these clan politics might be, or even what the paper means by ‘clan’, but this is intended to be for the masses and not for serious political scientists.

On Pakistan’s ‘lawless tribal regions’, it is at least partially tribal. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s lawless. I recall finding somewhere an excellent piece on how ‘tribal’ does not equate with ‘ungoverned’ but rather means ‘not governed by the national government’. The difference is an important one. Even though the national government of Pakistan might not enforce law in those areas, there are still other actors who can and do enforce other laws.

*That could change depending on economics and technology later in the century but for now it’s true.

Nathan Hamm April 19, 2010 at 5:54 am

“A good deal more” does not make an overwhelming percentage, let alone hundreds of millions. And whether or not these lines hve any truth to them is not the point. That they are repeated as if they are the only qualities worth mentioning is.

Clan can be a whole different discussion, but my point in a nutshell is that what people say about clan is not how they act about clan. (And one has to clearly delineate clan and klan.) it’s talked about as an important factor in social and political life much moreso than it actually is.

Grant April 19, 2010 at 1:50 pm

On the ‘a good deal more’ I was referring to Western elites who determine foreign policy. The average Westerner (European or American) isn’t likely to have anything more than a very vague knowledge of the fact that the regions exist.

DePetris April 19, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Do I really think hundreds of millions of westerners give a damn about what happens in South Asia and the Middle East?

Well considering that the United States and Europe have up to 100,000 soldiers in Afghanistan- not to mention another 100,000 plus in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf- I would say absolutely. When a country is embroiled in two wars, one in the Middle East and one in South Asia- chances are that this same country is much more concerned about this than what happens in Kyrgyzstan.

And by the way, journalists in the mainstream media do research before they post an article on something relevant in Middle Eastern affairs. You want to know why? Because this is what the audience is interested in, and this is a field that academia has picked up on for the past ten years. Generally, the more interest there is on a topic, the more likely a researcher or a journalist or an academic will fact-check in order to avoid a loss of credibility.

Like you said, headlines are used in stories to draw in an audience, regardless of the topic being reported on…and this includes Central Asian affairs.

Nathan Hamm April 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm

“Hundreds of millions” is what I’m keying in on. To claim such widespread public interest in international news seems a bit hyperbolic to me.

Where are you getting the rest of this? It seems awfully polyanna-ish.

DePetris April 19, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Based on my personal experience- which resides in an intellectual setting- young Americans are actually quite interested in international affairs.

I would like to think that Americans like following IR because they are genuinely interested in what is happening in the world today (because lets face it, a lot of Americans are more worried about getting to the next paycheck than where the president of Kyrgyzstan is). But from where I am standing, this isn’t necessarily accurate. Perhaps it is a university setting where people can engage freely with one another on these types of issues. Or perhaps it is something different.

Much of the current interest in Middle Eastern politics is probably due in large part to the September 11 attacks, which although perverse in every form, was an intellectually stimulating event that ushered in a whole new era in U.S. foreign-policy. New questions were being asked, and people wanted answers quickly.

So perhaps your right. Maybe I shouldn’t be generalizing. But from my own life- and from the conversations I have with people every single day about the Iraqi elections, the war in Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear program, and the status of Jerusalem- I feel comfortable saying this.

kushibo April 19, 2010 at 12:16 am

Thanks for the Fake AP Stylebook link. 🙂

Michael Andersen April 19, 2010 at 1:14 am

Nathan, (unfortunately, speaking as a journalist often ashamed of my ‘colleagues’) you are SPOT ON.
Often, I believe, this ten sentence-driwel ‘news’ from ‘flash points’ is worse than no coverage.
(Btw, ‘flash point’ – another stereotype, ‘we’ love… as if either they – these unruly ‘locals’ – only fell out yesterday and it will be over by tomorrow, or the opposite – the Kaplan one – they have hated each other for ever, it is in ‘their’ blood, these mad locals)

upyernoz April 19, 2010 at 3:17 am

i gotta admit, i am not bothered at all by the “silk road” reference. i mean, the silk road was important and it is one of the few things about central asia that the average western reader might have heard of. there’s really nothing wrong with throwing in a point of reference to give the reader some idea what part of the world the story is talking about.

i’m with you on the “tribal” thing though. i was in east africa in the 1990s when the wars were raging in yugoslavia. one of my kenyan friends rightly pointed out that if that violence had happened in africa, the factions would be called “tribes” but because it is europe, they are merely “ethnic groups”

Nathan Hamm April 19, 2010 at 5:57 am

Does it need to be thrown in every time though?

I’m bothered by the image it creates, as if premodern caravan trading is why these cities exist.

jonathan p April 19, 2010 at 11:49 am

The imagery in many of these stories does lend itself to the idea that the people of Kyrgyzstan (and elsewhere in Central Asia) all live in yurts, ride camels, steal brides and pledge allegiance to the local “tribal chief.” I agree.

But how is the western journalist to succinctly provide a reference point when one can count the number of these commonly recognized referants on one or two fingers? Let’s see, there’s the Silk Road and there’s the Mongols. I don’t count Tamerlane (at least not in the U.S.) because only Brit Lit majors have ever heard of the guy. So what’s a western journalist to do but repeat the same things over and over?

As for the hat-trick sentence (admittedly shallow though it is), it aptly sums up everything a casual observer would ever have heard about the region during the last 20 or 30 years.

Perhaps the writer should say: “… arrived (by modern car) in the very cosmopolitan city of Osh, which gentle reader may understandably still associate with the former (but now-defunct) Silk Road, which of course was not a road at all, but rather a far-flung series of trading routes through a vast stretch of Asia which contained cities and peoples much more advanced and interesting than you may have previously known.”
Ah, but the copy editor would have none of that and promptly truncate it to “… arrived in the ancient Silk Road city of Osh.”

Nathan Hamm April 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Why does either need to be said? Can’t there just be reporting? We don’t need the equivalent of “I stared the tiger in the eye” peppered throughout stories.

jonathan p April 19, 2010 at 5:48 pm

You know as well as I do that there can never be “just reporting.” Every turn of phrase carries baggage for somebody. That said, I essentially agree with you in this: there’s a lot of lazy, hackneyed writing out there… and the fact that the list of hackneyed phrases used in conjunction with Central Asia is horrendously short just accentuates the problem.

Metin April 19, 2010 at 3:48 am

didn’t see any stereotypes in Reuters reporting.
As someone already noted, useful mention about Silk Road when talking about the city of Osh.
‘Bakiev’s tribal stronghold’ is adequate as well; you can’t use ‘ethnic group’ here.

itch April 20, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Ideally, you would first need to substantiate that it is exactly “the tribe”, not a clan, or some organized financial/criminal group or anything else that is being a ‘stronghold’. Once you prove it, you can use the term, otherwise it’s a manipulation.

Lewis April 19, 2010 at 8:27 am

AP—dateline, Rome

In Rome, ancient seat of the Roman Empire, today, Silvio Berlusconi announced . . . .

Markdvinson April 19, 2010 at 8:33 am

Nathan I agree with your overall point about that laziness of news wires like reuters. In fact sometimes it looks as if a well-designed bot could troll google news, cut, paste, and sprinkle in a few cliches more efficiently. However, I think you may have been a little hard on this piece. Taking another look at the “hat trick”:

“Any further turbulence in a country with a south-north divide is worrisome since the south lies at the heart of Central Asia’s most flammable corner where hundreds died in the 1990s in ethnic clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz.”

I am not exactly sure why you have a problem with the north-south divide. Its a geographic reality and effects the politics of the country.

Re: Ferghana, while I grant that its likely that the writer did his research on wikipedia, it does not make his statement untrue. I would be hard pressed to indentify a “more flammable” place in CA (obviously excluding Afghanistan) and ethnic tensions and clashes are real, although not necessarily determining, fact of life in the valley.

In an article about Kyrgyz wedding rituals this information might be irrelevant, but In an piece about the current political situation meant for those who don’t follow the region as closely as the readers of the blog it’s a reasonably informative bit of background.

my 2 cents

ps- whats with the Kaplan hating! I prefer him Edward Said-esq hyper-sensitivity to ‘orientalisms’ of some critics.

Nathan April 19, 2010 at 10:24 am

Nathan I agree with your overall point about that laziness of news wires like reuters. In fact sometimes it looks as if a well-designed bot could troll google news, cut, paste, and sprinkle in a few cliches more efficiently. However, I think you may have been a little hard on this piece. Taking another look at the “hat trick”:

Funny you mention that. At least in the past, Reuters put out “Five Facts About (wherever)” or “Ten Facts About (wherever)” on the wires to provide filler cliches for stories. It’s why all stories about Uzbekistan on the wires for a few years included something like “…ruled with an iron fist by Islam Karimov…”

“Any further turbulence in a country with a south-north divide is worrisome since the south lies at the heart of Central Asia’s most flammable corner where hundreds died in the 1990s in ethnic clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz.”

I am not exactly sure why you have a problem with the north-south divide. Its a geographic reality and effects the politics of the country.

I have a problem with it because it’s overblown and misleading. It’s a feature of political rhetoric, but there’s no evidence that it serves as a basis for social or political identity in Kyrgyzstan. Northerners may worry about southerners and vice-versa, but very few people actually identify themselves as northerners or southerners. And we’ve yet to see a tribal or regional political entrepreneur make hay of any attempt to mobilize along these lines, making me suspicious of claims that we should worry about these divisions having an effect in the real world.

Re: Ferghana, while I grant that its likely that the writer did his research on wikipedia, it does not make his statement untrue. I would be hard pressed to indentify a “more flammable” place in CA (obviously excluding Afghanistan) and ethnic tensions and clashes are real, although not necessarily determining, fact of life in the valley.

Again, I think it’s overblown. Is it really a pressure cooker about to explode? Really? Shouldn’t it have by now? Do residents of the valley actually view it that way? Nick Megoran and John Heathershaw were doing some interesting work on the perception of Central Asia as an exotic place of danger a few years ago. I’m unsure what came of it, but I saw John present on this at CESS in DC. He highlighted some interesting differences in documentaries on the Ferghana Valley produced by outsiders and locals. It’s like they were showing different planets.

ps- whats with the Kaplan hating! I prefer him Edward Said-esq hyper-sensitivity to ‘orientalisms’ of some critics.

I have many problems with Kaplan. Rather than detailing them, I’ll let this tonic for the soul do my speaking for me.

Ian April 19, 2010 at 11:43 am

I remember when the Germany/IJU plot was foiled, and Reuters put up a “fun facts about the IJU” page, BUT, it was on the completely unrelated Palestinian group of the same name.

Cutting and pasting things is funner and easier than real research and reporting.

reader April 19, 2010 at 10:12 am

“the south lies at the heart of Central Asia’s most flammable corner”

Nathan, you are right, reporting about Central Asia is full of fluff and simplifications like “clan”, where a term like power bloc would be a better description. Having said that, these people speak to their audiences, this is the kind of stuff Westerners want.

Nobody wants an in-depth discussion of Kyrgyz politics and regionalism; which is a reality. Why do you have a problem with that statement? There is a difference between Northerners and Southerners that manifests itself in terms of religion and attitudes towards Russians. And regarding Kaplan, popular amongst Westerners with an interest in things east of the Elbe, his fluff isn’t too much more developed than this article, but he does have a little US cheerleading thrown in. Americans don’t want a shrew like Chris Hedges reporting on things, he’s too morally outraged and factual.

Finally, this article wasn’t above and beyond when it comes to stereotypes.

Nathan Hamm April 19, 2010 at 10:30 am

Nope, it wasn’t over and above. It’s just one I noticed.

Is it what we want though? Nobody asked me. And if it’s fluff, why does it need to be there at all?

reader April 20, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Good question. I don’t have an answer for that.

Michael Hancock April 19, 2010 at 10:28 am

I don’t think Nathan’s argument is that these stereotypes are complete fabrications – the point is that they stand in for critical thinking and objective observation. In other words, sure these were Silk Road cities – but what on earth does that have to do with anything in the story? Why aren’t they “former Soviet cities” or “former lands of Alexander the Great” or “former eastern borders of the Arab Caliphate?” Silk Road has become the trope, the topoi, the useless nod to “history” which does nothing but make people think of how much they hated their 8th grade Social Studies class.

The Fergana Valley is not the “most flammable” area of Central Asia. Andijon and Osh have had horrible atrocities – but they were not caused by internal forces. Tajikistan is less flammable? Termez and the Uzbek/Afghan border are less flammable? What they might say more accurately is that the Fergana is the most heavily populated, or that it is a mish-mash of borders separating countries that don’t get along very well.

Bakiev’s tribal stronghold is horrible journalism. I understand that our Russian speakers won’t care, since Russian press is even more focused on “clans” “tribes” and the like. The Russian press also still goes over the Soviet cliche that Americans are so sensitive because they haven’t atoned for the Native American genocide. I, for one, am not comfortable with Russians telling me how to handle native populations. The problem with the words “clan” and “tribe” is that most urban individuals in Russia, Europe, and the US have no idea what that means – or that they originated as terms used by outsiders to describe less civilized people.

There have been very good papers written by Political Scientists in the region on the elasticity of Central Asian ‘clans,’ to the point that they aren’t “clans” at all. That is, not based on blood or marriage relations, but rather a client system that sometimes favors relatives over non-relatives. In other words, POLITICS. That’s everywhere – in the US look to the Kennedy dynasty – and it’s old as hell, even in token democracies (Venetian politics of the Renaissance). So, saying it’s tribal is bad because it sets them apart, like we have to have a special degree to understand their society. When, in fact, if we just learn the language and follow their politics, it should look Very Familiar. Otherwise we should start referring to political families in DC by the same terminology, because we have just as much of this problem as any Central Asian nation.

jonathan p April 19, 2010 at 1:00 pm

I, for one, would fully support a move to refer to DC heretofore as if it were a strange, exotic land full of natives who operate along clan lines and indoctrinate newcomers so completely that all comprehension of outside civilization is lost.

zarathustra April 19, 2010 at 2:23 pm

hahahahaha

Nathan Hamm April 19, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Jack Weatherford wrote the book on this.

jonathan p April 19, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Nice!

Metin April 19, 2010 at 11:19 am

what’s wrong in saying once a ‘Soviet city’, ‘city where Alexander the Great was’, ‘former eastern border of Arab Caliphate’?
I doubt anyone has heard of Osh, it is unlike Rome little known for Reuters readers. ‘Silk Road city’ is less political, most neutral compared with other descriptions above.

I just found out that ‘tribe’ is rather negative term in English, which implies supremacist attitude of rich to underdeveloped world. Nevertheless, clan/tribe, when used in non-political sense, is an accurate term, particularly when used in relation to nations who until recently lead nomadic lifestyle and maintained strong clan mentality.

Registanets April 19, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Registan made criticism of two Reuters articles. One is this one. Another was a few months ago. It was about dangers in Central Asia and very similar to how Ahmed Rashid writes.

This is politically wrong to say. I apologize. But I want to share this thought.

You see, Maria Golovnina wrote both articles. She is from Moscow. Muscovites have a special reputation. They see in Moscow the cultural and intellectual center. And they see Russians from other places in RF as uncultured. And they see Caucas and Central Asia people as uncultured, exotic, impossible for understanding, little backward and not enough civilized. It is similar to how people living in Paris look at other French people and people from old French colonies. Maybe, the reason Reuters articles have not high quality is that.

It is funny that people in St. Petersburg think Muscovites are uncultured with pretensions.

jonathan p April 19, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Those uncultured dim-wit Russians! I should have known!

(I feel obligated at this point to say that my post is meant as a joke.)

Sarah April 19, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Oh, Nathan, I’ve so got you beat. From “Wooing the ‘stans”, Winnipeg Free Press:

“Mr. Bakiyev’s successor, Roza Otunbayeva, is a bit of an Asian enigma, which is the second most important concern about the situation in Kyrgyzstan.* She purports to be pro-western but she will not guarantee the future of the American air base there that is important to the war in Afghanistan.

Moscow has a military base there as well, and wants it to be the only one. This poses a problem for American President Barack Obama — how does the U.S. woo Kyrgyzstan and the other “stans” out of the Russian orbit and into the real world?* How it does in Kyrgyzstan could be the harbinger of things to come in all of southern Asia.”

* = emphasis mine

michaelhancock April 19, 2010 at 2:49 pm

They didn’t add that she’s “wily” and has a “shrewd commercial sense?”

AJK April 19, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Sarah, I can delete this if you want me to, but I think this is as good a time as any to share CNN’s Central Asia map that you snagged:

http://i14.photobucket.com/albums/a316/JKohn/26396_390564402350_686857350_395105.jpg

zarathustra April 19, 2010 at 2:18 pm
AJK April 19, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Kind of an interesting article. I’m really skeptical of anyone trying to compare 1860’s United States to 2000’s Iraq. And the best advice I was ever given about Terrorism Studies is, “nobody goes into studying terrorism without an agenda.” So between that and the Petraeus hagiography, yeah. Color me skeptical.

At the same time, there’s obviously a lot of good in looking at the particulars of a terrorist atmosphere in order to combat it. That’s the whole second half of Leman’s article. And its what keeps a lot of us busy. But it’s not like HTTs have been a booming success, you know?

Judith Beyer April 19, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Hi Nathan, I wrote a commentary to the “TAZ” – a well-known German newspaper about exactly the same issues. Especially the usage of “clan” in their explanations.
Here’s the link (for those of you who understand German).
Best, Judith

http://www.taz.de/1/politik/asien/artikel/kommentarseite/1/flucht-unter-kirschbaeume/kommentare/1/1/

Nobody April 19, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Okay, now I’m mad. I used to work for Reuters, for quite a few years, and I ASSURE YOU I never worked so bloody hard in my entire bloody life. I also never worked with such a good group of journalists. Highly dysfunctional, some of them total losers, but many of them completely brilliant, and very very good at what they do. ALL work too hard, most have too much stress, some end up working in very dangerous conditions, and a few die while working their craft. So, reading a bunch of half-employed jokers with too much time on their hands complain about cliches written by overworked Reuters hacks has hacked me off, let me tell you.

Having said that, three points: First, the first poster who said nobody gives a damn about Central Asia is right. Nobody does. They should, but they don’t. So be grateful that Reuters can be bothered to write something, no matter how inadequate in your more informed view.

Second, the Reuters reporting on South Asia is routinely head and shoulders above anybody else, with the possible exception of some of the stuff out of washpost in Pak. Seriously. Read it. It’s not bad.

Third, I do not dispute for a second that the cliches are irritating, but the fact remains Reuters reporters have to crank this stuff out, they are timed, and if it is wrong you cause an international incident and then get castrated, or as good as. Not good. I’d also point out that you get timed to the second against your competitors on massive news, and then have half a minute to cover it (could you do that? I think not).

I don’t know why I’m bothering defending some of this stuff, which you’re right is crap, but I think you chose the wrong news organization to be blunt. The world is full of crap news, churned out by crap journalists, working for crap news organizations but I’m not actually convinced Reuters ticks every single one of those boxes.

Nathan Hamm April 19, 2010 at 5:08 pm

You’re right. Most of these problems can be traced back to how the news business works. Someone at a major newspaper told me that if this stuff showed up in their reporting, it usually was the fault of editors.

I don’t have a particular problem with Reuters. This story just caught my eye. But read my comments. I said this isn’t a Reuters-only problem and I said that the journalists who write these stories are usually pretty damned good.

jonathan p April 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm

As a former copy editor, I can assure you that some of it may indeed be the fault of the editors. Because the pressure on them is to make everything clean, succinct and white-washed… and they also have about 12 seconds to do it.

Nobody April 19, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Having said all of that, I think the discussion on word usage such as “clan” and also discussion of intra-regional politics is very useful for reporters parachuted into the region and this topic. Hopefully your site and these discussions can help reporters who find themselves in a fix having to report on this region without the necessary background.

The real problem is a lack of interest in central Asia, but that’s part of the general ignorance about Afghanistan. The reporting on Afg has been atrocious, partly because of staffing issues but mainly because of the political context. The regional perspective is entirely different from the DC perspective, and that’s where this sort of discussion can be helpful. Having said that, I would argue that cliche usage is perhaps the LEAST important inadequacy in most news files. I would say a general lack of scepticism, weak local support leading to inadequate context, weak sourcing and a lack of regional knowledge are the key problems. Not to mention 18 hour days, fear, and lack of access to most of the country.

Nathan Hamm April 19, 2010 at 5:09 pm

I absolutely agree.

reader April 20, 2010 at 6:32 pm

“Having said that, I would argue that cliche usage is perhaps the LEAST important inadequacy in most news files. I would say a general lack of scepticism, weak local support leading to inadequate context, weak sourcing and a lack of regional knowledge are the key problems. Not to mention 18 hour days, fear, and lack of access to most of the country.”

Spot on. But if it is true that newspapers are scaling back on their overseas reporting due to budgetary concerns won’t this problem get worse?
The cliche statement was well taken, but let’s not kid ourselves. There has been a decided decline in the intellectual discourse in this country. This is all thanks to post 1960s faux populism, declining attention spans, and the consolidation of the news industry. These days nobody wants to be accused of being an egghead or an elitist, and heaven forbid you are too wordy.

itch April 20, 2010 at 6:40 pm
Nathan Hamm April 20, 2010 at 6:56 pm

I don’t think that it has any explanation for it. I’m not convinced of the explanation in the story that the black market rate is dropping because of the upcoming ADB conference. It very well could be. I could speculate about what might come next, but we don’t even know why the exchange rate got so out of whack recently anyway. It may have been the reported cash shortage in the country — so this could partially be a bubble collapsing.

Sorry, it’s an unsatisfying answer. And I should add that I think that the dynamic I described in the thesis has been disappearing in Uzbekistan in recent years as Karimov has achieved an all-but-unassailable position vis-a-vis Uzbekistan’s elites.

itch April 20, 2010 at 8:18 pm

I appreciate your opinion and find it very interesting. Thank you.
Would love to read your next theory though 🙂

I don’t see much thought here on the future of water in CA. How come?

michaelhancock April 20, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Not enough information, I think. Water in Central Asia… it’s a rough issue. How much, percentage wise, comes from precipitation and how much from glacier-melt? And how are those glaciers doing? It’s a difficult problem, as many who study it have an agenda – either to prove or disprove global warming – and that can lead to conflicting evidence. Then consider the lack of treaty/agreements for the many rivers that cross international borders…
It’s a huge issue, but not one that we are equipped to address effectively, I believe.

Grant April 20, 2010 at 11:07 pm

I’d say that there’s at least some information on the growing water issue. Droughts over the past decade certainly mean that it has been noticed, I think the Brookings Institute and a few others have written a bit on it. I even used it for a presentation on what issues the U.N should be concerned about in the 21st century (arguing that dwindling resources would spur internal and interstate conflicts).

Schinkejoe April 21, 2010 at 5:04 am

I just read “tribal” in serious remark on recent Washinton politics.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/20/lucy-and-the-football/

Ok as it’s Krugman it ist nothing exceptional. 🙂

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