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.
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.