Thursday, February 24, 2005

Too little, too late

Okay. It's about events in the Darfur region of Sudan.
This is going to sound cynical. I made passing reference to Darfur last September.
What is happening in Iraq is a tragedy of almost biblical proportions, although it is not much worse than the tragedies in Sudan (tens of thousands dying), North Korea (cannibalism reports because of food shortages) and other parts of the world that never make the evening news.

But that was during an election campaign. It was an aside remark in a post focused on an entirely different matter.

That seems to be the way things are done. Popular discussions are unable to bite off and chew more than one or two big issues at a time. It's hard to tell if the media is responding to a natural inclination for masses of people to remain blind to more than a couple of issues at a time, or if that blindness results from a cause and effect response of the masses to market economic forces driving most media reporting.
[Caution: That last sentence has a complex thought. Readers tending to the dull side are advised to read it again because it has the seeds of an enresolved but very important debate.]

Moving ahead...the election was followed by a post-mortem followed by the holidays. Everyone "knew" that the next big story was going to be elections in Iraq - whether, when and how - so it would have been a waste of valuable air time and column inches to take a serious look elsewhere. Besides, we have to allow for unscheduled events like a tsunami, or the death of Johnny Carson, or the next important development in some high-profile court battle by this or that celebrity. Don't want to spend so much for bread that we forget about the circus.

So finally, finally, finally...
Someone important at one of the flagships of media (NYT, registration required) "notices" that something important is going on in Africa. Never mind that it has been going on for a year or so. The magnitude of human misery seems finally to have reached critical mass. I suspect that, as in the case of Abu Ghraib, it is the pictures that have made the difference.

This African Union archive is classified, but it was shared with me by someone who believes that Americans will be stirred if they can see the consequences of their complacency.

As I said, this is going to sound cynical, and so it is.
Too many people are, quite literally (great word, literally - notice the root similarity with...) illiterate.
When all else fails, a picture is worth, as the saying goes, a thousand words. At last an archive of photos is beginning to surface. (We have to believe, don't we, that in an age of disposable cameras, cell phones with cameras and internet images, that no one has yet succeded in taking pictures in Sudan. ) Is it fair to ask if revenue streams that flow from controlled access to photo images, whether they be copyright considerations or some other, less respectable under the table arrangements, have anything to do with what seems about to happen?
Don't know. Just asking...

Nevertheless the Times ends on a compelling end note:

I'm sorry for inflicting these horrific photos on you. But the real obscenity isn't in printing pictures of dead babies - it's in our passivity, which allows these people to be slaughtered.

During past genocides against Armenians, Jews and Cambodians, it was possible to claim that we didn't fully know what was going on. This time, President Bush, Congress and the European Parliament have already declared genocide to be under way. And we have photos.

This time, we have no excuse.

Here are two links listed in the Times editorial. To it's credit, both are hypertexted in the on-line edition. Thus far, according to the paper, response has been "pathetic." Their word, not mine. and

Memeorandum lists other places commenting on this issue.

I'm sure that now, finally, finally, more will follow.
This morning I don't feel so much on the margins, even if the matter seems to have escaped instattention.

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