The Media Condition and Violence as the Norm

The recent killings at Sandy Hook Elementary school in the United States of America is no doubt a terrible tragedy and complete waste of lives.  Another sad chapter in what seems to be a never-ending American media story of murder, mass killings and suicides.

So, where to begin? Who is to blame?  Can you blame a way of life, is it possible? There are many questions that need to be asked.  How can this continue to happen time and time again? And why?  What perpetuates these heinous acts?  There are several different angles that one could use to interpret these mass American killings or even all murders in the Unites States of America and abroad. Mainly I would like to look at the way the media in the USA, Europe and the developed world use the media and raise some questions about the industries’ motives.  I also want to raise a few questions about the culture and policy of violence in our world.

Could one of the root causes be the deeply ingrained culture of violence in America? A population highly exposed to guns and violent crime through the media, movies, and video games to name but a few avenues.

Arguably it is the peace model versus a military industrial complex model.  An entire system and mindset which is completely interwoven into global policy.  The military industrial complex is probably the number one cause of violence all over the world, be it domestic or international violence.  The industry depends on that.

You could also argue that “Western” media puts a higher value on the lives of people in developed countries more than that of people in underdeveloped countries.  Why else do we not hear about the many lives being lost around the world on a daily basis in underdeveloped countries as much as we hear about the lives of those in the developed?  Do these acts receive such exclusive coverage simply because they take place in a developed country?

We may also want to question the American medias’ handling of the Sandy Hook aftermath, was it necessary to publish the name, make and model every firearm used in the attack?  What purpose does this serve other than free advertising for the gun manufacturers? It is a gun related crime, period.  In a country where you can get almost any type of gun at anytime in anyplace, it is really going to make a difference what make and model firearm the killer used?  (Ironically enough gun sales immediately shot up after the tragedy, so at least the gun companies were able to profit right?)

As you can see, it is easy to get carried away on this topic.  The main concern that I’ve had in the wake of this tragedy is the amount of attention it has been getting versus everything else that is happening in the world.  Not only that, but a story which has dominated the headlines for days on end.  Please do not get me wrong, I am not by any means discounting how terrible Sandy Hook was.  However,  there has been other tragic events taking place in the world during this time that have not been as widely reported.  Why is this the case?  It is as if the developed world, probably more so in North America, which seems to live inside of a type of bubble, shielded from the outside world.  The media in North America, particularly in the United States is a completely agenda driven industry (albeit an industry which will gladly accept your investment with open arms).  So is it a ratings game?  Would the networks benefit from reporting about children starving and dying in Syria everyday, children getting stabbed in China, the C.I.A. getting charged for torture by the European Union, or the polio volunteers who were shot dead in Pakistan? Mmm, I’ll let you decide for yourself.  It seems that the United States’ media wouldn’t consider these stories important enough to report on (although a couple of them did make the small print a day or two later!),  and or there is no immediate demand (i.e higher ratings value) in the other stories.  Besides low shock value to Americans, there is nothing in any of those stories that would seem to fit the agenda of the American news networks (and in some cases, their respective shareholders).  Additionally, those stories may not cause the same level of distraction that something like the Sandy Hook Elementary school may produce.

Just remember there is always news both good and bad all over the world everyday.  Unfortunately, western news reports on violence, disaster or tragedy, and usually regarding events in the developed world (unless it is an event in the underdeveloped world so large that it is unavoidable).  We turn on the television or open the newspaper expecting to see and hear something terrible.  We have been conditioned by the media to expect that the news will be bad, to accept that bad news is the news, and we have.

Diversions in “Western” media are common place, after all, the media is owned by the corporations which run much of the globalized world.  It makes senese that if an event can produce high ratings and or divert attention from undesirable global issues or events, that many companies and even governments may able to benefit in one way or another.

Luckily, we have access to the internet which means we can still proactively seek out other sources of information to make our own minds up about the news we hear.  I really hope that the North American corporate media can take a more balanced view of global events in the future and pop the “bubble”.  I hope that more people take it upon themselves to look outside of the media bubble which has been created in the “West” and to ask more questions about what you see and hear.  As important as domestic news is, it is equally important for all of us to be more conscious about global current events as our world becomes more and more connected.  To make the world a better place for everyone we need to stay informed and educated about all of surroundings not just the ones in front of us.  It is important for us to look outside of the bubble and seek out as many sources as possible and make our own decisions based on these multiple sources of information.

Clearly, I feel that North Americans in particular receive filtered and very specific news coverage.  However,  the fact of the matter is, whether we are in North America or not, the culture of violence is not isolated to certain people or regions.  Globalization has transformed the way our world views violence, and unfortunately it is increasingly accepted as a part of everyday life in our system.  Violent events will continue to occur, because, they always just always just have, right?  Indeed, they will continue if we as a civilization continue to accept it as the norm.  We are living in a world run by an old way of thinking, one based on realist principles, a retributive justice system the need for more.  Until a new generation can create and run governments that are not based on fear, retribution and power we will continue to hear about events like the Norway massacre and Sandy Hook.  An adaptation in how we view and treat our neighbours all over the world is necessary.  What we will allow and what we will expect from our media and governments in the future will depend on our willingness to continually evolve, educate and engage ourselves in the process of shaping our future.  There must be a fundamental change in the way that an entire generation thinks about and views our world.  Difficult? No one said it was going to be easy. Possible? Definitely!



Iranian President Ahmadinejad visits Latin America

Click picture for related article at the Foreign Policy Association

Back in mid January the Iranian president Ahmadinejad made a visit to the Latin American countries Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela in a show of public diplomacy.  This trip was not only for securing business and security relationships, but it also sends a message to the United States and the West that Iran is alive, well and functioning.  The appearance of having allies so close to US soil was surely on the agenda of the Iranian president on his most recent visit to the region.  Crippling sanctions imposed by the US and the EU have left Iran with but little choice but to seek and ensure economic stability and security for their country in other parts of the world.  However, the latest sanctions are no ordinary sanctions since they also come with the threat force with them.  Israel, most notably has let their intentions be known that the “smart” sanctions are only a precursor to what would eventually be inevitable conflict.  Obviously this act of coercion towards Iran from western powers leaves them looking for new strategies in the international community.  Arguably western powers could say that even this visit to Latin America is only compounding Iranian provocations towards the west, in an escalation of aggressive behaviour towards the west.  It seems that if you are with the west, then Iran is deliberately escalating the situation by building a nuclear bomb.  If you are Iran, you are trying to provide nuclear energy for you’re country.  It is a situation which is extremely delicate and probably both sides of the argument have valid and invalid points.  However, in my opinion the US, Israel and Iran are each engaging in this situation from very realist perspectives.  Each  country is acting in it’s own self interest, America for Iran’s oil, Israel for it’s sovereignty and Iran for its nuclear ambitions.

It appears that Iran’s foreign policy is built upon a realist beliefs using a pluralist model of decision making.  However, Iran’s pluralist model of decision making likely does not resemble that of liberal states.  I would imagine Iran has several small contingents of elites and or ministers who would have their input taken into account.  As opposed to having a larger umbrella of groups to contend with such as multinational corporations, interest groups, opposition parties, and of course a massive bureaucracy.  In this way, it seems as though even though a pluralist model exists, it is simply in place to appease certain elites or for consultation.  So it may not be so simple to define after all, Iran in fact, actually appears to be acting based on a Rational model of decision making.  Iran’s leader has identified the pressing issues, made clear cut decisions based on what he and his country needs, and is selecting, for now, the diplomatic routes which seem to make the most sense at this point in time.  Now with the Syrian conflict in full out civil war it will be interesting to see who supports whom and for which reasons.  Over the next few months it will be interesting to observe the shifts in foreign policy decision making as even the slightest alteration in policy could mean the difference between a violent or peaceful outcome. Let’s hope for the latter.

Dialogue for the Greater Good

Jonas Store makes some excellent points in this TED talk.  It only makes sense that the resolution to major international and domestic conflicts will reach a true peace on the heels of meaningful and calculated dialogue.  I would further add to Mr.  Stores thoughts that dialogue between groups and nations must allow for concessions, probably on both sides of the table.  While getting to the table with groups to which we once pushed away is a great feat in itself.  An even greater feat would be for such negotiations to bear fruit.  The “Western powers” (and China) of the world usually enter negotiations with a zero sum stance, rarely allowing for any movement on demands.  The Western powers must be able to agree to variable sum situations which allow for more movement at the table.  So, Jonas’ point of getting to the table with “outlawed” groups or rogue states is very important, but it is also crucial to note the importance of political cooperation for the advancement of diplomacy with such groups and states as well.  Without meaningful dialogue between global players, the earth will continue to be a shifting dune of conflict based on ignorance, stubbornness and centralized state interests based on zero sum mentalities.  Such an alternative approach to International Relations is necessary for the development and implementation of new core concepts in the international community.


Originally posted on langarainternationalrelations:

It seems as though institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank were set up to help countries in need.  Poor countries struggling to pay debts and feed their populations had nowhere to turn to.  Unfortunately, it appears that capitalism and capitalists have infiltrated all aspects of global society, from banking and politics to energy and food.  Even governments considered to be fully democratic are being convinced by the corporate world what they need and that in turn is pitched to the people as what they need.  People are seemingly left with little choice not matter where you live, you are bound to elect a leader influenced by money and corporations telling them what will be good for them.  These leaders try to tell us then what is good for us.  Similarly the IMF is taking extreme advantage of countries in need, slashing public programs, devaluing currency and selling off entire…

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Originally posted on Natasha Smith:

I have been forced to leave Cairo prematurely following a horrific sexual and physical attack in Tahrir Square.

The atmosphere was one of jubilation, excitement, and happiness as I walked, accompanied by two male companions for safety along Kasr El Nil bridge. I had had an awful day, caused by problems in personal relationships, so I was so happy to be in such a wonderful environment, getting such amazing footage. Women, children and fathers smiled, waved, and cheered happily at the camera, calling out the widely used phrase “welcome to Egypt! Welcome!”. Fireworks lit up the sky. It was a moving and captivating experience.

Just as I realised I had reached the end of the bridge, I noticed the crowd became thicker, and decided immediately to turn around to avoid Tahrir Square. My friends and I tried to leave. I tried to put my camera back in my rucksack.


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Anton G:

A post from my Langara IR class..

Originally posted on langarainternationalrelations:

Click the picture for the full article at PressTV

It seems as if Turkeys’ will to join the European Union, exceeds its will to make the right decision for its country.  I feel as though the EU frowns upon unfavourable moves that Turkey makes, but will wink, nod and brush shoulders with them when they go along with the “west”.  I am unconvinced that a radar system and missile defence system in Turkey and Eastern Europe is the answer for anything.  The message I get from this aggressive manoeuvre, is simply that the United States, through NATO is looking to heavily expand its military presence.  I can completely see how countries in the region perceive this as a threat… Say for example you live on a street with all modest houses, except there is a single house in the middle of the block thats bigger, everyone who lives on this block knows that this guy has more money and power than the rest.  So…

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