Amollo: From Assad to Kony, we are victims of a tactful media

Benson Amollo

There is some value attachment to sensationalism; whenever applied, it makes the most abstract things freak out with an expression of awe and or the vilest of resentment. This seemingly has worked well with the media’s interpretation of conflicts in the developing world.

The media’s (the Western world’s media) casting of events in the developing world has received great resonance with her largely abstract audience with regard to the realities of life and the extremity of conflicts in those distant corners of the world. The most current examples are the reporting on the civil disorder in Syria and the documentary on the Joseph Kony — the “crazy” militia prefect of Northern Uganda. In Kony 2012, the documentary’s sensationalism strikes a twin semblance to what makes it to the bulletin in news organizations such as the CNN, BBC, Fox News, the New York Times and all other leading international news organizations.

Naturally, when the human mind is subjected to wild abstraction, it chills with fright and launches in a mode that is at a loss at just how such an occurrence would be a reality on planet Earth. It is this knowledge that has seen the Western media’s successful marketing of the “crazy goings-on” from the other world. Since there hasn’t been much need to educate the vast majority of the Western public on the humanity of such craze, they monitor the events with the kind of removed craze — doubtful as to whether real human beings are capable of doing such. In the end, there’s no real conversation on what really feeds the passion of a person keen on “scavenging” on the other with such grandiose animosity.

That kind of mentality — the one that the Western media has helped foster within her Western audience — has served well to dial down the gravity of similar “craze” in the West. Thus, people in the West, are led to believe that their kind of hunger for instance, does not bite like the one in Mogadishu, Somalia, or Mandera, Kenya. Such misplaced lenses have led many to be unforgiving in their analysis of the lack of humanity in the developing world even in the face of natural disasters.

But anyway, such is the tragedy that has seen so many, fail to understand Syria, her current crisis and her man — Bashar al-Assad, the dictator currently orchestrating the murderous crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Assad, by all counts is as human as anyone on the streets of Ames. What he does with his humanity and how it propels him to think and act is a different conversation altogether. Last month, a cache of leaked emails from his account demonstrated his very contemporary level of humanity and laughed off our collective failure to treat him and his madness as that of an ordinary person. Some of the emails demonstrated his presence in tech-reality: He had purchased songs like LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It” from iTunes then attached them to flirtatious love emails to his wife.

Indeed, while some of the email cache’s content is a little ridiculous, the continued atrocities occurring in Syria are no laughing matter. In fact, the year-long crackdown, which has turned this once beautiful country into a socially fragmented quagmire, has reportedly killed upwards of 8,000 people. As if to add insult to injury, the emails themselves have been a slap in the face for many Syrians. While forced to hide in their homes fearing death or abduction by the dreaded Mukhabarat (Syrian secret police), they now realize just how comfortable al-Assad and his family have been.

Assad’s comfort in reality is also demonstrated further by the grand purchases he’s been making: in luxury items, jewelry and designer clothing over the Internet. Oh, yes! The dictator is one of us. He does the normal things we do, and we must now believe he has, just like all of us, not two pairs of hard-beating hearts, but one.

Despite the anger focused towards the Assad family’s frivolous use of the Syrian people’s money, the truly damning aspect of this email leak has been the realization that international attempts to isolate al-Assad have comprehensively failed. His ability to bypass these restrictive measures range from receiving military supplies from Russia and tactical advice on crushing the rebellion from Iranian intelligence heads to registering his iTunes account under a fake identity based in New York City. In fact, following the leak, The Guardian newspaper described the Assad family as so protected and disconnected from the revolt that they exist within a “gilded cocoon.”

If the West, and largely the very abstract citizens, had a chance to dial down on their abstraction and distant by-standing and blame apportioning, perhaps our understanding of how the dictatorships are aided by the West would be well served.