Friday, September 10, 2010

You are in danger

Why Pakistan's floods have been ignored, and why it endangers your security (yes, Canadians too).   Juan Cole at TomDispatch:

Still, the submerging of a fifth of a country the size of Pakistan is -- or at least should be -- a dramatic global event and even small sums, if aggregated, would matter.  (A dollar and a half from each American would have met the U.N. appeal.)  Some have suggested that the Islamophobia visible in the debate about the Park 51 Muslim-owned community center in lower Manhattan left Americans far less willing to donate to Muslim disaster victims.
And what of those national security arguments that nuclear-armed Pakistan is crucial not just to the American war in Afghanistan, but to the American way of life?  Ironically, the collapse of the neoconservative narrative about what it takes to make the planet’s “sole superpower” secure appears to have fallen on President Obama’s head.  One of the few themes he adopted wholeheartedly from the Bush administration has been the idea that a poor Asian country of 170 million halfway around the world, facing a challenge from a few thousand rural fundamentalists, is the key to the security of the United States.
If the Pakistani floods reveal one thing, it’s that Americans now look on such explanations through increasingly jaundiced eyes.  At the moment, no matter whether it’s the Afghan War or those millions of desperate peasants and city dwellers in Pakistan, the public has largely decided to ignore the AfPak theater of operations.  It’s not so surprising.  Having seen the collapse of our financial system at the hands of corrupt financiers produce mass unemployment and mass mortgage foreclosures, they have evidently decided, as even Glenn Beck admits, it’s “game over” for imperial adventures abroad.
Another explanation may also bear some weight here, though you won’t normally hear much about it.  Was the decision of the corporate media not to cover the Pakistan disaster intensively a major factor in the public apathy that followed, especially since so many Americans get their news from television?
The lack of coverage needs to be explained, since corporate media usually love apolitical, weather-induced disasters.  But covering a flood in a distant Asian country is, for television, expensive and logistically challenging, which in these tough economic times may have influenced programming decisions.  Obviously, there is as well a tendency in capitalist news to cover what will attract advertising dollars.  Add to this the fact that, unlike the Iraq “withdrawal” story or the “mosque at Ground Zero” controversy, the disaster in Pakistan was not a political football between the GOP and the Democratic Party.  What if, in fact, Americans missed this calamity mostly because a bad news story set in a little-known South Asian country filled with Muslim peasants is not exactly “Desperate Housewives” and couldn’t hope to sell tampons, deodorant, or Cialis, or because it did not play into domestic partisan politics?   
 The great Pakistani deluge did not exist, it seems, because it was not on television, would not have delivered audiences to products, and was not all about us.  As we saw on September 11, 2001, and again in March 2003, however, the failure of our electronic media to inform the public about centrally important global developments is itself a security threat to the republic.


  1. There is also perhaps a feeling that the rich Arab states should lead on this one -- and that may or may not be happening.

    Before 31 Aug., Saudi Arabia had pledged just 3.1% of the total (cf.: USA 31%, Britain 11% -- and 3.1% is less than what was given each by Australia, Canada, and Japan). No donations from Gulf States or indeed any other Muslim nation were noted:

    On 31 Aug., al-jazeera (online English edition) reported that Muslim countries and organisations pledged nearly $1bn in cash and supplies to relief efforts in Pakistan.

    "They have shown that they are one of the largest contributors of assistance both in kind and cash," Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, head of the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said in Islamabad on Sunday. The aid pledges come from OIC institutions and telethons held in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, he said."

    Has that money reached Pakistan? Are they stepping up to the plate? I haven't heard anything since.

  2. Or it just might be donor fatigue.

  3. Being a summer time story may not help too. I missed part of the collapse of the Iron Curtain due to a vacation and no radio.
    It is interesting in Canada that CBC radio (no need to please advertisers) has provided some coverage but it seems shallow compared to Haiti a few months before. But there was in Haiti a strong Canadian angle with the Canadian Forces helping out. Still there are a lot of Pakistanis in Canada so you would think they would beat the drums more on the media.

    All I know is that I donated $200 today which will be 100 % matched by the Canadian Government.

    I do wonder is this the first Global Warming disaster? We will probably never know.