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Media & Money – DR Congo

March 20, 2009

So I’ve noted from my little poll and asking around that there is a general rough concensus that the DR Congo crisis doesn’t make it into the press so often for one predominant reason: it’s in Africa (you know, Africa the country).

Myers, Klak & Koehl in 1996 looked at the differences in press coverage between those which covered the Bosnia conflict, and those on the Rwanda conflict just before the genocide.  The outcome was not surpising.

Both conflicts had very many similarities: ethnic divisions, military tactics, influces of external imperialism and so forth.   However, it was found that the US media showed great imbalances between the coverage of each conflict.

In essence, the article looks at how a war can be framed.  Framing is a social construction formed around the subject to give a meaning; a construct which can vary greatly.  The authors found that the press tended to distort Rwandan stories to fit a certain frame – relying on non-African sources, refering to Africa and the conflict as tribal, and in fact ‘others’ the continent; Conranesque one could say (I may have to defend Heart of Darkness at a later date I feel).

They call this the inscription of difference: media are a central player in how society constructs the world in their minds, leading to categorisation and defamation of peoples of places in a new world construct.

This new world construct evolved from the cold-war one, and has become an economic construct.  Therefore, one could suggest that economic importance binds the media together.  If the countries of Africa were able to have power over their own huge resources, one could imagine the world would be forced to sit up and listen.

However, it is still largely in the interests of the large coporates and governments plundering the resources of African countries like DR Congo to let the chaos reign, so they can step in and steal at will, unnoticed.  So does the media merely manufacture consent?  See my post media & influence for more information.

Is there a way to unbind the link between media and money?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Virgil permalink
    March 23, 2009 3:15 pm

    I hesitated to answer your poll because I can think of at least 6 reasons why the DRC is marginalized, and it is so complex (as you pointed out). The reason “it’s Africa” is certainly a powerful one, but the problem is, how do we explain the attention in the West that Darfur and Zimbabwe get? These get far more coverage than the DRC, yet they are also “Africa”.

    A paper I recently published in the journal Media, War & Conflict (about the coverage of the DRC in the Australian newspaper) covers some of these reasons – there are many and it is quite complex.

    Here are some quick ideas: Zimbabwe first got its attention back in 2000 because white farmers were being victimized. President Mugabe also likes speaking out against the West in English, which gets him attention also. Darfur was ignored for a year until the notion that this was ‘genocide’ stuck (sensationalism) – it helped that the perpetrators were seen as being ‘Arab’. The fact that this attention came at the time of tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide also made a big difference.

  2. Simon permalink*
    March 23, 2009 3:26 pm

    Thank you Virgil.

    I read your paper and agree; Zimbabwe was a nice story because he was so vocal against the West and in particular against the old colonial rulers, Britain – he made for good soundbites. It also helped that it was the white farmers in Zimbabwe being kicked out.

    And I agree with Darfur, Islam in Africa is a bigger story for the press. Interestingly, I have a feeling it is receiving much more coverage in the US.

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