Monday, May 5, 2014
The Religious Wars on Women
I haven't posted a link round-up in awhile but I've been following the "news." It's not easy, because television "news" lately has fallen to an all-time low. CNN has been obsessing about the missing Malaysian airplane, and then cutting away to obsess about the Korean ferry. MSNBC continues to obsess about Chris Christy, because they want to scrap his presidential hopes for 2016. Fox continues to obsess about Benghazi, because they want to scrap Hillary Clinton's presidential hopes for 2016.
There's an old saying: when you have one foot in the past and one foot in the future you're pissing all over today. That's what our "news" channels are doing.
One of the stories that the Big Three "news" channels paid scant (if any) attention to is the April 14 kidnapping of Nigerian school girls from their school dormitory - a dormitory that had armed guards! I read about this the day after it happened, while looking for stories for the link round-up I didn't post. I thought surely it would be so well publicized that there would be no need to post on it.
I continued to follow the story, and as it turns out this is only partly about women. The kidnappers belong to a group called "Boko Haram," which means "Western Education is Sin." They are an extremist sect of Islam that operates in Northern Nigeria and neighboring countries. These people killed 29 teenaged boys earlier this year and has conducted several massacres over the past few years. If the girls haven't been killed yet, it is probably because they are being sexually abused by abductors or people who have bought them from abductors.
This was all basically unknown until the mothers protested. Now CNN is reporting on the threat to sell the girls. Apparently Allah wants him to do that.
One CNN show I make must-see TV is a Sunday morning show about the media called "Reliable Sources." It usually features several middle-aged white men talking about journalism and how a story should or shouldn't be handled. Finally, they ask the question I've been asking: Why isn't there more coverage of this atrocity? Here are some snips from the transcript:
So there you have it. There was no coverage because it was hard to get video, unlike the situation in Korea & Malaysia. All those talking heads who have been opining about Malaysian Air debris or the number of students on the Korean ferry were just filling air time between video clips of grieving families. Likewise, Fox has senate hearings and talk show interviews about Benghazi to rehash and MSNBC has no shortage of Christy footage.
The story is getting attention now only because of the demonstrations. Video of crying mothers and angry fathers make better TV than the old days when they just read out their scripts. This story is like the 9/11 story: a radical group that gets away with murder -- literally -- until finally doing something big enough to get the attention of the media. (I still remember the summer of 2001, when CNN was obsessed about Chandra Levy's disappearance, while al Quaeda was totally unheard-of)
But there are (at least) two layers for all these stories: the immediate story and the bigger story of what the immediate story means.
The missing airplane and sunken ferry are part of the bigger narrative of "disasters in transportation." We don't watch because we care about other people ... not that much anyway. We watch because we worry that these things could happen to us. And to soothe our worries, CNN spends some of its many hours of coverage on possible changes to the design of both aircraft and ferry boats after these events.
But what is the bigger narrative about the kidnapped girls? It's the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Africa and the suppression of women. It's about the attack on education by Islamic fundamentalism. It's 200+ Malala Yusafzai's and perhaps more to come. Why no outrage over this bigger issue?
Christian fundamentalists and Jewish fundamentalists are also against education for girls, and they're not fans of higher education, either. That's why the media won't criticize an anti-education movement. They're afraid of offending the same types in the U.S.
So in effect, they're colluding with the religious movements that repress women. Fortunately, we know how to use the internet.
edited to add: After posting this I turned on CNN and Anderson Cooper led with the story and spent 20 minutes on it, with video of the dorms & an interview with a girl who escaped. Apparently their commenter shamed them. Cooper made a point of prodding the reporter to say how difficult it was to cover the story. After that segment ended I flipped to Fox News - they were droning on about Benghazi. MSNBC was doing a segment on guns. So... kudos to CNN finally.