News & Politics
"This isn't a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades," Charlie D'Agata, a CBS correspondent reported from Kyiv.
"You know, this is a relatively civilized, relatively European - I have to choose those words carefully, too - a city where you wouldn't expect that or hope that it's going to happen."
Notice how the senior journo used the words 'with all due respect' and 'I have to choose the words carefully' and yet came out with an extreme racist and orientalist statement.
The indication was clear on how he views the Middle East and the scribe cannot but wonder what he would have said without any filters, in a setting where he would not have to choose his words 'carefully.'
The Western media coverage of Putin's invasion of Ukraine was plagued by racist and Orientalist treatment which once again has exposed the dark side of the so-called liberal media.
Alan Macleod, a neutral media critic, compiled a thread of similar reports and statements by Western journalists.
The BBC quoted a former deputy prosecutor general of Ukraine saying he was traumatised that "white people with blonde hair and blue eyes were being bombed".
A commentator on a French news program said, "We're not talking about Syrians fleeing bombs of the Syrian regime backed by Putin; we're talking about Europeans leaving in cars that look like ours to save their lives."
Even Al Jazeera anchor Peter Dobbie (Ex BBC) said, "These are not obviously refugees trying to get away from areas in the Middle East," while an ITV News reporter said, "Now the unthinkable has happened to them, and this is not a developing, Third World nation; this is Europe."
British pundit Daniel Hannan noted in the Telegraph. "They seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking. War is no longer something visited upon impoverished and remote populations. It can happen to anyone," he wrote.
All these statements uphold the sentiment that it's much worse when White Europeans suffer than when it's Arabs or other non-White people.
The West's response was far less empathetic when Putin's military also intervened ferociously in Syria, backing the murderous regime of Assad.
The same can be said of the U.S. invasions and military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq; the catastrophic Saudi-led war in Yemen; the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians.
In response to the litany of racist broadcasting, the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association (AMEJA) condemned and rejected the "orientalist and racist implications that any population or country is 'uncivilized' or bears economic factors that make it worthy of conflict".
Such commentary "reflects the pervasive mentality in Western journalism of normalizing tragedy in parts of the world," as it "dehumanizes and renders their experience with war as somehow normal and expected," it said in a statement.
AMEJA also noted the "racist news coverage that ascribes more importance to some victims of war over others".
At least 929,000 people were killed by direct war violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, and Yemen, according to the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.
Besides, there have been reports of racial discrimination at the border crossings between Ukraine and Poland. Journalist and activist Shaun King tweeted,"I simply do not get the impression that Poland or even Bulgaria or Romania are going to be safe, hospitable places for African students and immigrants that have escaped war in Ukraine."
His observations are similar to the reports suggesting that all immigrants of colour, including Bangladeshis, Indians, Latinos, Arabs are having more difficulties crossing the border than their white-skinned counterparts.
He said, "What is heartbreaking for many African, Indian, and Arab immigrants who've been treated like shit at border crossings into Poland, in particular, is that they all know that if white people needed to flee a war-torn border crossing in Africa that they'd be treated like VIPs."
Several reports have emerged in the last two days that people from the subcontinent s and Africans living in Ukraine are facing extreme difficulty in crossing the border from Ukraine into Poland. There were also reports of Ukrainian security agencies assaulting Indian students at the borders.
Orientalism and Western media
Even four decades since Edward Said coined the term Orientalism. Western media have failed to eliminate it from their newsrooms.
It indicates two things, failure to evolve by traditional media outlets and Western supremacist ideas, the knock-on effect of which is justification of illegal military campaigns in the Middle East and the normalisation of discriminatory and racist discourses.
First published in 1978, Edward Said's seminal book Orientalism introduced the concepts of Occident and Orient.
He said that the Occident is the Western imperialist power (USA, England, France and so on) and the Orient is the romantic and misunderstood Middle East, Asia and Africa.
The West made a dichotomy between the reality of the East and romantic notion of the Orient. It perceives the East with prejudice and racism, as if they are uncultured, illiterate, uncivilised and ignorant about the history.
And the western education, history and culture can make them cultured, literate, civilised and aware about history.
Since the Taliban took over, most articles on Afghan refugees fundamentally did not have negative angles to the story, with many of them being quite 'positive' but nevertheless, steeped in Orientalist discourses.
An article published by the Independent on "donations providing flights for refugees", spoke on how "inspiring [it is] to see the American people and American public come together to welcome our new Afghan neighbours." The article is full of praise for American and Western action to help Afghan refugees, and all about what 'they', the refugees, meant for Americans, with not one quote from the Afghan people, let alone any mention of the role of the US government and corporations in creating the current crisis.
Everytime a Western narrator depicts Afghanistan, they mostly reproduce the existing stereotypes rather than shedding light to the rich history and tradition of the nation before it was invaded by the Soviet Union during the Cold War and subsequently became the battlefield between the colliding blocs ever since.
Afghan poets such as Gul Zhowandai (d. 1988) or the mathematician Sediq Afghan (b. 1958) are mostly absent in their discourse. Not many perhaps link Afghanistan to the great poet and learned scholar and mystic of Islam, Jalaladdin Rumi (d. 1273). At best, they may muster the name of Khaled Hosseini, author of the famed novel, The Kite Runner.
The West readily confuses Afghanistan with the Taliban. In confusing the Taliban with Afghanistan, an entire country is Orientalised. As in Said's definition of Orientalism, the "style of thought" on this Muslim Central Asian country reproduces the epistemological binary pitting Afghanistan against the entire world, especially, European and North American countries.
When it comes to the coverage of religion, race and international issues, the lack of diversity in Western newsrooms might be a reason for such backdated coverage.
A report by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) in the United Kingdom noted that as of 2021, 92 per cent of journalists(in UK) come from white ethnic communities - only two percent less than in 2016.
The press cannot accurately represent and give voice to the vulnerable communities if there is a lack of understanding within the media houses themselves.
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