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Natural Disaster Media, 2011

The earthquake in Christchurch is a terrible thing, but I can't watch it. The media circus is on the television, another natural disaster in the region that impacts on white, Western people, and the interviews of men and women who have lost people, and the death count is repeated every five minutes.

It is not the disaster itself that bothers me. It's awful, I feel awful for the people there, and grateful I am not, but it's the media circus, the way they have, of late, latched onto any natural disaster with a set of experts, predictions for disaster (in the Brisbane city floods, for example, they predicted what it would take to flood the entire city, regardless of the fact that it would never reach that), and the awful whiteness of it all. The whiteness because the reporting focuses very strongly on white people, certainly focuses on english speaking men and women, and does not bat an eyelid when discussing the terrible death toll when, in the background, more deaths have happened.

This is what Lynda Hawryluk (lyndahawryluk) wrote:

Interesting to note is the vast discrepancy in death tolls; early reports had 65 victims of the quake yesterday, and this morning that number has been revised to a confirmed death toll of 39. Of course, every death in a disaster is a disaster in itself for the family and community affected, whether its one death from Cyclone Yasi, or hundreds of thousands in Haiti from their earthquake.

But the vast difference between seeing 39 / 65 deaths in one city from a 6.3 earthquake and 70,000 deaths in Sichuan, China is awfully compounded by the media's focus on the former rather than the latter - did you even know the death toll in China? I didn't. I certainly haven't seen many stories on their loss, or the fact that millions of people in China are still homeless.

And compare our knowledge of the events in China and our countries reaction to it, to the early morning press conference held by PM Julia Gillard to announce that one long-term Australian resident, originally born in New Zealand, has been confirmed dead.


Hell, right now, Gaddafi is ending his regime in a terrible rain of violence against the people of Libya, so awful that his own international diplomats are defecting as he sits in a car with an umbrella. You shouldn't be able to compare these things, and if I had not sat through floods, fires and cyclones in this country already, and been unable to escape the media coverage of it, I might not make the comparison--but one can't help but cynically think that because Lybians aren't white, because there are politics involved, that the media here is shying away from it, much as its cursory notes about Egypt were.

Perhaps it is no more than where my own interests lie, perhaps I've just hit the saturation point, it's hard to say, but I have a deep feeling of being fed up with the local media, though I know that most are just men and women who are passionate about their job; but for all that, there is an ethic here, a way of talking about these disasters in the world, the way that they become akin to trash reality TV, that the emotions of their reporters and the way their shows are aired convey a lack of honesty and instead imply a feeling of opportunism that I think the media needs to acknowledge and change.

Comments

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ironed_orchid
Feb. 23rd, 2011 11:06 am (UTC)
I know this feeling well.

I felt this way during the Bali bombing, where it semed that every scratch on a white Australian tourist was of interest to the media, while in Afghanstistan cilivans were being bombed.
lyndarama
Feb. 23rd, 2011 12:31 pm (UTC)
It is a real 'unwritten' journalistic credo: one person in my town equals ten people in New Zealand, equals 300 people in a country I can't find on a map, equals 30,000 people in that country I have only heard of and don't care much for...

Sad but true.

Oh, and Ben; a lot of the reason for the lack of support for Libyans is because of their esteemed leaders history obviously - regardless of the fact he's a dictator they no longer want in charge.
benpeek
Feb. 24th, 2011 01:29 am (UTC)
yeah, i know. but still...
benpeek
Feb. 24th, 2011 01:30 am (UTC)
yeah, it's terrible, isn't it? i somehow don't know how they justify the difference, but i guess as lynda says below...
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