I wish to relate the tyranny of Western media, which operate as the propaganda machine of neocolonialists. Essentially, mendacity of the media threatens to tear apart the very fabric of social trust. Above all, I am forced to expose the tyranny of Western media in Ethiopia for the very reason that it imperils a symbolic nation of African independence and unity. But first, I will take a brief historical detour to show the value of trust, and the global dangers Western media and neocolonialism have hitherto imposed upon the rest of the world.
Trust is the hallmark of civilization and social cohesion. Hunters and gatherers had to trust the bravery of fellow hunters to survive in the wilderness, and the wisdom of fellow gatherers in picking the edible and avoiding the poisonous. Their children had to trust the survival skills learned from elders, accepting they would not deceive and, thereby, place them in harm’s way. Such reliance on one another resided in clans and tribes, and its effectiveness engendered expansive civilizations as manifested in social and national identities.
When we fast forward, we find our generation placing trust in social and religious institutions, and ultimately trusting the entire world in the spirit of Ubuntu. Human civilization has now reached a point where our fate is inseparable, and we see this in the global effects of climate change. Currently, even the most sagacious and heroic individuals are ill-equipped to survive without trusting division of labor and relying on the wisdom of others. I embrace existence by accepting life is too short and cognition too limited for me to master the skills and knowledge our social and natural world necessitates.
I am forced to start with the integral role of trust in the genesis and expansion of our social life because I currently detect an imminent threat. Trust is the very fabric that maintains social cohesion, but falsehood violates it by planting seeds of doubt in our hearts.
Division of labor requires personal and institutional integrity, which is why instances of deception jeopardize the very foundation of society and civilization. In other words, when a particular doctor deceives a patient, the trust in all doctors is corroded. The same is true in every other profession and the cumulative effect is holistic suspicion. Especially when the experts are under the watchful eyes of the public, a single fraudulent act undermines trust and solidarity. I am speaking here of global institutions, governments, and especially journalists who exist to serve the people because they are entrusted with the greatest social responsibility. This is why the world is indignant at dishonest politicians and journalists. Behind the failure and termination of the League of Nations, for instance, we see a global organization that failed to live up to its promises and principles. Currently, the UN is losing public trust, as it has endorsed the initial military intervention in Libya; as it has failed to respond to Rwanda’s Holocaust; and as it continually tolerates and indulges nations with nuclear power. An equivalent threat to social trust and civilization emerges when politically independent entities spread falsehood – I am referring to the media.
Press freedom is a victory of the people who struggled against forces of domination, and it causes melancholy when the media betray the public. People have cherished media independence for it promises to serve truth by fearlessly defending the public against the tyranny of the powers that be. Sadly, it did not take long before the media too gave birth to forms of domination. Many in the media, both individuals and institutions, have chosen to partner with the financially and politically powerful. But to spread propaganda, they still need a passive public as it possesses sheer force in numbers; accordingly, they frame palatable public narratives. While every nation under any form of government has its share of anti-freedom and pro-indoctrination media, the glaring examples are found in Western media. The mainstream media that claims to be global, is financed by powerful entities who, at times, use the media to manufacture public consent.
In a world where investigating and reporting newsworthy events is dominantly a financial issue, Western and other global media enjoys hegemony over truth. The other financially struggling media with integrity are pressed between a rock and a hard place – they could either rely on reports of the Western media or fail to report an event. To avoid confusion, I want to indicate that ‘Western media’ is used not only to represent powerful media in Western countries with a global reach, but also westernized media that enjoy equal financial and/or political power and global reach as do the Western media. To name a few, I am speaking of CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, France 24, The Times, VOA, and all globally powerful media. As a side note, The Voice of America (VOA) truly lives up to its name by voicing American agenda because the head of VOA is directly assigned by the US president. This explains the huge amount of financing and wide reach of VOA and similar media. Thus, as Western media dictate facts and truth, their untruth becomes world truth and their misinformation becomes global information.
The tyranny of Western media is the direct outcome of their alliance with western powers that terrorize the rest of the world for realizing neocolonial ambitions. In a post-colonial world, former colonizers have strategized and adopted repressive economic tactics so as to remake the world in their own image. In the past, they called colonization and slavery the humanistic mission to civilize the world. In the past, the brainwashing was done through missionaries who arrogantly and blasphemously claimed to bring the word of God. Currently, they call neocolonialism a mission to democratize the world as a way of safeguarding human rights. Currently, the brainwashing is conducted by the Western media who haughtily claim to own and dispense truth. Yet the truth and facts behind historical and current events are interpreted by such media in manipulative ways, making mockery of truth through distortion. Thus, the media is a powerful tool of neocolonialism that acts with the consent of either a critical or passive public.
The public, or audience, has a double nature when it deals with internal or personal events, and when it entertains foreign and impersonal events. We view the media with a sense of responsibility when the media is presenting issues that directly affect us. For instance, the Western audience, for the most part, will not tolerate disinformation and misinformation concerning national issues. Thus, the media is forced to be impartial, or at least go to an unimaginably clandestine extent to hide the truth. But the same Western public wishes to form an indifferent opinion when it comes to the affairs of ‘foreign’ nations. The nations designated by the Western public as ‘foreign’ are the ones that have no direct influence over their lives; they are nations that are used to make comparisons so as to feel good about how good their lives are. But Western politics and media do not operate the same way the public does. They are interested in the economic and political implications each nation has on Western nations.
Default defines the will of an indifferent Western public, while intrusiveness defines their political system. Default in thought and deed are the uninterested and cold audiences who consume mass media in wholesale. For Western nations who are too invested in the affairs of the world, for sustaining complete hegemony, a willfully ignorant citizenry is ideal. But as the Western audience could not tolerate ‘the pangs of conscience’, the mainstream media sing lullabies to them. Western media are experts, as Noam Chomsky says, at ‘manufacturing consent’ and implanting the needed emotional reaction – anger, disgust, vengefulness – until they stand in unison to champion the crimes of their governments. Just as Western citizens cheered the colonial ambitions by accepting the myth of ‘mission to civilize’, now too they applaud their leaders and call heroes their soldiers when they travel overseas to invade countries. The evil of neocolonialism had completed its mission in Vietnam and Chile; it has violated sovereignty in Iraq and Afghanistan; it still operates in Libya and Syria; and it was shamefully defeated in Somalia while gaining fictional victory through movies like ‘Black Hawk Down’. Currently, it is desirous of disrupting the historical independence and unity of my beloved nation, Ethiopia.
In a time of national crises, when Ethiopia is struggling to remove terrorism fatuously ornamented in ethnic garb, Western nations and media have continually failed to recognize this undeniable reality. To show the utterly intolerable Western propaganda, I will have to say a bit about the domestic terrorists. Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) had begun in the Woyane rebellion that rallied Tigray in a socialist fight against Emperor Haile Selassie. But power went to Derg regime, and so TPLF shifted from socialism to capitalism, which gained it the favor of Westerners. It then won power by joining other rebel factions from Eritrea, Amhara, Oromia and other national movements that sought democracy. However, it excluded, persecuted and exiled its allies, and so autocratically reigned over the nation. This resulted in three decades of TPLF’s tyrannical rule over Ethiopia, and it used this time to remake the nation in its own ethnic image. In other words, TPLF adopted colonialism’s ‘divide and conquer’ strategy to divide a historically unified nation and exploit its own nation for the sake of power and money. It had imposed the fluid and evasive concept of ethnic identity as the only route to political participation. The three decades of TPLF’s tyranny were used to create an ethnically sensitive constitution, to make public and national holidays that celebrated ethnicity at the expense of nationality, and to fabricate an ethnic history and curriculum. While TPLF failed to segregate our unified nation, it gave birth to bellicose ethnic terrorists such as OLF Shene, which seek the secession of Oromia at the expense of Ethiopia.
A few years earlier, Ethiopians reached the limit of exploitation, since TPLF had robbed them of everything and they had nothing left to preserve through submission. Peaceful protesters were slaughtered in the process, while Western nations preferred silence. Nevertheless, Ethiopians proved to be worthy of the task when the people of Oromia and Amhara joined hands to rally the nation and reclaim independence. It is this struggle for democracy and freedom that brought PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed to power and drove out TPLF and its cronies. PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed continues to win the hearts of Ethiopians because he champions the very things the people cherish – the independence and unity of Ethiopia and Africa. But this was bound to anger TPLF and Westerners since both desired to oppress and exploit Ethiopia and Africa. To quench their tyrannical thirst, TPLF declared war on its own nation by attacking the Northern Regiment of the National Defense Force. The current government of Ethiopia and the National Defense Force, with the support of the people, retaliated to protect the nation and bring TPLF to justice. These overwhelming evidences of crime are negligible to Western media which chose to echo the terrorist’s propaganda.
Western media have directly and indirectly encouraged these terrorists using historically severed and contextually distorted narrations. TPLF had hidden behind the people of Tigray and now uses them as human waves to attack the nation, specifically the people of Amhara and Afar. Western media speak the same false narrative by framing the attack on TPLF as an attack on Tigray. Worse still, they continue to ignore the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people in Amhara and Afar who are victims of the terrorist attacks by TPLF and OLF Shene. The ethnic terrorists hate the people of Amhara and Afar only because they are paragons of being Ethiopian. Amhara and Afar never descend to an abysmal ethnic identity for they wholeheartedly identify themselves with Ethiopia. I am not ignoring the suffering in Tigray for I know they too have been used and manipulated by TPLF. The people of Tigray were a scape goat during TPLF’s tyrannical reign, and now the humanitarian aid is consumed by the party, which also intensifies the people’s suffering to trick the world. Their worst crime was to instill hatred in their hearts and use them for human wave attacks. Western media play a crucial role by echoing the propaganda of TPLF and diaspora sympathizers who live luxuriously using money they robbed Ethiopia of while in power.
I believe that only the truth has the power of disenchanting the world of Western propaganda. Manipulation and propaganda have been the age-old weapons of tyrants and oppressors in their myopic aim of replacing truth with falsehood – it never works. Yet, it can be effective in reducing truth to mere opinion. If and when we present counter-arguments to falsehood, we enter the labyrinth wherein untruth is the thesis and truth the antithesis. What we must do is speak truth as the only form of reality. We cannot argue against a swindler who claims apples are oranges; we only have to bring actual apples and oranges. Similarly, we cannot argue with tyrannical Western media when they defend TPLF; we just have to show the true nature of the terrorist, which is what I have tried to do. For too long, we fought a losing battle with colonialism and neocolonialism by trying to show that it is neither a mission to civilize nor democratize. We must have spoken the truth – colonialism is the worst crime in history and neocolonialism is its evil child. Now, we must condemn the tyranny of Western media for they are the agents of neo-colonial propaganda, instead of the defenders of truth. From recent history, we must learn that we should have asked Libyans, instead of Obama and Western media, before dismantling the nation. Now too, anyone who wishes to know about Ethiopia just has to listen to Ethiopians. The #NoMore movement by Ethiopians, Africans and the defenders of freedom across the world expresses the spirit of Ethiopians.
In the end, the weight of ignorance and conceit in Western media is evident in generalized reports on Africa. They begin by saying, “In Africa, …” when reporting a particular event in a particular African nation. Too often we hear Western media report on the spread of COVID-19 in Africa, the poverty or economic situation in Africa, the political situation in Africa, women’s rights in Africa, and absurd African reports ad infinitum. Well, Africa is a continent rather than a nation! I think that such media narratives are just symptoms of the neo-colonial ambitions for oppressing the whole of Africa. Therefore, the tyranny of Western media is another expression of neocolonialism’s tyranny.
As to Africans, I have only one message: We are oppressed and exploited collectively, and so we must struggle for independence collectively as Africans.
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Abel Merawi is from Addis Ababa. He is an English literature teacher, freelance writer/reporter for Ezega.com and an Amharic-English translator and editor. He also writes for www.msingiafrikamagazine.com. You can reach him via: firstname.lastname@example.org