Beyond the baying for blood

BY Amu Joseph| IN Media Practice | 18/04/2002
Beyond the baying for blood

Beyond the baying for blood

Alternative American voices advocating thought, not vengeance, are not being heard here. The mainstream media in India has largely failed to reflect the diversity of responses and analyses by people who are as American as those baying for blood.

A few hours after the events of tragic Tuesday began to unfold, a professor of political science at an American university not far from New York had already gone public with an appeal for peace and tolerance. He called on the college community to be sensitive to the presence on the campus of a large number of international students, including many from West Asia. He emphasised the need to ensure that they were not made to feel unsafe or uneasy at a time when speculation was rife about the likely national, ethnic and religious identities of the perpetrators of the violent attacks in New York and Washington D.C.

By that evening at least some American citizens in another part of the United States were already attending vigils for peace and writing to their government urging moderation in its response to the shocking, shattering assaults.

In the midst of a possibly gratuitous television interview that sought his views on thriller fiction turning into terrifying non-fiction, live and in colour, as the stunned world watched in horror, popular author Tom Clancy made a point of saying that religious and racial tolerance was the need of the hour -- before he was interrupted by an impatient journalist obviously hoping to hear something more dramatic. None of the above is the kind of stuff of which headlines and news
stories are made. Far more news-making and headline-grabbing are warmongering pronouncements from high places that hold the promise of
more spectacular violence, and aggressive statements laced with racism,
religious bigotry and xenophobia that have the potential to incite street violence against innocent individuals and groups.

The mainstream media in the U.S. has, expectedly and perhaps understandably, devoted little time or space to alternative views in the brief period since the disastrous events of the week. In fact, a Reuters report from Chicago, published in the Deccan Herald on 14 September, chronicled editorial calls for revenge and retribution in a cross-section of the American press. Fortunately, there have been some notable and admirable exceptions to this general rule.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media in India has largely failed to reflect the diversity of responses and analyses by people who are as American as those baying for blood to avenge what they see as inexplicable, mindless, cowardly attacks on innocent citizens of the leading nation of the civilized world. Few of the comments with a difference that have appeared in at least some reputed American newspapers have been picked up for wider dissemination among Indian audiences. Nor have some of the other, possibly minority, views in
circulation via the Internet found expression in the media here. In the interest of the free flow of information and ideas, if nothing else, these views must be shared with a wider public in the world’s most populous democracy.

Several of these alternative voices have warned against any macho, cowboy-like retaliatory attacks such as those launched by the U.S. in the past that have often misfired – literally and figuratively – and caused tremendous "collateral damage" (a euphemism coined by official spokespersons for what one American commentator described on Wednesday as "the deaths of civilians just as innocent as those murdered in New York City").

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