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Over There (in the UK)

March 24, 2003 at 7 PM

In Other News

The first casualty of war isn’t truth. I’m pretty sure truth was killed long before any missiles were launched in Iraq. No, what is really MIA right now, and during any major conflict, is news about anything but the war.

Admittedly a lot seems to be happening over there, and much of it is gripping stuff. I’m not at all sure that “embedded journalists” are capable of the proper perspective to carry out the sort of journalism war needs, but there it is, like it or not, and there’s enough information to fill the screens of CNN and BBC twenty-four hours a day. In fact, that is precisely the problem: too much information and too much analysis when half of the reports are half-speculation.

As I slogged through my Saturday paper, it wasn’t until page fourteen that there was a page of news about anything other than Iraq. Planning a secret revolution? Want to legislate some major tax cuts? Now’s the time; no one is paying attention!

In case you missed it, here are some reports that are important for their long-term ramifications. I won’t accuse the media of ignoring them completely (since I wouldn’t have found links to them if they had), but no one is going to interrupt regularly scheduled programming to tell you about them.

* * *

In Africa there is “unprecedented brutality” in the ongoing suppression of human rights and democracy in Zimbabwe.

War-weary Chechen voters give near-unanimous support to a new constitution proposed by Russia which ensures that Chechnya remain part of the Russian state. Will the results pacify or inflame separatism?

In a story about more than just oil, multinational oil companies have shut down operations in Nigeria amid ethnic violence. Western media will focus on the threat to oil supplies, oil companies and to the Nigerian economy, but the real story here is that “scores, maybe even hundreds of people have died” in violence that shows no signs of abating and is a key sign of a government that has no control — and little or no legitimacy — over its population.

In Serbia, there are massive efforts to eradicate organized crime in the wake of the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindic. In a related report that was easy to miss, Neil Clark, currently authoring a book about recent Yugoslavian history, commented that Djindic was a “Western stooge” who was helping to sell the country’s assets to Western interests at the expense of the Serbian people. Those would be the same interests that helped him attain power after the war in 2000 led by American President Bill Clinton against the autocratic regime of Slobodan Milosevic. Hmm.

Finally, in Korea, there are signs that war is not far from hand as the U.S., South Korea, North Korea and Japan take turns in a game of brinkmanship. Is North Korea next in line after Iraq? Don’t bet against it. You may recall that before the attack on Iraq, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was trying to spoil President Bush’s party by seeming more threatening and less predictable than Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

As always, Google’s news site remains an excellent source of headlines since it is, in theory, unbiased by any news editor’s opinion of what “should” be the top story. I don’t mean that to sound like I have no respect for news editors; their job is key to prevent us from drowning in the glut of information about what is happening at any moment on the planet. War coverage, however, is intensely competitive. It’s all about who can break the story first, who can get the money shot, who can find the real story lurking beneath the layers of misinformation. It’s easy in such times to lose the clarity one needs to maintain the breadth, not just the depth, of news gathering.

Comments

Also of interest:

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider lifting the clearly unfair ban on sodemy between homosexual couples (hetrosexuals are free to sodomize as much as they like): http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2003-03-24-court-usat_x.htm

Microsoft is funding a University course that will teach young developers how to write secure code. Ironic or forward-thinking? http://news.com.com/2100-1009-993921.html

And finally, a bio-battery that runs on Vodka: http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99993539

Patrick | Mar. 24, 2003 — 8 PM

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Subsequently: The Front Page

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