Following the tragic recent mass murder of school kids and teaching staff in America, there has been a small flurry of essays and articles detailing the media reaction to mass murder in comparison to the on-going war on terror, particularly mentioning drone strikes and their impacts on Muslim countries. For me personally this is a conflicting emotion, as these subjects are so often split into a dichotomy between left and right, republican and democrat, right and wrong etc. Often the vitriol that spits up on both sides from arguments demeans the complex and thoughtful points made by both sides.
However, there are articles that are worth reading as they often highlight the nuances in how different cultures and societies react to death, both near and far away. In particular there is a strong and emotive essay on differences in cultural/societal perceptions on the deaths of children in different countries, wrote by Glenn Greenwald in a recent article for the Guardian newspaper. Equally eloquent is George Monboit’s article in the same paper, entitled ‘In the US, mass child killings are tragedies. In Pakistan, mere bugsplats‘, the bug splats being the nickname of the victims of drone victims. Of course it could be argued that the very title of Monboit’s article incites liberal froth, but the details do make for disturbing reading regarding the actions, and outcomes, of US drone attacks in countries such as Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It often seems they enter into a very grey are legally. As he goes on to say “Obama’s administration neither documents nor acknowledges the civilian casualties of the CIA’s drone strikes in north-west Pakistan. But a report by the law schools at Stanford and New York universities suggests that during the first three years of his time in office, the 259 strikes for which he is ultimately responsible killed between 297 and 569 civilians, of whom at least 64 were children”.
As Greenwald concludes he states that “As Monbiot observed: “there can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people” in Newtown. The exact opposite is true for the children and their families continuously killed in the Muslim world by the US government: huge numbers of people, particularly in the countries responsible, remain completely untouched by the grief that is caused in those places. That is by design – to ensure that opposition is muted – and it is brutally effective”. We must state here that this in no way belittles the families and friends affected by the Newtown tragedy, it is a clearly heart wrenching and heinous act, and one that hopefully may never happen again.
The tragedy is not seeing the people on screens in the drone control centres as humans, as much as part of humanity as each and every child is throughout the world. Dehumanisation is an essential part of war, and in the effort to kill the opponent and to view those oppressors of the state as less then human in mass media helps to sanction untold drone attacks on victims up and down the Muslim world, and never to mention the victims, to never put a name to those that have died or to why they have died. Unfortunately governments across the world will engage in amoral and stupefying actions, designed not just to silence an enemy, but to make them disappear as if they never existed.