Human Life in East & West: A hell of a Difference

Close to 150,000 died in the illegal and unjust war imposed on Afghanistan and Iraq and no one is even willing to diligently count the dead. Deadly bombs went off in Iraq Wednesday and not a word was published. Hours later, in London, more bombs exploded and the western media was all over the story.

Ottawa Citizen alone published 43 analysis and one report with more than 20,000 words together in today’s edition. These stories out-number the number of victims. It seems as if Ottawa Citizen was ready and just waiting for the bombing to take place in London. Not to speak of the fact that most of these stories were to frame Muslims and Islam. The stories are focused on three main aspects: fixing the blame on Muslims, showing resolve to continue war and spreading more fear.

The titles of Ottawa Citizen analysis and editorial are good enough to show these trends: “United against terror,” “Resolve bred in the bone,” “t could happen here, too,” “This was ‘inevitable’,” Canada is the only target left on Osama’s list,” “Young, fanatical British Muslims among prime suspects,” “Trying to stay one step ahead of jihadists,” “Forces of fear, reality collide,” “‘We shall prevail. They shall not,” “Recruited to wage war” and so on.

Stories like “‘They’ve hijacked our faith’,” are used to emphasise comments by one Muslim leader who is blaming Muslims for the attack but marginalising comments by another Muslim leader who calls for not jumping to the conclusions and blame everything on Muslims. There is one article to justify running so many analysis on just one day of bombing in London.

October 7, 2001 is a clear example of when bombs explode in a city on the other side of the world, it is just a matter of collateral damage if innocent people get killed. When a whole country is occupied it is for not occupation but liberation. But when a fraction of all that killing takes place in the West, it becomes an attack on freedom. Story of the bombs that ripped innocents to pieces in Iraq and caused grievous injury didn’t get reported in a single Canadian newspaper.

On the other hand when bombs exploded in a city in the West, the tragedy dominated the every other newspaper, newscast and news channel in the western world. Interestingly, leading papers, such as the New York Time runs an opinion piece to implicate Muslims on the basis of the assumption that one of the bombs were set off by a suicide bomber. That assumption was good enough to write an anti-Islam article, Whereas the top story in the news section contradicts the suicide theory completely.

Friedman comes out with his war mentality as usual and writes: “one assault may have involved a suicide bomber, bringing this terrible jihadist weapon into the heart of a major Western capital-¦ The attacks are also deeply disturbing because when jihadist bombers take their madness into the heart of our open societies, our societies are never again quite as open.”[1]

The News story in the international section however contradict Friedman thesis which he used simply to vent out his anger on “jihadists.” Title of the news report by Don Van Natta and Elaine Sciolino reads: “Timers Used in Blasts, Police Say; Parallels to Madrid Are Found.” The first para of the story gives the conclusion: “Investigators searching for clues in the attacks here said Thursday that the three bombs used in the subway apparently were detonated by timers, not suicide bombers, and that a fourth device may have been intended for a target other than the city bus that it destroyed.Skip to next paragraph”[2]

Response of the Western media, particularly the so-called mainstream media, to the deaths in the Muslim majority world and the Deaths in other places provides lessons in the exigencies of co-opted journalism and the nature of wars imposed on the Muslim world. Ignoring the root cause and real culprits and a focus on the symptoms also helps explain why the bombs keep exploding.

It is not the number of dead in the London and Mashruh bombing that made the difference in response of the Western media. Of course, in Mashruh, there were two bombs, both rigged to cars and detonated almost simultaneously. At least 13 people were killed and 30 injured. In London there were twice as many bombs, three in the subway and one on a bus. At press time, at least 37 were killed and about 700 injured.

A notable difference, but hardly great enough to explain why one story gets no coverage and the other is broadloomed wall-to-wall, ignoring that Mashruh was just another day in the more than 2 years long bloody occupation; not to speak of the 1.8 million starved to death due to genocidal sanctions.

We might note that last February, when the deadliest bombing since the occupation of Iraq killed 125 in the city of Hillah, it warranted no more than a single story on page A6 of the same Ottawa Citizen that carried 43 stories today. The story was similarly played in most other newspapers.

Of course, body count is not directly proportionate to column inches, but column inches are directly proportional to the perceptions of the Western mind and the misconceptions that the war lords try to consolidate with the kind of coverage they give to an event.

Well, what about motive? A fake unknown group claiming responsibility for the London attacks does not justify blaming Islam and Muslims and statements from Bush, Blair and Martin that this is a war on “our way of life” and “our freedom.” No one talks about the freedom and human rights of those who are under the US and its allies direct occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kashmir, Palestine; and under indirect occupation in Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and other places.

In Mashruh, there is no terrorism and not the same “jihadists.” In Mushruh there is legitimate resistance to the occupation by the aggressors who launched a war on defenseless country on the basis of nothing but white lies.

Blindness of the Western analysts is at its peak, or they might been faking total blindness as if they don’t know anything. London’s plight warrants special attention for the most basic journalistic reason, suggests Chris Dornan, director of Carleton University’s school of journalism. It’s a man-bites-dog story.

Newsworthiness is measured, in part, by novelty, says Mr. Dornan. "A lot of news is the violation of expectation," he says. "We expect London, with the worst of Irish sectarian violence behind it, to be bomb-free. We have no such expectation for Iraq." But this is not on the minds of those who are rushing 43 stories in a single day in a single issue of a daily newspaper. “We shall prevail,” as their headlines shows, is uppermost in the minds of the war lords on the media front. This is a perfect opportunity for the war lords to promote their ideas and continuing crusade.

“Another act of terrorism in Iraq? Regrettable, but not news.” This is how the mindset has been prepared. Even if 130,000 people die, it is of no significance, because they were either all terrorists or part of the collateral damage.

In London, says Mr. Dornan, the news quotient was pushed up by the fact that the bombings occurred at the same time the leaders of the industrial nations were meeting in Britain. Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was hardly in danger at the G8 summit site in Scotland, but he and the rest of the best-known western leaders were in the vicinity of trauma.

This is a lame duck excuse for the fascist mindset that considers starving 1.8 million Iraqi as the “price worth it.” With or without the G* heads of state in the vicinity, the response was bound to be disproportionate.

Those who are responsible for preparing such a mindset also keep in mind that there is no coverage when they unleash terror in the Muslim world. They would ban Al-Jazeera and other alternative news sources. They would kill journalists and bomb their office. But the same people when stage attacks in the West to mobilize support for their wars abroad they choose places like London and occasions like the G8 summit.

Mr. Dornan confirms it. The amount of coverage a story gets has a lot to do with who is available to cover it. Independent media is banned in Iraq. But "London is the media capital of the United Kingdom; you’ve got networks galore and correspondents based there so the coverage is much more accessible, instantaneously, than it would be for the western media if it had happened in some place like Jalalabad or Kandahar." This also shows, who really are behind these bombings and what they really want to achieve.

It is wrong to assume that the London bombings get more coverage because western news editors know, instinctively, they resonate more with their readers. Of course it’s not a matter of news but of psychology, as Cecilia Taiana, a psychologist from Carleton University’s school of social work, argues. But she is simply a psychologist, not an analyst to understand that these news editors are allied, embedded and co-opted with the neo-cons and covert war lords who justified and paved the way for invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. They have to prove to their public that they were right in the fear mongering and promotion of war.

These editors have to take advantage of the multiple visual and emotional associations to the spaces under attack. Some like Friedman would not hesitate to bring in “suicide bombers” to justify his position as promoter of war and violence at a time when no one has even hinted at the possibility of suicide bombing.

The “mainstream” news media is so visibly taking their cues from the war lords in Washington. As the war goes on and misery multiplies they, get caught up in their tangled web of lies and deception and they need such occasions to justify their promotion and justification of the crimes against humanity. With every additional death and destruction in the occupied lands increase their personal stakes and they need to convince the public that the enemy is Islam and its way of life, as opposed to the Western way of life. Too sad, but true.


[1]. Thomas L. Friedman, “If It’s a Muslim Problem, It Needs a Muslim Solution,” The New York Times, July 08, 2005.

[2]. Don Van Natta and Elaine Sciolino, “Timers Used in Blasts, Police Say; Parallels to Madrid Are Found,” The New York Times, July 08, 2005