Saturday, February 23, 2008

Airbrushing Suharto

“The soldiers marched straight up to us [Western journalists]. They never broke their stride. We were enveloped by the troops, and when they got a few yards past us, within a dozen yards of the Timorese, they raised their rifles to their shoulders all at once, and they opened fire. The Timorese, in an instant, were down, just torn apart by the bullets. The street was covered with bodies covered with blood. And the soldiers just kept on coming. They poured in, one rank after another. They leaped over the bodies of those who were down. They were aiming and shooting people in the back. I could see their limbs being torn, their bodies exploding. There was blood spurting out into the air. The pop of the bullets, everywhere. And it was very organized, very systematic. The soldiers did not stop. They just kept on shooting until no one was left standing.“
Just one quote from Media Lens's David Edwards's article on the mainstream media's coverage of the death of general Suharto. As usual a murderous dictator, armed and supported by the west in his killing of more than 1 million people, is portrayed as flawed but not so bad really, the reward for giving away his country's natural resources to western companies. It seems there is almost no sin that cannot be forgiven by inviting the IMF, the World Bank and foreign investment into your country.

As usual, the media come out of this analysis looking piss poor - even the "liberal" media.

The most interesting thing for me are the articles that do criticise him. They talk about his crimes and the “international condemnation” and "revulsion" they generated at the time, but apparently, his crimes went pretty much unremarked. It seems there was no condemnation or revulsion, not in the mainstream media nor in politics. Assuming Edwards is correct (I have no reason to believe he's not) then the journalists writing the stories are just making shit up, or just assuming there was revulsion because the truth - that these crimes were supported and funded by the UK and US govts - is just not allowed a space in their head. They are not being censored, they are not even consciously self-censoring, these facts are not allowed in because they would undermine their entire worldview. The accepted worldview is that western govts are well meaning but sometimes do bad thing by accident. They only do evil when they have to choose the lesser of two evils. It would be impossible to continue to write articles based upon this worldview you accept an example which directly contradicts this. If you can't write articles like that well then you have no place in the mainstream media. Best to just make shit up, consciously or unconsciously, and keep your job and your satisfaction that you're an objective reporter, not some kind of lefty crusading journalist.

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