I think I’ve remarked before on the media’s ability to give exhaustive, even obsessive, coverage to an issue but still manage to ignore the more interesting aspects of it. Last week’s disaster in Haiti provides another good example.
We’ve had seemingly endless footage of ruined buildings, homeless children, dead and injured Haitians, overloaded aid efforts and the occasional miraculous rescue. But almost nothing on the underlying causes of the country’s problems.
I don’t mean seismology (although that would be interesting too), but bad government. Haitians aren’t destitute because they’re somehow genetically predisposed to it. Sure, their environment is pretty hostile, but they’re not alone in that. Their troubles are fundamentally political.
But the media would rather feed us disaster p*rn than talk about that.
Among those who do care about the politics, there are two competing narratives. On the right, the view is that Haiti’s left-wing governments of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and current president Rene Preval have been corrupt and incompetent, and the international community (and specifically the US) needs to step in and run the place.
On the left, it’s countered that the problems run much deeper than that: that Haiti has been blighted by a legacy of colonialism, and that to run it as a sort of American military protectorate is just going to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Trouble is, they’re both right. Somehow, Haiti needs to find a way to break out of the cycle of dependency and autocracy. It’s a difficult problem – but that’s no excuse for not talking about it.