American tendency to view the foreign affairs in terms of
is for journalism a fundamental "Achilles Heel."
It distorts our perception
of the world and makes
us vulnerable to be manipulated into choirboys
and handmaidens for costly crusades.
I have spent a decade
the history of American journalism as a global
human rights "watchdog."
I am a firm
believer in this kind
human rights emphasis, as perpetuated by international organizations,
media outlets, the American government, and a host of human rights
lobbying groups can be a dangerous and misleading way to view the world.
It can be the
stuff of arrogance
and propaganda, of intolerance toward other cultures -- and even a
force leading toward war.
American tendency to view the foreign affairs in terms of human rights
is for journalism a fundamental Achilles
Heel It distorts our perception
of the world and makes us vulnerable to be manipulated into choirboys
Rights causes are frequently ways to impose one's values as superior --
or as propaganda coverlet for the interests of individuals, groups, and
nations pushing their own agendas.
countries like the United States human rights abuses can be an excuse
to go to
war, excellent propaganda for rallying popular support. Human rights reporting has
lead to war.
individuals a focus on human
rights issue is often a moralistic outlook justifying arrogance. It is
frequently a substitute for understanding other cultures, other ways of
doing things. At best it can be a call for constructive action. At
worst a self congratulatory form of hubris.
need to recognize this -- lest they be sucked in as propaganda agents
for governments and pressure groups.
is not to say journalists should be anti-war.
is not to say that massacres should be unreported. But it is to urge a
sense of perspective, care about climbing on moralistic bandwagons,
caution about responding with outrage to everything which is different
from that with which we are accustomed.
is quite understandable to report, indeed emphasize, the goal of
preventing Al-Qaeda and the Taliban from using Afghanistan from
becoming a staging grounds for terror attacks on the American homeland.
is another thing to portray the American military effort there as an
effort to export democracy or protect Afghan women.
issues indirectly burdens the US economy by supporting lobbying for
sanctions by government officials and human rights groups.
of US sanctions have been imposed since 1950. Some argue
these have opened the door for prosperity for America's commercial
competitors while reducing prospects for profitable American trade.This may have been acceptable when the United
States was the dominant world economic power. But is it acceptable
today as competitors pull ahead and American jobs decline?
Researcher Bryan Early wrote in the March 25, 2009 issue of The Christian Science Monitor:
"US allies have tended to trade far more
with the states it has sanctioned than other countries. Part of this is
US has lots of commercially competitive allies. It is also because
these states use their alliances with the US as political
cover to shield their companies from American retaliation. In effect,
this means that the US subsidizes the economies
of its allies to the detriment of its own businesses."
Click this summary of the case
against human rights and other sanctions by the Libertarian Cato
is important that we do not let ourselves be brainwashed by journalism
into a feeling we are above history, that we are uniquely moral, that
our will should be accepted by the rest of the world. Often we may
need to settle, without disillusionment, for more limited results.
a responsibility of journalism to strengthen a realistic
awareness of the outside world.
to reinforce the prejudices, self righteousness of those who would
mount unrealistic overseas crusades harmful to America's safety and
economic interests -- and dangerous for the rest of the world.
is in the nature of
American journalism, as an expression of nationalism,
that it will become an instrument of interests and agendas masquerading
under the slogan of democracy and human rights. Awareness of this can
limit the damage.
William McKinley to Woodrow Wilson to George Bush, Christian
civilization, human rights, and or promotion of democracy were fig
leafs for going
can see how Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson manipulated
journalists in support for defending democracy in South Vietnam.
can see how President George W. Bush manipulated journalists in the
early days of the Iraq war to support the American invasion partly to
bring democracy (human rights) to the Middle East.
the Mexican War American
journalists promoted the heroic
campaigns of American soldiers as a righteous campaign against medieval
Catholic military dictatorship led by General Santa Anna.
War "on team" American journalists sometimes
picked up rifles and charged against Spanish soldiers to help banish
Spanish Catholic medieval tyranny from the hemisphere.
newspapers climbed aboard Woodrow Wilson's World War I campaign against
anti-democratic European monarchies in hopes "to make the world safe
the time of the Cold War the anti-communist crusade of American foreign
policy merged with a human rights call for freedom in Soviet occupied
countries. American media adopted the framework lock stock and barrel.
natural nationalistic tendency of media to rally public support for
American wars got a massive boost from the World War II crusade against
EXTERMINATION CAMP OVEN
killing of millions of Jews became an "archetypical"
of the need for media to detect, publicize and "watchdog" any similar
abuses happening anyplace in the world. After all governments and media
had a woeful record between the world wars in detecting, publicizing
and combating atrocities by both Communist and Nazi totalitarians.
the burden of reporting human rights "violations" seemed to grow with
the establishment after World War II of United Nations human rights
agencies and human rights lobbies such as Human Rights Watch.
problem with all this is that a moralistic human rights framework
encourage by media encourages a parochial American outlook which is
vulnerable to manipulation by cynical politicians and moralistic
is time to step back a bit -- and to learn to live with the world as it
is -- rather than as we wish it to be.