Site Loader

This chapter considers the relevancy of Edward Said ‘s seminal text Oriental studies to the media ‘s intervention of modern-day events in Darfur. It inquiries whether the imperativeness, under the pretense of impersonal scholarship, has promulgated a false and simplified version of Darfur in order to warrant America ‘s economic and military activity in the part. It is argued that whilst American journalists promoted an expressed docket to arouse a military intercession in Darfur and downplayed the economic inducements of acquiring involved the crisis, they did non supply a stalking-horse for an imperialist pillage of oil-rich Sudan. It is besides claimed that Orientalism in the Said sense of the word is still clearly in operation today as evidenced by the New York Times ‘ and the Washington Post ‘s belittling word picture of Sudanese ‘Arabs ‘ .

This chapter besides exposes the self-involved nature of much of the West ‘s compassion for Darfur. It is argued that the human-centered catastrophe in Sudan has allowed many journalists and Americans to set their feigned moral indignation into overdrive and flash their supposed generousness to those less fortunate. The self-seeking nature of the American media ‘s involvement in Darfur is embodied in the words of David Richards who stated that ‘the representation of other civilizations constantly entails the presentations of self-portraits, in that those people who are observed are overshadowed or eclipsed by the superintendent. ‘

This chapter concludes by discoursing the type of news media embraced by the New York Times and the Washington Post in relation to Darfur. The degree of describing exhibited by these two newspapers is attributed to the ‘something must be done ‘ school of news media which dictates that a journalist adopt the place of heroic warrior for the laden instead than as an impartial mediator between issues and the audience. It is argued that the despairing desire to advance Western action in Darfur led many well-meaning editorialists to withstand the traditional Western rules of news media.

Darfur: The New Orientalism?

‘All academic cognition about India ‘ , Edward Said writes in the debut of Orientalism, is ‘tinged and impressed with, violated by, the gross political fact ‘ of European imperialism. In his seminal 1978 postcolonial text, Said adopts Foucault ‘s cynicism sing cognition for its ain interest by claiming that Western involvement in non-European civilizations has ne’er been driven by a scholarly hunt for truth but by a desire to warrant European power. Army for the liberation of rwanda from being nonsubjective, Western creative persons, fiction authors and journalists were complicit in bring forthing and proclaiming a prevalent and negative image of Eastern civilizations as barbarian, inferior and dead to apologize Europe ‘s imperialist aspirations around the universe. By persistently picturing the people of the East as barbaric, Orientalists allied with colonial governments by lending to the thought that foreign lands were in demand of Western counsel and redemption in the signifier of colonial intercession.

About three decennaries after Said argued that all European discourses about the Orient were inherently tied to impressions of power and Western high quality, a similar phenomenon emerged in the West ‘s sudden involvement and concern for Darfur. The United States simplified history of the force in Sudan led many perceivers to theorize that strategic and non human-centered urges were behind their calls for action. Cumali Dunal insisted that the crisis in Western Sudan had given Western journalists and politicians the chance to warrant military intercession in a major oil bring forthing province that would otherwise be recognized as an imperialist venture. Libyan President Moammar Khadafy echoed similar claims by take a firm standing that the crisis in Darfur was simply the latest petroleum run by Western powers to subvert the authorities of Sudan under the head covering of ‘humanitarianism ‘ or ‘peacekeeping. ‘

Those who smartly rejected the impression that Western involvement and compassion for the human-centered catastrophe in Darfur was anyhow linked to entree and control of Sudan ‘s natural resources reasoned that oil was irreverent to the argument. Moral jussive moods, Reeves insisted, demand that such economic issues be set aside in order to halt the tide of race murder. Whilst it is questionable whether the New York Times ‘ and the Washington Post ‘s sympathetic coverage of Darfur was a Judeo-christian confederation against Islam in the chase of Sudan ‘s oil, it is hard to disregard the glaring fact the cardinal push of most articles in these two newspapers appear to be a run to trigger and construct support for American intercession into Sudan.

The motion to trade name Darfur as a victim of race murder when there was unsurmountable grounds to belie otherwise was inextricably linked to this chase of military action. The media ‘s application of the term ‘genocide ‘ in relation to Darfur is more than a declaration of truth ; it is a serious label which has the purpose beyond that of protecting civilians in the Darfur part. Their usage of ‘genocide ‘ is a calculated supplication to the 1948 UN Convention, which states that the international community has a responsibility to step in and penalize those involved in such homicidal Acts of the Apostless. Mahmood Mamdani proposes that the widespread labelling of the internal combat in Darfur as race murder was an effort to legalise an external intervention.Describing what he sees as a public dealingss push to set up an ethical as opposed to an accurate apprehension of the events in Darfur and Sudan, Mamdani explains that the wrong naming of Darfur can be better understood within the context of international jurisprudence. Whereas a ‘counter-insurgency ‘ is deemed to be a legitimate and mensural authorities answer to an ‘insurgency, ‘ which is how the Sudanese governments viewed their actions in Darfur, the pattern of race murder is non. Military intercession in Darfur can merely be lawfully defendable if the struggle is marked genocide. Under the label ‘counter-insurgency, ‘ a Western intercession in Darfur becomes an illegal invasion hence the avidity shown by the imperativeness and politicians to sort the force a race murder.

Beyond this, nevertheless, one must turn to the larger political programme that was being promoted through the media ‘s changeless deployment of such debatable and deceptive labels. Said was right to propose that a anchor of colonialism ‘s success was that the imperialist powers downplayed the wealths that they were to derive from their conquerings in favor of stressing the ‘benefits ‘ that they would confer upon the colonized. Philippa Atkinson has made a similar point about the Western media ‘s modern-day handling of Africa, reasoning that the ‘analyses of the causes of struggle and crisis in Africa seldom make more than a passing mention to the political functions of Western states or to the importance of Africa ‘s economic resources in the universe economic system. ‘ In this sense, the New York Times ‘ and the Washington Post ‘s blend of human-centered compassion and hawkish power was extremely debatable as it neglected to advert the really existent economic net incomes that the American world power could derive from come ining into the struggle in Darfur.

Contrary to Dr. Reeve ‘s protestations, economic sciences is highly relevant to any analysis of Darfur. Economic considerations go some manner to explicating the U.S authorities ‘s benevolence towards the tragic predicament of Darfuris. For several decennaries, violent confrontations have claimed the lives of 1000000s on the African continent, yet the American authorities has merely on occasion expressed indignation. The Clinton disposal most infamously remained soundless during the Rwandan race murder. The presence of oil, the 2nd largest on the continent, and China ‘s strong influence within the state as Sudan ‘s largest trading spouse, a state that the American authorities positions as a strategic opposition, may explicate why the United States has refused to be inactive witness in the Darfur saga.

With the Bush disposal looking to ease its dependance on oil from the Middle East, it progressively turned its attending to Africa ‘s natural resources with the US Secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner declaring that ‘Africa ‘s oil has become of national strategic involvement to us. ‘ Washington ‘s unembarrassed involvement in Sudan ‘s oilfields was made even more evident in 2006 when President Bush stated that ‘the permeant function played by the authorities of Sudan in Sudan ‘s crude oil and petrochemical industries threatens U.S. national security and foreign policy involvements. ‘

Such public sentiments were in portion shaped by the long-standing demands of the major oil companies in America who wanted a portion of Sudan ‘s moneymaking oil contracts. Huliaras Asteris points out that along with the Christian evangelicals, the U.S oil companies were decisive in organizing Washington ‘s policies towards Sudan and Darfur. With China ruling the oil market in Sudan, American oil corporations lobbied the Bush disposal to partly raise economic countenances against the East African state. Despite their audacious publicity of the involvements of mammoth U.S corporations, the American authorities continued its menaces of one-sided action against the Sudanese authorities.

Yet, there is deafening silence about any of these issues in both American newspapers. Unlike the marked deficiency of diverseness in the American imperativeness, the Guardian straight tackled America ‘s corporate aspirations in Sudan. Under the headline Enough imperial campaigns, Peter Hallward concludes that the U.S authorities had planned in a reasonably Machiavellian manner to use moral rhetoric as a agency of masking their true economic purposes in Sudan. Whether the U.S media mercantile establishments were complicit in this docket is problematic but it has doubtless overlooked critical facts in its push for intercession. Ultimately, the bulk of media organisations who demanded action on Darfur did so with good purposes. After all, it was a ruinous catastrophe and the victims were overpoweringly civilians. At the same clip, nevertheless, it is hard non to surmise the motive and inquiry the credibleness of those media organisations who consciously omitted such pertinent information.

Although it is improbable that American journalists covering the armed struggle in Darfur were supplying their authorities with a stalking-horse for an imperialist pillage of an oil-rich African state, they doubtless succumbed to Edward Said ‘s cardinal thesis in another mode. The wide truth of Said ‘s overall statement is apparent in the demonization of the ‘Arabs ‘ of Sudan in the U.S newspapers. The binary divisions that Said observed in Orientalism are besides clearly apparent in the coverage of Darfur in the Washington Post and the New York Times. In this tense historical minute, Arabs, even if in they are black, have one time once more go the ‘other ‘ with values opposed to Western civilisation and its supposed freedoms. The terrorist onslaughts of September 11 and the subsequent ‘global war on panic ‘ has generated the same racialist and condescending representation of Arabs and Islam in Darfur that Said discussed in 1978.

One needs small instruction in the political relations of fright and anti-Arab racism in the post-9/11 universe to understand why the narration of Darfur as created by the imperativeness was alluring to many Americans. There was nil benign about Western involvement in Darfur as fed into the anti-Arab bias of modern-day Western society. With an already acute consciousness of Arabs as the ‘other, ‘ the U.S imperativeness simply simplified and fetishized Darfur for the ingestion of American readers. Despite no Christian participants, Darfur was made into another forepart in the West ‘s battle against terrorist act and Islamic extremism.

It is for this precise ground that many articles sing the Darfur struggle did non look to cast visible radiation on what was go oning in the part. The mainstream media failed to show a nuanced image of the crisis chiefly because the involvement in Darfur was non in existent fact about Sudan itself. Rather, the concentrated media attending on Darfur was inextricably linked to two issues that were entirely unconnected to Sudan itself. Lingering guilt over the international media ‘s heedlessness to the Rwandan race murder in 1994 prompted the Western media ‘s battle in Darfur. More significantly, the imperativeness involvement in Darfur functioned to indulge the Western reader ‘s sense of moral indignation. In much the same manner as many European colonialists undertook the survey of Eastern civilizations and linguistic communications as ‘an overall run of self-affirmation, ‘ many American media organisations sought to turn another state ‘s serious jobs into an mercantile establishment for their ain moral self-indulgence. In the thick of international contentions in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Darfur was a subject that Americans could firmly presume the moral high land.

From this point of view, the crisis in Darfur afforded Americans a certain sense of katharsis. Readers of the Washington Post and the New York Times were led to believe they were take parting in something historically important to halt another Nazi-style slaughter in Africa. By paying attending to Darfur, they were assisting pay a run similar to the grass-roots motion against South African apartheid. Americans were in kernel the liberators of the Darfuri people. The misanthropic usage of Darfur was explicit in the Washington Post ‘s braggart declaration that ‘the United States has done more to assist Darfur than any other state. ‘ Another noteworthy column in the same conservative paper bemoaned the reluctance of affluent European provinces to portion in assisting work out the ‘world ‘s loads. ‘

Critics have labelled this attack to describing as ‘something must be done ‘ news media. In the hastiness to arouse Western action in foreign struggles, newsmans practising this school of news media actively take part in the narratives in which they are describing. The journalistic pattern of neutrality is discarded as newsmans distinguish between ‘right ‘ and ‘wrong ‘ and appoint themselves as supreme authorities who cast the ‘good ‘ and ‘evil ‘ functions of the narrative. Once they have established the blameworthy party, the journalist ‘s responsibility to describe on all the inside informations often ‘come [ s ] a hapless 2nd topographic point to airing what is considered to be the morally right line. ‘

This motion to redefine the journalist as a moral informant as opposed to a impersonal perceiver overlooks the specific duty of the journalist as a secondary informant to an event. There is something highly confusing about journalists moving as moral Judgess in complicated foreign struggles such as Darfur. As Greg McLaughlin has justly pointed out, ‘something must be done ‘ news media promotes an unacceptable degree of smugness and opinion amongst newsmans. Ominously, Howard Tumber and Marina Prentoulis have argued that September 11 2001 has hastened ‘a tendency in which fond regard and emotion finally become to the full embraced into the civilization of news media. ‘

As illustrated above, the groundswell of compassion for Darfur in the mass media and the general populace can be accredited to three chief factors. Audience engagement in a sensed historical event, guilt over Western inactivity in April 1994 and Arab racism in Western society as a effect of September 11 explain the American people ‘s receptiveness to the human-centered catastrophe in Western Sudan.

David Richards, Masks of difference: cultural representations in literature, anthropology, and art ( New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997 ) , 289.

Greg McLaughlin, The War Correspondent ( London: Pluto Press, 2002 ) , 182.

Edward Said, Orientalism ( New York: Pantheon Books, 1978 ) , 2.

Ibid, 11

Cumali Onal, “Oil Underlies Darfur Tragedy, ” Today ‘s Zaman Daily ; available from hypertext transfer protocol: // ? hn=10130 ; [ July 6 2004 ] .

Eric Reeves, “Darfur calamity is n’t linked to an oil-exploration attempt, ” Daily Hampshire Gazette, December 26, 2006.

Mahmood Mamdani, ‘The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency ; available from hypertext transfer protocol: // ; [ 8 March 2007 ]


Philippa Atkinson, “Deconstructing media mythologies of cultural war in Liberia” in War coverage and representations of cultural force, explosive detection systems. Tim Allen & A ; Jean Seaton ( London: Zed Books ) , 214.

Jared Cohen, One Hundred Days of Silence: America and the Rwanda Genocide, ( Lanham: Rowman & A ; Littlefield Publishers, 2006 ) , 158.

Clarence Lusane, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice: foreign policy, race, and the new American century ( Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2006 ) , 137.

Kevin Funk, Scramble for Africa: Darfur-intervention and the USA ( New York: ( Black Rose Books, 2009 ) , 57.

Huliaras Asteris, “Evangelists, Oil Companies, and Terrorists: The Bush Administration ‘s Policy towards Sudan, ” Orbis 50 ( 2006 ) : 714-717.

Peter Hallward, “Enough Imperial Crusades, ” The Guardian, August 18, 2004, 16.

Edward Said, Orientalism ( New York: Pantheon Books, 1978 ) , xix.

Tom Malinowski, “Repeating Clinton ‘s Mistakes, ” The Washington Post, May 3, 2005.

“The Stakes in Darfur” The Washington Times, 22 July 2004, A20.

Greg McLaughlin, The War Correspondent ( London: Pluto Press, 2002 ) , 182.

Mick Hume, Whose war is it anyhow? The dangers of the Journalism of Attachment ( London: LM, 1997 ) , 4.

Greg McLaughlin, The War Correspondent ( London: Pluto Press, 2002 ) , 198.

Howard Tumber and Marina Prentoulis, “Journalists Under Fire: Subcultures, Objectivity and Emotional Literacy, ” in War and the Media: Reporting Conflict 24/7, explosive detection systems. Daya Kishan Thussu and Des Freedman ( London: Sage, 2003 ) , 228.

Post Author: admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *