I mentioned yesterday that only those who live in a state with near-absolute media control are unaware of scenes from the Arab street, specifically the outright rebellion in Libya. How interesting that a few hundred miles southwest is another African country suffering a leadership transition, but unless you are checking the BBC or Al Jazeera you’ll have barely heard of it.
I’m talking of the disputed election and its aftermath in the Ivory Coast. Since late last year, incumbent-president Laurent Gbagbo has refused to recognize the election results placing him in second (that is, losing) to Outtara. During the initial counting and announcement, Gbagbo tried numerous tricks including having an ally rip up the election results on television before they could be officially announced by the election commission! Can you imagine if on election eve Karl Rove had stormed onto CNN’s set and smashed the colored electoral map? Ok, maybe it’s not quite as absurd as I initially envisioned. Regardless, Gbagbo holed himself up in official facilities refusing to leave like a spoiled toddler.
After a UN-certification of the results, Gbagbo did the usual thing: he called for demonstrations in the street of his supporters, brought the military to bear, accused his opponent of being a foreign-backed puppet, and refused to meet with the carousel of African leaders who requested a visit. Currently rebel forces (that is, militias in support of the recognized winner, Outtara) are pressing around the capital. Outtara has called for an embargo on his own country, denying the Gbagbo-controlled ports and banks the ability to collect dues from the immense cocoa trade.
It all makes for quite high-drama. All the more so considering the fragile democracies that emerged in west Africa after so many bloody ethnic civil wars that frequently spilled over borders. And yes, there’s even oil involved as Nigeria prepares for its first election with no automatic winner. And yet, news from the region fails to make it near the top of the hour or the front page.
My first theory was that the Arab world has upstaged this region, being larger and more immediate to western commercial interests. This cannot be the sole reason, the Ivorian election was in November. Perhaps crowded out by our mid-terms, few news organizations feel they can now bring in their audience mid-crisis? Perhaps the constant conflict of the 90s has acclimatized us to the region, whereas the ossified Arab leaders’ downfall is grander. Or perhaps after painting Muslims as our enemy (but shhhh, not officially) for the past decade, their news catches our eye more easily.
Personally, I believe this last point. Look how little we care about Russia and its perversion of democracy and capitalism after they ceased being the frightening USSR, or how much the media seem to comment on China’s machinations now as opposed to when they reclaimed Hong Kong or attacked one of our spy planes at the turn of the century. If this truly is the reason why one revolt is covered while another ignored -one region thrust to the spotlight while the other resigned to the shadows- then we can look forward to a drop off in the denigration of Muslims as we simply ignore them in favor of some new bogeyman.
Media type: Online news
Title: Ivorian rebels take western town as violence mounts
Read it at: http://tinyurl.com/4oc97vt