Libya/Ivory Coast: Narrow Framing and Poor Journalism

It is amazing to see how those in the mainstream press simply ignore anybody who leaves the ‘official frame’ set by the ‘respected authorities’. The limits of debate are narrow and ‘official speak’ is full of new euphemisms and phraseology with meaningless content destined to join ‘collateral damage’ in the dustbin of used spin. Let us look at some examples.

Every time I went outside the ‘acceptable box’ during a debate on France 24 Friday, the others came back where they had left off as if I had said nothing.  One of the participants said “the situation has not advanced in Libya because Qaddafi refuses the demands of the international community.” By ‘international community’ they mean Washington, Paris and London. I pointed out that the African Union and the Arab League both called for a ceasefire without preconditions and an end to NATO bombings. Libya is both an Arab and an African country and Qaddafi said he would accept their request; an appeal rejected by the NATO backed rebels.

I added that the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) also demanded a ceasefire and an end to the bombing and that Moscow says UN Security Council Resolution 1973 does not authorize the NATO bombing campaign. Within NATO itself, Germany, Poland and Turkey are not in favor of military intervention.

It seems to me I made a pretty good case that Qaddafi had in fact accepted the request of a large part of the international community, especially those he is the most closely associated with: the Arab League and the African Union. But as soon as I had finished my point, one of the participants comes back with “the international community wants Qaddafi to step down” and that “the UN approved the NATO mission”.

Yes, Russia and China abstained in the vote. South Africa voted in favor but President Jacob Zuma seems to change his mind as often as his shirts. The point is, in the mouth of the Western media, ‘international community’ is a euphemism for the US, France and Britain with sometimes the EU added as a cherry.

Another one is “destroying heavy weapons to protect civilians”. This is a term which means intervening in favor of the rebel side to destroy the government’s military capacity. The NATO air-to-ground attacks against Libyan forces, including trucks in the desert where there are no civilians, is the only thing keeping the rebels in the field. In the Ivory Coast, the French had systematically attacked loyalist forces ever since 2002. Ouattara came to power on French tanks and his hands dripping with Ivorian blood. The French brag of their “efficiency in organizing the (rebel) descent on Abidjan”. The French Army had been training the rebels and armed them with Famas rifles (see Le Canard Enchaîné, April 6, 2011 (1.)).

The French attacked every government target they could find under the pretext of “protecting civilians” while Ouattara’s forces massacred probably thousands on their march to Abidjan right under the nose of the UN and France. Amnesty International says 2000 people were killed by the rebels in the Duékoué area alone. Others say more.

UN Security Council resolution 1975 did not authorize them to take sides, which is exactly what they did as it is exactly what they are doing in Libya. In both cases Washington and Paris target regime change under the cover of “protecting civilians”. And don’t be fooled by the extent of hypocrisy we may see. If Masrata were held by Libyan troops and under attack by the rebels, I am sure the ‘international community’ mentioned above would accuse Qaddafi of using civilians as ‘human shields’.

It is also amazing how narrow the frame is concerning the Ivorian crisis. I pointed out that there was such massive fraud in the rebel held north that is quite possible that Laurent Gbagbo won the elections and that the whole war could have been avoided with an independent and public recount; that Gbagbo had called for a recount, that AU envoy Thabo Mbeki had recommended a recount and that African elders, such as Jerry J. Rawlings had called for a recount.

Once again, it was as if I had said nothing. A participant followed with a statement in essence justifying the French intervention by saying Ouattara won the elections and the international community told Gbagbo to step down. Never mind that the deaths of thousands of people and the destruction of property and infrastructure could have been avoided with a simple recount.

A recount in Haiti exposed the blatant UN backed effort to eliminate the ‘singer’ not wanted in the second round by Paris and Washington. Michel Martelly went on to win the presidency with 68% of the vote, just a sign of how far the U N is willing to go to caution fraud in its service to the ‘international community’. But, hey, there was no civil war. True Haiti is a barren earthquake devastated country full of poor people with imported cholera while the Ivory Coast is filthy rich.

Moreover, had it been Zimbabwe rather than the Ivory Coast, you could be sure the western press would have investigated every allegation of fraud to prove to us what a bad guy Robert Mugabe is. The proof of widespread and blatant fraud in the rebel held north of the Ivory Coast is there and there are people bending over backwards to try to get the press to look at the evidence. But they won’t because the possibility Gbagbo might have an argument is not in the frame.(2.)

And even if after a recount, Ouattara was still the winner, what would have been lost? A few months? Thousands of people would still be alive. Is that a crazy thing to think?

The fact the media failed to do its job of investigation means they played a direct role in creating public opinion for war when peace was still possible. Their role is that of the modern stenographer-journalist, merely holding the microphone for the ‘legitimate’ talking head. At best, the only context they gave us would be “elections contested by Laurent Gbagbo” while hammering from every angle “the internationally recognized winner Alassane Ouattara”. By the way, over 30 foreign embassies in Abidjan attended Laurent Gbagbo’s inauguration in December, including Russia, China, Lebanon, Angola and South Africa. Not so unanimous after all.

Today the big news is “Qaddafi’s forces are using banned cluster bombs against civilians in Masrata”. At least the BBC did mention the cluster bombs were made in Spain. However, they failed to mention that the US and Israel did not sign the 2008 convention against cluster bombs, nor did they mention that the US used cluster bombs in Iraq and still does in Afghanistan, nor that Israel used them every time they attacked Lebanon not to mention their napalming of civilians in Gaza during the 2008 -2009 Israeli assault.  But be sure the press will echo loud and clear Obama’s anger at the allegations.

My question is do these reporters not hear what is said outside the frame because they are formatted that way or is there something else? I would love to see them cornered and confronted by real people who want to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; people who want answers that don’t fit inside the frame … something outside the Parisian galas and soirées.

Maybe the only way to get a voice in the maistream press when you go outside the frame is to win a Nobel Prize like Economist Paul Krugman.  Otherwise he would surely be marginalized to Democracy Now with other geniuses such as Chomsky.  But do they hear Krugman?

Other absurdities the frame does not allow to question:

On Friday Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron write and op-ed in which they say they are not attacking Libya for regime change but that Qaddafi must go.

Last Monday the French Defense Minister says Laurent Gbagbo must understand violence will get him nowhere while the French bomb his residence to pieces.

Where are the articles about Qaddafi’s threats to nationalize the country’s oil and expropriate foreign oil giants?

The Emir of Qatar, an autocratic monarch, broadcast on TV thanking Obama for helping to favor democracy in Egypt, Tunisa and …. Libya (huh?).  Oh, yes, Qatar gets to market the oil in the rebel held zone.

2. For more on the fraud see Roland Dumas, Jacques Vergès, Crimes et Fraude en Côte d’Ivoire, Editions édite, Paris, 2011.

3. You can watch the France 24 debate here: