Commercial Interests in Media: Syria vs. Award Shows

Today’s been a fascinating day for me.

I’ve always been something of a media junkie, paying especially close attention to world news and international politics. Somewhere around fourth grade the US decided to bomb a country called Bosnia. At the time, I had no idea why. All I knew was somewhere in another country, people in the middle of the night were being woken up by bombs dropping around their houses.

I don’t remember there being much protest. I don’t remember hearing any opposition in any of the news sources that I read or watched with my parents. I just remember at the time President Bill Clinton giving the order and watching footage of planes taking off from aircraft carriers and wondering how long it would be before something like this happened close to my house.

Most of all, I wondered why no one was questioning why this was happening. I had no idea if this was a necessary mission or not. I never saw any debate. No one explained what was happening. It was expected that we simply accept this at face value.

Albeit I was nine years old at the time and probably wasn’t paying as much attention to current issues as I thought I was, but this is something I feel is still prevalent today and possibly getting worse as information becomes more accessible: somehow the important world issues are being ignored by the public. It’s hard to make an argument as to what the public should and should not consume, but my interesting day today proves that there’s something seriously broken with the current media machine.

At work I usually take the time to surf through quite a few news sites to skim through headlines and catch up on stories that interest me – much like my father did every morning with his newspaper. I knew there was big news coming out of a country that caught my interest much like Bosnia did almost twenty years ago. I heard that UN officials had finally entered Syria to inspect weapons and sites where civilians had been hurt to find out if any dangerous chemicals had been used. While travelling through the country by car, snipers started shooting at the UN officials. Nobody knows if the snipers were part of rebel forces or if they were pro-regime.

I wanted to know more.

As I surfed through my favourite newsfeeds through the internet, I noticed common front headline through each site: a pop-star’s potentially racially ignorant performance at an awards show. If there was some sort of moral outrage over some of the content to the performance, I would understand the controversy. But, every headline focused on one facet of the performance: the way the performer gyrated her posterior region.

Some useless bubble-gum princess’ ass is more important than the world peacekeepers being shot at.

I understand that everyone is not interested in world politics. If regularly consuming media has taught me anything is that people will always be far more interested in celebrity culture than the politics that actually affect their everyday lives. I know this first hand.

I’m almost certain the reason why I never found that full story behind what was happening in Bosnia when I was nine years old was because I was far more interested in the Star Wars THX re-releases that same year. What can you expect? I was only nine years old. But I still never fully understood. And those bombs still dropped.

Assuming that somehow the public will become more informed with better, more accessible and more frequently updated online news sources is something I idealistically hoped for. And I’ve had the privilege of many great conversations based on new facts learned from (and yes, they do exist) reliable online sources.

But it’s also created something of an oversaturated cloud of noise. It’s hard to sift through all the constantly updated stories, the specialty websites versus the general interest news sources. Where before the newspaper landed on your front doorstep, you read the headline, and thus became informed, now it’s almost as if it’s more work for people to read through, think about what they want to be informed on, and find it.

With so many options laid out in front of them, of course people will always pick up the candy first.

I can’t help but speculate, though. Even these past few years I have to wonder if anyone is paying any attention.

Europeans countries are experiencing the kind of economic downturn that makes the great depression feel like a time of economic surplus. Spain, Italy, Greece and so many more saw massive riots in the streets because of the egregiously high youth unemployment. Cyprus just about had a civil war when their banks tried to freeze everyone’s accounts.

Top headlines at the time: the Royal Wedding.

When George W. Bush declared war on Iraq in 2003, arguably one of the worst military decisions since Vietnam.

Top headlines at the time: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez.

I wonder if it’s becoming easier for human rights violations knowing that media is controlled by commercial interests and it’s always easier to sell candy?

The Syrian Assad regime is potentially using toxic gasses against their own citizens.

But there’s new pictures of the Royal baby.

Did you know there was genocide in Darfur? The conflict started in 2003 and is actually still ongoing.

Did you know British warplanes have been landing in Cyprus, getting ready to enter Syria and raising more tensions in Damascus? Syria is now an international conflict. Their closest trading partners are Russia and Iran.

How do you think this is going to end?

Russia refuses to back down on its anti-gay laws yet the Winter 2014 Olympics will still be held in Sochi; and, millions of people will still watch and ignore that probably outside of the very stadium where people are winning medals and Coca Cola is telling you to drink up, another human being is being beaten and arrested for how they were born. Another human being is being killed in Russia because of some sense of honour the neo-right and new skinhead movement in Russia holds.

We ignored a similar issue at the Olympics in 1936.

But the papers will keep writing about it. It will be the headlines on all the news websites. This will be all people read about and watch.

Commercial interests: this is why I quit being a journalist.


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