Friday, 12 December 2008

Media: The glory of lying for one’s country

Media: The glory of lying for one’s country

By Nathaniel Manheru

When a fretful French protocol officer sought to hurry Napoleon up in fulfilment of a tight official schedule, the powerful midget retorted: "Ja, I make time."

To his mind, time could not hurry or harass a powerful man who had been unbowed by the whole of Europe.
It had to wait, to sit in attendance while he tilted lips and made merry! It was a typically Marlovian response from a man of enormous power who believed he lived above time.
Power always aspires for permanence which is guaranteed by the illusion of living above time and place. It seeks placeless permanence. Oh, mighty power!
Enter Barbara Hogan . . .
Yesterday I had the singular but unpleasurable honour of reading a report from the South African Business Day on the British health minister’s address to South Africa’s Young Communist League conference in Johannesburg.
Addressing the young communists after a lightning visit to Musina, the lady minister, one Barbara Hogan, passionately remarked: "You can’t walk into the veld without coming across bodies. People are eating ants because there is no food."
Which country, which veld, was she talking about? You guess right: Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe from the vantage of Musina! This, our long-sighted British minister had just achieved the rare feat of beholding from Musina Zimbabwe’s velds of human carrion, triggering her passionate, righteous crocodile tears for a dying or dead Zimbabwe.
Google anywhere on the Internet and you are likely to come across headlines like "Zimbabweans eat cow dung"; "Zimbabweans survive on leaves", etc, etc.
"There is no cholera"?
Then you have Thursday’s spectacular offer of Western journalism which simply set aside all that we had heard from President Mugabe in his address to mourners at Heroes Acre, an address broadcast live and re-broadcast after the prime 8 o’clock bulletin on ZTV.
Against our own ears and eyes, CNN, BBC, France 24 International, Al-BBC, sorry Al-Jazeera, simply told us President Mugabe had declared "there is no cholera in Zimbabwe"! Students of political communication must really be having a hard time in their search for a new theory adequate to capture this baffling behaviour by the Western media in their coverage of the so-called Zimbabwean story, which in reality is a Western story on "Zimbabwe".
Developing theories on how the media — itself assumed to be a platform for truth — bends truth, trims it for readers and audiences, looked quite challenging, but not against present media praxis which does not bother about facts or what the people involved know or experience.
This one huge step forward towards the unknown, the unknowable beyond the propaganda frontier.
Traditionally, prickly truth has always been managed through abridging established facts.
Or skewing them to prop predetermined ends, never by supplanting facts, never by overthrowing events to replace them by fictitious ones.
Even Nazi Germany eschewed such gigantic liberties with truth and facts.
Hitler’s ethos
But when reports such as I have just quoted above — all spread across titles that are supposed to be leaders in the craft — repeatedly grace your table or computer screen, then you realise we live in times far deeper and more depraved than Germany and Europe under the Nazis.
The baffle compounds when it is considered that the architects of these times are persons, institutions and countries that daily brag about their long war against Hitler’s ethos, nations who refrain: "Never again!"
The baffle becomes insoluble when the architects of these sorry times daily remind us they are sworn to truth, civilised standards and Christian values.
They are our supposed teachers on the sanctity of truth, on the divinity of facts.
You are struck further by the fact that these falsehoods go uncorrected — not for minutes, not for hours, not for days, not for weeks, not for months, not for years, decades, or even centuries.
They go uncorrected forever, which is why our true history, the true history of the underdog anywhere, everywhere, is still to be captured and written. For Western powers, killing truth is not an accident; it is the goal.
What many may not have known though is that in the West, the media are crucial to the realisation of that goal.
Africa’s Downs and Dimwits
It takes stupendous courage for a global news network which is represented here by a fully staffed bureau, and whose signal is received in the country, to still have the courage to overturn and overrun facts in respect of an event involving a whole Head of State, which is transmitted to citizens of that country "live", to be followed by a prime-time rebroadcast.
It is the doughty courage to challenge occurrences which are universally witnessed by a people, a nation, in order to replace them by non-occurences.
Such boldness stems from a "scientific" conclusion that the people thus affected and manipulated are so dumb that you can set aside what they hear and experience directly from their leaders, for what you give them from the thin air.
The way Zimbabwe has been covered by the Western media suggests a nation of Downs, of Dimwits, who exist in an environment or occurrence they can never comprehend.
One is struck by how this courage is so evenly spread across Western newsrooms, all of which appear run by look-alikes from Siam.
It is the courage and confidence to kill one truth, invent another and foist it on an obliging Africa of Downs and Dims.
The moral is clear and forthright: it is glorious to lie for one’s country!
Propaganda’s local by-standers
One striking feature of the present propaganda assault on Zimbabwe is how it is externally led. Let me explain.
The bylines on virtually all the false stories, the voices on the mendacious stories, are all from headquarters of the international news networks. It is true for Reuters, AFP, AP, BBC, France 24 International, Al Jazeera, the British Press, South African English Press etc, etc.
Where were local reporters for these organisations? To the man, to the woman, they were all there at Heroes Acre or before their television screens, following in real time what the President was saying in his address.
It was not a matter of hearsay. They got the address in real time.
They were part of the event.
But the amazing thing is their names were expunged from the stories, in deference to strange names abroad, names of persons who have never set foot here, but who fiercely know and grieve that Zimbabwe was, once upon a time a British colony, a haven for uninterrupted white real estate interests.
These strange bosses — all white, all angry, in some cases quite pink — appear to see better and clearer than their staffers who are in situ!
They wear binoculars which draw closer dynamics of situations in which their countries’ interests appear threatened.
And where this is the case, they do not hesitate to overrun their bureaux here, reducing local reporters to mere runners, mere providers of raw copy which they then rewrite to suit their nations’ agendas.
They have played little gods with copy on Zimbabwe, in the process rubbishing the letter and spirit of AIPPA. There has to be a robust response.
We do not need them, or to be here
Put simply, Zimbabwe has no reason or need to accredit bureaux and/or reporters for foreign news organisations which are rendered passive or inert in news processing.
Zimbabwe did not head-hunt for those organisations. They chose the skills they wanted and proceeded to engage them.
Zimbabwe assumes they acquired skills they trust and believe in, which is why they have retained them to the day.
To overrun those skills and structures is quite clearly a political decision which has no place in the world of news.
It is a step taken in the interest of delivering these networks to the foreign offices of their countries, to sharpen their governments’ assault on Zimbabwe.
It is also a loud way of telling those in authority in Zimbabwe to please declassify them as bona fide news organisations, indeed a statement to say we can cover Zimbabwe from our head offices, without local staffers. The message has gone home and is well taken.
The reach from Pretoria
But a more sinister message has been coming through. Within our industry, we have watched as the State Department created a full-blown structure in Pretoria for compromising both local journalists and stringers of foreign news organisations based in Harare.
It is an elaborate operation run by a lady American intelligence officer from Pretoria. She is in a number of newsrooms, including those of Reuters and AFP here. She is in the so-called private Press, including inhabiting the heart of a well known editor.
One could add staffers of the defunct Daily News who are fully functional, unaccredited. Using Sydney Masamvu, Sezani Weza and MDC’s Luke Tambolinyoka, this Anglo-American operation is running a whole host of ghost sites and ghost reporters who include the likes of Frank Chikowore and Brian Hungwe, buttressed by a phalanx of cameramen.
And, of course, Luke runs errands for Roy Bennett. There is huge, dirty money involved, part of it flowing into public newsrooms.
The line between these journalistic misdeeds and espionage grows thinner and thinner by the day. I happen to know that the authorities are about to place a price on those concerned, and let no one cry. Chebamba chinodyiwa nemuseredzero.
Self-appalled elder?
I hope what I am getting from my sources is true. Kofi Annan, himself part of the group of so-called Elders, has refused to give evidence to the United Nations Security Council.
He has, in other words, recoiled from further damages to Zimbabwe. Someone must have whispered to him that the damage to his stature has become irreparable.
But the briefing will proceed regardless, possibly handled by a staffer from the Elders’ white-run establishment. I also hear the trophy would have been former President Chissano, who declined to be involved in the mission.
The British are still trying to persuade him, hoping to use him to rescue Graca Machel, whose hope has been to offer herself for Presidency after President Guebuza.
She hoped the Zimbabwe mission would have won her the support of the West. Good luck, girl! Equally, I hear attempts to get the African Union to stage two-barrelled summits in South Africa and in Zimbabwe itself, on Zimbabwe, have come to spectacular grief.
The British and other sympathetic donors had played it particularly dirty with the AU Chairman, President Kikwete. They have dried up all budgetary aid, until the AU delivers Mugabe’s head on a platter.
But Africa has shown Britain and her allies a stiff neck, with South Africa openly rejecting what would have been an unprocedural summit prompted by non-member Europeans.
War without a fight
"War in times of cholera", is a wonderful title for a book on Zimbabwe. Brown, Sarkozy and Bush this and last week called for an invasion of Zimbabwe on the back of cholera.
I kept relishing the prospect of that glorious war, hoping after it, the ranks of war veterans would have swelled, to include a good many of us. Wars speed up heroism!
But reading through the editorials of British media, a.k.a. propaganda rooms, it is clear the UK, Europe and America have no spine for another war, let alone one involving Zimbabwe.
While savouring the prospect of regime change in Zimbabwe, the British were very clear that away from paper, on the ground, regime change is a messy and bloody affair. Messier, bloodier when it involves pitting your forces against "battle-hardened veterans of the Congo".
The British fearful clarity went further. While deriding South Africa as having the means but lacking the capacity for intervention and effecting regime change in Zimbabwe, they made it plain the intervention force had to be solely African, possibly supported by Europeans and Americans who would be situated well away from the trajectory of projectiles of war. Brown wants a war, but does not want a fight.
The sound and fury of French diplomacy
Sarkozy’s act was clear. It was quintessentially French diplomacy: noisy, dusty and roaring, yet signifying less than nothing.
Histrionic but completely empty, devoid of matter. Picture this: In Ivory Coast where France lost soldiers in a flash of shortest war, Sarkozy is careful to do nothing that will provoke the armed Ivorians.
He has similar colonial claims in that country which make him see eye to eye with Brown on Zimbabwe. Who believes that he can be part of the action against Zimbabwe with losers of Iraq and Afghanistan? Who? DRC, the same thing.
And you have his current spate with Rwanda which is set to transform France into a marginal player in Central Africa. Good act, Sarkozy.
As for Bush, well, well! Which American President ever starts a war exactly a month away from an ignominous exit from White House? That would be a first for Bush. And all for what? For a thick-lipped, unattractive Brown who cannot command Britain, who is set for a spectacular defeat?
A Brown who, like Khama, is in office, unelected? So the faint-hearted would have been frightened by the sound and fury, much of it signifying nothing. Now I see they are moving the date to Christmas, promising brimstone.
Sat on the brink
But let us face it, they have ruined Tsvangirai forever. What now after the adventure?
Part of the hysteria of the past weeks was triggered by a realisation Zimbabwe had neutralised Tsvangirai’s British-trained, Botswana-facilitated insurgents, most of them fatally recruited from retired functionaries of the security establishment.
The British look foolish; the Tswanas look frightened and are all over with courtship. With that plan foiled and with Africa refusing to be turned into an askari, Tsvangirai’s brinkmanship has so efficiently delivered him just there: beneath the brink.
He cannot come back, lamely arguing he needs a real passport to come home. It is not like jumping into Mazarura to get to Murehwa, he says, clearly failing to disguise his irritation.
It is not a clever answer. You get an ETD, it implies you must come back home, within set times. Much worse, such an argument from a man who would not go out of Zimbabwe without a real passport, now telling us he cannot come back in, because he does not have a real passport?
Goodness me! Timba, a bit of clever answers please. But he continues to burn more bridges. The South Africans are furious.
The villager said he was driving back home, and ended up in Botswana, Morocco, Senegal, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Brussels.
You want a basic level of decency when you are dealing with foreign governments, a basic threshold or morality.
With a whole family there, a whole house there, a whole fortune stashed there, how is he going to relate to the South Africans he has been abusing and insulting so gratuitously? Maybe Malloch Brown will mend fences. We wait to see.

No comments: