Friday, October 23, 2009

Ethnocentrism in the Media

Examining the ways stories are framed in the media is a useful way of illustrating how ethnocentric we are as a global society. On the current front page of National Public Radio (; 10.22.09) are international stories on Iran's failure to meet deadlines on nuclear proposals, the lack of key American politicians working with Afghanistan, and traumatic brain injury from gridiron football. It's obvious NPR has an international eye, but it appears the international stories typically covered are those that have a close connection to the United States.

On Al Jazeera's front page one can see immediately in its website structure, a broader international focus, with user-friendly links established so readers can quickly go to pages dedicated to Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Central/South Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. On "The America's" front page (10.22.09), the major stories promoted focus on the the U.S. envoy and the Afghan elections, an explosion in Puerto Rico, and the shifting government in Honduras. In Al Jazeera's conception of "The America's," the United States is not necessarily framed as the center.

While ethnocentrism (or some may say nationalism) embedded in major news sites may seem fairly obvious, what's less obvious is the way ethnocentrism shapes our international awareness and sensibilities. As an example, one recent and hideous story only making marginal news across U.S. websites, but which is being covered much more heavily on Al Jazeera, is the terrorizing of protesters in Guinea who were advocating for democracy and speaking out against Guinea's military government at the end of last month (September 2009).

The violence enacted against the protesters was grotesquely physical and sexual, said to be carried out openly by military forces backing Moussa Dadis Camara, Guinea's military leader who assumed leadership via a bloodless coup last year (not so bloodless anymore).

With Guinea perceived as less consequential for the United States at this moment, one has to search with far greater effort to find U.S. news sites that pay even moderate attention to this issue. Conversely, finding background stories on Guinea within Al Jazeera' site is rather easy. Because these stories are erased from or are never introduced to the West's public consciousness, we continue to look inward and ignore certain global crises, and in this case, the attendant forces that shape international terrorism.

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1 comment:

  1. Ethnocentrism has severed our society so bad, we must stop this practice.