The Media’s killing fields…and so it goes By William Bowles

18 August 2003

Channel 4 TV broadcast a ‘documentary’ “Congo’s Killing Fields” (17/08/03) that purported to be a report on the current situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The hour-long doccie had me hopping mad from the very beginning to its very end and cursing the box sitting in the corner of the room.

The ‘on-the-scene’ pornographer (excuse me, reporter), Sam Kiley, gave us a cynical, racist, fatalistic and one-dimensional hour of slaughter, which aside from a couple of digs at the Brits for the financial aid it gave Rwanda and Uganda, allegedly backers of two of the militias slugging it out in a small section of the Eastern DRC, we learned absolutely nothing about the civil war or its causes.

Instead, we got a ‘humanitarian’ view of the effects of the breakdown of the state following the overthrow of the dictator Sese Seko Mobutu five years ago. As he was running for his life as bullets whistled overhead (which he informed us were either 7.62 millimetre AK or from heavy machine guns), we learned that the UN was understaffed and lacking in a mandate to do anything of relevance, but that was about it.

What the programme did succeed at doing only too well, was to reinforce the notion that Africa is a basketcase, full of child soldiers, brutal militia leaders and thankfully of course for Kiley, victims, an endless supply of victims for Kiley’s camera to capture.

This obscene, racist piece of pornography is what passes for ‘journalism’ these days. The terrible thing about this kind of journalism is of course, that it’s ‘real’. In other words, nobody can fail to be moved by the pictures of people, mostly women and children who have been shot, hacked, raped, starved and finally driven from their homes, often many times as the various armies contest the terrain. But it all takes place in a total vacuum, as if it’s on another planet that has no connection to the world we all live in. This is the ideology of racism translated into its latest incarnation, one that purports to care but in reality, alienates and dehumanises.

Kily, who makes his living off this kind of muck, displayed an amazing lack of knowledge either about Africa or the DRC and in a disgusting display of cynicism, didn’t even make any attempt at hiding his total lack of knowledge. There wasn’t even any pretence at justifying the programme by some kind of historical overview of how the DRC got to be where it is today. Instead, it came over to us as a ‘slice of life’ Africa-style. This is ‘normal’ in Africa we are led to believe.

The programme had more than the flavour of voyeurism about it, opening with scenes of carnage and ending with more of the same. If it had been a doccie about paedophiles, Kily would have been arrested and pilloried by the press into the bargain as an exploiter of other peoples’ misfortunes.

But of course he won’t be and unfortunately, in a world where this kind of violence is justified as being the ‘truth’, Kily will no doubt be praised or even awarded a prize for poking his camera into a world that has been ‘structurally adjusted’.

Occasionally however, the local populace, fed up with his voyeuristic camera feeding off their misery, had him literally running for his life (though Kiley tells us it was his white face that did it). Had they caught him, they would no doubt have torn him limb from limb and more’s the pity they didn’t. It would have been one less pornographer posing as a journalist to peddle the lies.

And in a short addendum to this piece of garbage, The Independent’s Sunday Review (17/08/03) reinforced the illusion with the following description of the programme, even compounding the lie by introducing cannibalism into the mix (about the only thing that wasn’t actually shown in the movie)!

“Sam Kily…reports from the epicentre of the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country collapsing into anarchy, murder, rape and cannibalism.”

Collapsing? Epicentre? The country collapsed when the West overthrew and murdered the first president of an independent Congo, Patrice Lumumba and installed yet another military upstart and puppet of the West, Sese Seko Mobuto and propped him up for the next forty years whilst the American, Belgium and Apartheid South African capitalists ripped off its wealth and used it as base to destabilise the countries that threatened Western interests in the region.

And so it goes…

Standing reality on its head

Moving on from one killing field to the next (and there’s surely no shortage in the age of global vandalism), the Independent (18/08/03) gives us yet another amazing piece of newspeak with the front-page headline “Sabotage threatens Iraq’s economy”! The fact that the body of the article in no way backed up the headline didn’t stop them from using it however.

Instead, the article quite clearly demonstrated that the woes of the Iraqi population stem entirely from the US occupation. Had the headline read, “US occupation threatens Iraq’s economy” the article would have made some sense but of course, this would have been too close to the bone.

Instead, we have to read between the lines in order to get the picture of an imperialist power, which has bitten off more than it can chew, and which now seeks to blame the victim for being occupied by a country that blows journalists away because it allegedly can’t spot the difference between a movie camera and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher (the 19th journalist to die since the invasion).

The story goes on to list the problems that confront the US occupation forces and calculates that if the projection of a ten-year US presence comes to pass, the total cost of $600 billion will be greater than the current US budget deficit.

And in an incredible statement, the Independent has the gall to tell us that:

“This is the occupation that was meant to pay for itself.”

And in the predictable language of the capitalist press, in a vain attempt at rationalising the rising tide of resistance to the occupation, the Independent tells us that:

“[P]ut together, the attacks look to be the work of resistance groups that have begun to hit Iraq’s infrastructure…. One [fire] could have been misfortune, two seemed to be sabotage…. On their own, the oil pipeline blasts could have been the work of smugglers…. On its own, the water pipe explosion could have been a bomb intended for a different target, such as an American convoy, that went wrong.”

Or:

“The bombing of the water pipe could be to stir up anger amongst ordinary Iraqis…. Someone probably wants to spread discontent on Baghdad’s streets…. The motive for the prison attack was not clear: the target might have been American soldiers stationed in the vast complex.”

And, as per usual, the Independent’s editorial, hits rock bottom in trying to justify the unjustifiable when it informs us that:

“Iraqis will not believe in the benevolence of the occupiers unless the the Americans and the British can restore basic services.”

And so it goes…

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