Friday, February 18, 2011

The Middle East and Media Fatigue

There's only so long we can remain focused on and excited about any single news story. That's not a condemnation or critique of the system; that's just how people are. It's why so many news stations are always digging for some new angle or update, or try to find the "human interest" story by interviewing the one fisherman with the most local accent. Point is, we can only care about most things for so long, especially with 24-7 coverage that inevitably enters a suicide loop of presenting the same information over and over because real life doesn't always advance the plot quickly and consistently like a movie would.

Cue Egypt. Most of us, myself included, got very excited in the first few days. By the next week, it was more of "that's still going on, remember?" By the time it actually resolved, many of us (again, myself included) had changed our tunes nearly 180 degrees.

I'd like to think this was less about media fatigue and more a dawning realization that the situation was not, in fact, resolved. What started as a shared revolutionary fervor calmed into realization that we had no idea what Egypt would become next. It could be better, it could be worse. It could stay exactly the same, with a few new faces and names. I agree with Dan Carlin (his most recent Common Sense episode was brilliant on the topic) that what's important is that the people get to decide. But did they just trade a corrupt dictatorship for a fascist military state? If so, their ability to decide might not last long. And the impact on the region could be...bad.

Hopefully, that will not be the case. And either way, the people had some say. They had some impact on their government. Which we, as Americans, find nearly holy.

Good for them!

But there's that media fatigue again. And today we see news stories that similar protests in Bahrain and Lybia are turning nasty. As bad, and worse, as everyone feared Egypt could get, these already are.

With the Egypt protests, I was sure the situation could not devolve too far into state-run violence and chaos because the whole world was watching. You can't get away with slaughtering and beating thousands when CNN is running the footage in a continual loop; the public outcry would be loud enough to reach the ears of people that can send the type of "help" you really don't want.

But with Bahrain and Libya, people have already changed the channel. We saw the "end" to that Egypt story, and switched to see what's New On Fox this season.

I'm afraid that the responsible members of the press and government will stand high on the hills, shouting through megaphones that we need to pay attention to these new protests, and we won't be able - or, more cynically, willing - to hear them.

No comments:

Post a Comment