By Worku Gebeyehu Lakew, author Empire and Revolution in Ethiopia, 2018
Just like 1964,1974 and 1995, Ethiopia is at a crossroad once again in 2018, not sure which way to turn. The stakes are very high but this time there seems to be a solution in sight judging from the tremondous and unanimous chorus of the global western press.
Ethiopia and the western media 2018
If you look at the last 500 items of reporting since April 2018 including news coverage, opinion pieces, and analysis, only one conclusion emerges. Under a 45 year old charaismatic leader called Abiy Ahmed , Ethiopia is becoming a beacon of hope , democracy, peace and freedom as well as an example of regional integration and a model for all least developed countries. The verdict is 100% with no dissenters or caveats and the cheer leaders are the ususal suspects: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The Financial Times, The Economist, The Guardian, LeMonde, Reuters and prominent regional websites such as All Africapress .com just to name a few . Not even one note of caution, or scepticism or dissention or the usual allussion to the benefit of the doubt is allowed to get in the way.
The deafening chorus is enough to make you suspicious that something orchestrtaed is afoot and the media is keen to put all of us on blinkers, so that we could let our guard down and forget about due diligence or even a bit of critical thinking.
As we now live in an age of a global systems crisis since the 2008 economic meltdown and political turbulence that followed policies of Austerity , the usual trust that we give to the media is no longer applicable. Instead we have to resurrect long forgotten empirical and crtical analysis methods such as the labour process and apply it to the production of news and journalism, to differentiate between what is real and what is manufactured.
Among other things , applyying the labour process to the production , distribution, and consumption of news and journalism enables us to understand , who is generating the news, what hidden interests do these producers have, what kernel of truth exists in such production, what relationship exists between the producers of the news, the product itself, the channells of distribution, the consumers and the target audiences. We need to understand the beneficiaries from such coverages, the timing, the technology and method of production and the real values of such news angles to the news industries and those that are related to them by deep interests.
Admittedly, the labour process as a a method is traditionally applied to physical industries and the production of goods but rarely to services. But that is before a humble Italian journalist called Antonio Gramsci , who spent most of his life in prison in the 1920s , applied to the study of politics and state power, what a German philosopher called Karl Marx did to economics and the production and exchange of commodities and its financialisation. In the process he showed us the invisible hand of self interst as it permeates the world of everyday life from politics to ideology and journalism.
A less laborious way of understaning a piece of bombshell news that has been thrust upon us is a simple process of trigonometry called triangulation. This method is borrowed from cyber and digital telemetry used in identifying the precise location of a caller using mobile phones that has disabled or is not using location services. Since all mobile phones work by connecting to the nearest mobile phone mast, the location of the person could be discovered by triangulating such masts. The technical operators need to ping the caller from a mobile phone. If the operator uses only one mast , the distance between the phone and the mast could be measured but the caller could be anywhere in a circle defined by the radius from the mast to the caller. Two pings using two masts yields a more useful directional location within the circle. But location in space is three dimensional and to precisely locate the caller a third mast and the intersection point of all the three masts would tiangulate the caller and identify them to within an accuracy of 1 to 2 metres.
The equivalent of triangulation within journalism is to compare the coverage of the same news item or subject produced by the BBC for example, to another coverage by a US source called RT , which is a channel originating from Russia but in reality is contracted out to american and UK centre left journalists who are friendly to Russia but are not bound by the editorial policy of the Kremlin. The truth lies somewhere between the two but there is still some uncertainity and needs a thrid triangulation. This is very difficult in a world dominated by two major blocks but not impossible. One alternative is to use a fully home grown western source that is not linked to the establishment such as twenty first century newswire , that normally provides a third mast on issues such as the Iraq and syrian wire or the war in afganistan.
The intersection of the three sources will givr you a greater approximation to the real truth and help you make the judgement to identify and separate the self serving output from the kernel of reality on the subject. In the process it also lays bare the self interest angle of each of the other parties.
In an age where the prevailing paradigm of the neo liberal economics and politics has been found wanting and cannot anymore avoid instability and crisis, but is struggling to fudge the fundamental fact that it has let down the many and mainly serves the few , such a reality requires the public to walk around with venetian masks to the party which has thus become the modern equivalent of a masquerade. The reality of a dysfunctional society is to force us to dress up in venetian party gear which means that we can only see what the party organisers want us to see, ie nothing.
In understanding what is happening in ethiopia or what is being done to the country and its people , the dawn chorus of the western press by itself suggests that the party that is going on is some kind of masquerade and no one is allowed to get at the truth by taking off the masks.
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