Thursday, January 14, 2010

Earthquakes and Coups

The U.S. press has always dealt with countries south of the Rio Grande whenever generals march into palaces or Mother Nature throws a temper tantrum. Never mind the ongoing social and economic dramas in between.

This is how we find ourselves hearing about Haiti's "unpreparedness," as if it were New Orleans or some part of Ohio, and not the most wretched, poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, the first self-governing majority black country in the new World, and the one most abused, occupied and exploited by the United States.

The earthquake is natural, but the ensuing human disaster is man-made.

But you won't hear the U.S. mass media delve into the root causes of misery. After all, Haiti vanished from the front pages and television bulletins since the mid-1990s, as it will vanish once again in a few weeks, the minute U.S. readers and viewers get "compassion fatigue" and turn to another channel or turn the page.

Don't believe me? Recall another Latin American country whose name starts with an H. In 1998 Americans were aghast at the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in this country, but the nation vanished from the U.S. radar screen until in 2009 an elected president was overthrown.

Give up? Honduras.

Had Honduran poverty been eliminated in 1999? Were all the proceeds of the aid evenly distributed according to need, or did the lion's share of any money go to the top?

It doesn't matter. U.S. news consumers couldn't have cared less, so why should editors, reporters and TV twinkies.

1 comment:

heartinsanfrancisco said...

We seem to suffer from short attention spans and also from short bursts of compassion which are awakened (briefly) only when a catastrophe of such magnitude as the Haitian earthquake occurs. Much of the world lives in dire poverty all the time, not just when we take notice. But having said this, I can't begin to know how to make things right.