Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Can't We All Just Get Along?


A press release from Reporters Without Borders shows just how mindless journalism can be:

Reporters Without Borders is "shocked and angry" about a violent assault on opposition journalist Mikhail Beketov, the editor of a newspaper based in Khimki, a town on the northwestern outskirts of Moscow. He has been in a critical condition ever since the attack on 13 November.

"Beketov has lost a leg and is still in a coma, but that is not all--threatening calls were also made to the hospital where he was taken," Reporters Without Borders said. "Violence against journalists continues to be very much in the news in Russia, what with the start today of the trial of four people accused of the 2006 murder of Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya."

The press freedom organisation added: "It is impossible not to get angry when you think about these murders that too often remain unpunished. Only last August, the owner of an Ingush news website, Magomed Yevloyev, was shot dead just after being arrested. This cycle of violence must stop."

An actual cycle of violence consists in one side committing violent acts against the other, the other side committing violent acts in retaliation, the first side retaliating violently for those acts, and so on. It has become a journalistic cliché, used to blur the distinction between illegitimate and legitimate violence--for example, to suggest a moral equivalency between terrorists and states that use force to defend civilians from terrorist attack.

In Russia, the "cycle" goes something like this: Official acts corruptly. Reporter reports it. Official has reporter killed. The violence goes only one way. Even the most tendentious journalist could not possibly see a moral equivalence between the two sides--if he bothered to think about it for a moment.

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