I’ve long given up on the idea that the mainstream media are honest brokers and arbiters of truth. Gone are the days of muckrakers, decades of corporate consolidation and billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Rupert Murdoch snapping up one media outlet at a time transformed the news landscape from watchdogs checking power into cash cows for multinational corporation.
However, as much as I’ve come to the realization that the likes of CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post and even “publicly owned” outfits like BBC are there to serve the interests of the status quo instead of rooting out corruption, I have nonetheless been shocked at the way false narratives have been churned out by the international press when it comes to the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia over.
I guess it hits close to home because Ethiopia was once my home until the terrors of the Derg regime forced my family and me to flee to America in 1983. However, like most Ethiopians, though my mind and body are here in the United States, a piece of my heart has always remained in Ethiopia. So when the TPLF initiated a bloody rampage on the night of November 3rd and massacred scores of Ethiopian soldiers in the dark of night, my attention pivoted from the carnival act of US politics to the crisis unfolding in my birthland.
The first article I wrote about the developments in Ethiopia was measured; I did not want to form a judgement without getting more details neither did I want to be a party to hysteria. Had my aim been to get clicks, I would have jumped the gun and immediately assigned blame and then started filtering “news” through the prism of hidden motives. It was not until a spokesperson for the TPLF admitted live on Dimsti Woyane TV that the TPLF conducted a “preemptive attack” against their own nation’s military that I finally arrived at a conclusion. What TPLF termed a “preemptive attack”, rational people rightly call shedding blood of one’s country’s own defense forces what it is—seditious terrorism.
Not so with major media outlets, opinion leaders; pundits and governmental officials, before the fog of war even lifted, started filling the room with the smoke of disinformation and fanning the flames of outright propaganda. Napoleon Bonaparte once stated that four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets. He was dead on accurate with that assessment; guns can kill locally but media and those who wield it can wreak havoc globally.
Imagine if you will what America would have done if rogue elements in Texas, with enough firepower to almost have parity with the US military, attacked Fort Hood? What would the president of the United States have done if these same extremists started killing civilians in Dallas? What would our government have done if these outlaws then barricaded themselves in San Antonio and started launching rockets at St. Louis and then doubled down on malice by lobbing missiles into Canada in order to expand a local conflict into a continental war?
What I outlined above is precisely what occurred in Ethiopia; TPLF started this conflict in order to achieve political and economic objectives at the point of AK47s. There is no leader in this world worth his salt who would have stood pat and allowed a homegrown terror cell to declare war on the government without acting forcefully to restore law and order and bring the instigators to account. If this happened in America or in Europe, the international community would have lined up in support of the attacked country’s head of state. News narratives would have framed any and all actions taken as a campaign to eradicate terrorism.
Let me welcome you to the world of quadruple standards where what's good for the swan is not good for the African gander. #Ethiopia Click To TweetAlmost every well known reporter, as well as renowned “experts” and bureaucrats, have painted Abiy Ahmed’s actions as a “war of choice” and made a moral equivalency between the unprovoked attack of the TPLF and the justified response of the Ethiopian National Defense Force. The lie in often not in what is said but in what is omitted. What the international press is leaving out of their dispatches is that the TPLF are not just some ragtag militia; for close to three decades, they ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist and jack boots.
An ethnic minority could only rule through brute strength and by fracturing Ethiopia into tribal Bantustans. That is precisely what they did as they armed themselves to the teeth while inducing ethic strife throughout Ethiopia. Once a critical mass of Ethiopians finally rose up, TPLF—who rebranded themselves as the EPRDF—knew the jig was up and took off for Mek’ele in order to escape accountability for the decades of human rights abuses and mass terror that they doled out liberally to anyone who dared to question their authority.
Beyond escaping justice, the TPLF also fortified themselves in Tigray and stocked up on weaponry, financed extremist elements like the OLF in order to destabilize Ethiopia and bid their time before they could seize the initiative against Mr. Ahmed. That is precisely what they did three weeks ago, as admitted to by their own spokesperson. George W. Bush deciding to attack Iraq illegally and immorally was a “war of choice”, a war that was cheered on and encouraged by the likes of New York Times, Washington Post and their ilk.
Chris Hedges won a Pulitzer, and later threw his MSM career under the bus in order to speak out against the Iraq war, as a lone voice in the wilderness at the New York Times. Your statement is disinfo. Thanks for playing.
— Lucius Ringwald (@luciusringwald) October 22, 2019
The campaign that is taking place in Ethiopia, on the other hand, was not a war of choice but a conflict of no choice. TPLF forced Mr. Ahmed’s hand, do nothing and it would encourage more violent factions to likewise take up arms; a development that would undermine, if not incapacitate the Federal government and unleashed strife that could inundate Ethiopia in an gulf of bloodshed the likes of Rwanda.
Instead of reporting the news in Ethiopia through this reality in, pundits and journalists alike have grabbed on to false equivalencies and dishonest narratives in order to besmirch Mr. Ahmed and paint the TPLF terrorists as aggrieved parties. For the record, I am not an “Abiy loyalist”, I have taken him to task countless times in the past for not doing more to enact policies that could help the average Ethiopian and instead shepherding “privatization” schemes that privatize the resources of Ethiopia to foreign investors while socializing pain to Ethiopians.
However, on the issue of the conflict between the Ethiopian government and TPLF extremism, I firmly endorse Mr. Ahmed’s decision. The truth is that we have three options until the next elections are held, the status quo of Mr. Ahmed, the return of TPLF or the anarchy that comes with Mr. Ahmed’s collapse. This does not mean that we should blindly support Mr. Ahmed; his actions after this conflict is resolved should be watched closely and any attempt to consolidate power and declare “victor’s spoils” in the mold of the TPLF should be roundly condemned. What we desperately need is a national “Healing and Reconciliation” campaign the likes of Nelson Mandela that will allow people to express their pains without vilifying others. But we will cross that bridge when we get there; Ethiopia is currently facing an existential threat that needs to be dealt with decisively.
These are the facts that mainstream media and public officials alike are omitting from their slanted analysis. I honestly wonder if they have blind spots borne out of ignorance or if they are maliciously spinning false narratives on purpose. I think the truth is somewhere in between, reporters and journalists who cover news have do so through the filter of their own biases and the demands of their editors. Agenda setting is a real thing; news is almost always predetermined and reporters go out not in search of truth but in the quest to find narratives that will fill in the lines.
This is why it is VITAL for news consumers to understand these things; if you are not aware of the why, what and how behind news stories, you are subjecting yourself to what is effectively a psychological war designed to bend public perception and affect desired outcomes. I am not saying that I am to be 100% trusted, I too am susceptible to unconscious biases like everyone else in this world. The difference is that I don’t have toe corporate lines and—as an independent observer who is not dependent on sponsor money—I can report news and current events without worrying about upsetting higher ups.
I’ll wrap it up by addressing the consumers of news instead of chiding the producers. We, the people, have a choice, we can either keep ingesting toxic “news” and then bellyaching later on about the ingestion we keep getting or we can seek out alternative voices who are trying their hardest to present news and analysis unconstrained by corporate demands. The conflicts of interest, the biased reporting and ignorance of the complex history of Ethiopia is precisely why I started the Crisis Chronicles in an attempt to present an alternative to the mainstream media rubbish that is peddled as news and also provide a daily update to our readership that they have come to trust and depend on.
At the risk of boasting, what I presented to you just in this article is nuance and background on the conflict in Ethiopia in ways you will not find in major publications. We have the power of social media at our fingertips, why not use that power to amplify the voices of reason and those who proffer messages of unity instead of echoing hatemongers and divisive demagogues? Instead of following media personalities who either have blind spots or are calculatedly spreading disinformation, the wiser move is to consume their “news” with discernment, read between the lines and then seek out and empower independent voices who are honoring the spirit of muckrakers instead of selling muck as news.
Let me take this minute to pray for the people of Ethiopia, specifically for the innocent civilians caught up in the cross-hairs of a battle they did not ask for nor a hardship they did not seek. Though I place the blame at the feet of TPLF, my heart breaks nonetheless for the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters living in Mek’ele who are enduring the horrors of wars while most of us are in the comforts of our homes. Dark times incubate the brightest blessings, may the same land that is awash with tears and blood be restored by the redemptive force of love and forgiveness::
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