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Violence and nonviolence are, after all, two different forms of theater. They both depend and thrive on the response of an audience.
September 18, 2011 10:01 AM   Subscribe

"If we, as a global audience, focus solely on violence and militarism, we reinforce the notion that they are the most effective form of action. On the other hand, if we pay more attention to nonviolent or unarmed efforts, we strengthen the legitimacy and influence of those choosing to use these means."

Julia Bacha has documented the efforts of a small but united group of Palestinian and Israeli activists to prevent the partial destruction and isolation of the village of Budrus. In her August TED talk, she explains why media attention to non-violent conflict resolution is a critical ingredient in its success or failure.
posted by notion (9 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just fyi, the Israeli Supreme Court has issued a couple ruling ordering the Israeli government to change the course of the West Bank Barrier, which set precedent for 40ish other petitions for changes in the barrier's route. In other words, Palestinian villages have reasonable odds of seeing their grievances with the wall addressed by the Israeli courts, assuming someone will foot the bill for their lawyers.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:17 AM on September 18, 2011


I strongly support the premise of this post. Our news and our history is often focused too intently on the military world when there is so much else going on.
posted by Winnemac at 11:00 AM on September 18, 2011


Given the proper stage, these movements proved that civil disobedience and peaceful protest could be more moving, more captivating and ultimately more influential than the use of lethal force. Yet, if no one had paid attention to those first students sitting in at the lunch counters in North Carolina, or to the desperate plea of a young Tunisian vegetable salesman, who can say where those movements would be today?

It would seem she undervalues the contribution of violence as an essential element of media interest.

The only reason people paid attention to those students sitting in at the Woolworth's lunch counter was the potential for violence. When King and his supporters marched across the Edmund Pettus bridge they were being non-violent, but it resulted in violence. The reporters didn't show up to watch King engage in scholarly debate with the locals - they came to see heads getting smashed.

The "desperate plea" of the young Tunisian greengrocer was setting himself on fire - a hugely violent act guaranteed to receive media attention pretty much anywhere.
posted by three blind mice at 11:03 AM on September 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Our news and our history is often focused too intently on the military world when there is so much else going on.

I disagree. If, as Bacha's premise claims, there is limited media real estate, then we should not let news of violence and military action slip past under the radar. News of that nature is considered important for good reasons; military action is a part of the diplomatic process and perhaps the part of the process with the most immediate and affecting results, and as three blind mice describes, violence, or the threat of it, is present in almost any situation where there is conflict, and it's conflict that makes headlines.

I find this comparison between violent and non-violent means and their newsworthiness is somewhat disingenuous. Conflict makes news, whether it's violent or only the potential for it.
posted by dazed_one at 11:15 AM on September 18, 2011


Conflict makes news, whether it's violent or only the potential for it.

It would seem she undervalues the contribution of violence as an essential element of media interest.

I am sensing more concern for the wellbeing of the media and its consumers, instead of those covered/not covered by it. Are we worried that people won't be entertained if they are subjected to news about non-violence? Is Bacha living in a dream world by suggesting that the media change its tack and cover the lives of those who aren't starting the fires?
posted by obscurator at 11:40 AM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


International Day of Peace, 21 September 2011
posted by homunculus at 11:44 AM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


"The only reason people paid attention to those students sitting in at the Woolworth's lunch counter was the potential for violence. When King and his supporters marched across the Edmund Pettus bridge they were being non-violent, but it resulted in violence. The reporters didn't show up to watch King engage in scholarly debate with the locals - they came to see heads getting smashed."

Budrus was not deficient in head smashing, indeed the whole business was riveting, constantly changing, and not un-bloody. Perfect for CNN coverage. The only problem has been that the story does not conform to the themes we are used to or the ones many want us to keep hearing.

Thank you for this post, definitely the best of the web.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:30 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The "desperate plea" of the young Tunisian greengrocer was setting himself on fire - a hugely violent act guaranteed to receive media attention pretty much anywhere.

Non-violence is not non-action. A man burning himself to death IS a non-violent protest. It is taking the anger into oneself, rather than shooting it out at others. Many, many people have lost their lives in non-violent protests, and somehow their deaths rarely get the attention given to those that die with weapons in their hands.

I am angry that I have to *search* to find this story of Budrus -- and stories of the other nonviolent Palestinian/Israeli campaigns that Bacha listed. And that is all Bacha saying; news media filters out nonviolence. The focus of news stories on violence is predetermined by media corporate policies.

Bacha is asking us to not accept that as OUR way of seeing.

Saying, "That's just the way it is" is not okay. WE make things the way they are.
posted by Surfurrus at 2:23 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bacha is focusing on Palestine-Israel, but her point is pertinent to other situations.

As an example - Haiti suffered horribly after the earthquake last year -- an Al Jazeera reporter tells of how this was mostly due to the perception of it as a place of violence. Emergency supplies and medical aid was desperately needed, but ... heavily armed troops were ordered in above and before any useful help was sent.
posted by Surfurrus at 2:37 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


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