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Because at least 64 people died?
July 12, 2010 5:20 AM   Subscribe

As Uganda reels following a bombing that killed at least 64 people in Kampala watching the World Cup final, CNN tells us "why the world should care."

Well, for one, at least one of the people killed was American.

And also, especially because Uganda is exporting oil, it will probably be bad for Western and Chinese businesses investing in the region.

You should also be assured that this attack is out of the ordinary. Uganda has a "low-intensity" conflict in the northern region, but nothing like these random bombings. The Acholi people might more properly call the conflict a genocide, but of course it doesn't have the impact on Westerners that this bombing, attributed to an Islamic militant group from Somalia, does. Al-Shabaab, the group being blamed, has threatened Uganda and Burundi because troops from their country make up the entirety of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia right now.
posted by ChuraChura (36 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Stop! You had me at "at least one of the people killed was American."

Seriously, this kind of cold-blooded, economically based analysis of such a tragedy is appalling and despicable. For shame, CNN.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:26 AM on July 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


To be fair, if you're the type of person who can see a tragedy like this and immediately change the channel to SportsCenter without batting an eye, more than likely, you have money in oil.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 5:29 AM on July 12, 2010


The world should care because the only thing worse than 63 people getting killed in a bombing is one American getting killed in a bombing. Good to know.
posted by bjrn at 5:39 AM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Heh, you should see how we conduct our wars.
posted by ryanrs at 5:48 AM on July 12, 2010


Somalia - the gift that keeps on giving.
posted by Artw at 5:56 AM on July 12, 2010


CNN's presumption of monstrous indifference to this tragedy says more about CNN than about us.

I hope.
posted by bovious at 5:57 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by jb at 5:57 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, this kind of cold-blooded, economically based analysis of such a tragedy is appalling and despicable. For shame, CNN.

Weird, I was surprised because it seemed as though CNN was actually doing reporting i.e. educating me about the long term implications of an event.
posted by new brand day at 6:08 AM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Excellent collection of links, very good post, thank you.

To be fair to CNN (something I'm not in the habit of doing!) the piece does contain a little more than you allude to, and putting conflict into its wider context (something you've done yourself here) is nothing to be ashamed of, nor does it invalidate the human and social cost; it's not a dichotomy.

Back on my more familiar track of criticising CNN: I can't help but feel the headlines and questions don't really reflect what Vines is saying - he heads off their more leading and incendiary questions quite deftly. CNN desperately wants to paint this action as something unusual that the west should be paying attention to, but the West has been well aware of what's happening in Uganda for quite some time - this may not be business as usual, but it's still very much business to the foreign govts and companies active in the area.

Vines is right that we should be talking to the actual govt in charge of southern Somalia - however repugnant we may find them. They're certainly no worse than the random collection of warlords and psychotics we've been sponsoring for about twenty years now.
posted by smoke at 6:10 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, this kind of cold-blooded, economically based analysis of such a tragedy is appalling and despicable. For shame, CNN.

CNN's presumption of monstrous indifference to this tragedy says more about CNN than about us.

To be fair, if you're the type of person who can see a tragedy like this and immediately change the channel to SportsCenter without batting an eye, more than likely, you have money in oil.


This is all way too sanctimonious. I'm sure you're aware, even if you're not willing to admit it to yourself, that 99.9% of people don't really give a fuck. Adam Smith put it really well in the Theory of Moral Sentiments:
Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connexion with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would too, perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in general. And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquillity, as if no such accident had happened. The most frivolous disaster which could befal himself would occasion a more real disturbance. If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren, and the destruction of that immense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him, than this paltry misfortune of his own.
What's wrong, in that kind of situation, with trying to make this bus-plunge story relevant to people? Are we just supposed to shut off the reasoning part of our brains entirely and sit around wringing our hands, as if trying to think through the implications would be somehow disrespectful to the people who died? I can't believe anyone really thinks that.

Pointing out that there was at least one American there is just another way of making the story relevant. I guarantee you that Ugandan news sources would report if a Ugandan was killed in some terror attack thousands of miles away.
posted by nasreddin at 6:11 AM on July 12, 2010 [30 favorites]


Well, people have got to get their snark in about something, and since they don't actually know anything or give a shit about Uganda it might as well be CNN.
posted by Artw at 6:11 AM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I entirely see everyone's point, but I don't think you're being entirely fair to CNN.

Tens of thousands of people die every day from a variety of causes. No news organization has the resources to report all of them, and no person has the compassion (or time) to care about all of them. That CNN/news orgs. in general should limit themselves to reporting on deaths most likely to affect their readership--and that they should specifically mention how these deaths affect their readership--doesn't strike me as the most callous thing in the world.

To be honest, when I read about some disaster/crisis/etc. in, say, a rural town in China that kills 50 people, it's hard to make myself feel emotion. It feels very detached from my little bubble here in America.

I get what people are saying, but I also think people are being a bit too optimistic about human nature if they think that most people care about all deaths equally, as if divorced from all context.
posted by resiny at 6:13 AM on July 12, 2010


My friend was a copy and headline writer for USA Today years ago. He said the rule of thumb as to whether the paper would run a story involving deaths abroad was if it either had 5 or more Americans dead, or 100 or more non-Americans dead. This is the calculus of all news reporting media, not just CNN. It's possible that this might not have even reported were it not for the connection to possible Muslim terrorist activity.
posted by shen1138 at 6:23 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of my friends, an American, is in Kampala right now. I know that exceptionalism in these tragedies is ugly, but reading the line about an American death had my heart in my throat. I hope she's okay.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 6:24 AM on July 12, 2010


It's the framing I have a huge problem with. When organizations like CNN present things so disconnected and dispassionately, they add to the problem in a really strange way. Everything...from the questioning headline to the picture chosen to the story highlights to the Q & A style writing is way off. Hell, from the top half of the story it sounds like they're just discussing Uganda bombing in general, as if there's nothing directly relevant or timely going on. Decontextualized, it sorts reads like so:

Why should we care about whether or not somebody might bomb Uganda?
Global Business Opportunities

What's Uganda good for?
Coffee, fish...oh, and some oil.

Investors?
Don't worry, you're safe.

Violence?
This was a fluke.

Does Uganda have any International power or influence?
Only temporarily; they're stepping down.

So, about these attacks?
The top half of the country is safe. They have elections and everything.

Is peace possible?
Sure, it's kind of like Afghanistan...we gotta decide what to do about that one.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:33 AM on July 12, 2010


It's the framing I have a huge problem with.

How would you frame it differently?
posted by new brand day at 6:35 AM on July 12, 2010


Nicolas, I hope you didn't take my frustration with the fixation on American deaths as disrespectful - it wasn't meant that way. I hope your friend is fine!!!

I think what angered me most about the CNN article is the implication that the world needs to be told why something bad happening ... is bad, just because it happens in Uganda. We don't need primers in why we should care about violent events and people dying. Even though people don't have inexhaustible supplies of compassion, surely most people would pause for a minute, or 30 seconds, and think "Wow. 75 people died. That's awful." In my initial anger at the framing of the article (which, incidentally, was the only headline on my news feed about the bombing), I think I lost sight of what a lot of people have pointed out - that they're contextualizing an event that a lot of people wouldn't think much about beyond "That sucks." And that *is* good reporting.

That being said, I don't think a bombing in a European or Asian (or even South American) city would have the same need for framing by the US mainstream media. The fact that the article is titled "Why the world should care" points to the fact that usually ... the world doesn't care. And that is wrong.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:37 AM on July 12, 2010


Telling the world why something bad is happening is CNN actually doing it's fucking job for once.
posted by Artw at 6:39 AM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Pointing out that there was at least one American there is just another way of making the story relevant. I guarantee you that Ugandan news sources would report if a Ugandan was killed in some terror attack thousands of miles away.

Yes, this is true, and personally I'm happy to see a news source reporting on an event in an engaging way, i.e., attempting to inform their viewers and readers on why and how exactly this impacts their lives, as opposed to simply rattling off the event in three sentences, and now here's Bob with sports.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:43 AM on July 12, 2010


"How would you frame it differently?"

I would have presented the recent NEWS of the bombing up front, so that the following Q & A would be contextualized and not come across as speculative and insensitive compared to the other pages on the site and rest of the internet (sidebars don't count). I would have provided links, up front, to previous news CNN coverage, so that those less up-to-speed on these topics (regrettably, like myself) can learn and engage in further discussion or action (thank you ChuraChura for providing that).

I personally wouldn't have gone with a Q & A style altogether, as it reads very quick-fire and a touch removed, which to me does not seem appropriate for the event that just occurred. But if I were to do a Q & A style piece, I would have put the questions in a different order, maybe expanded on some of them, and introduced it more fully.

The picture is fear-mongering to me. The headline is dismissive, as the default state of 'why the world should care' assumes that it doesn't. The 4 story highlights are vague, and don't tie the current article to recent events.

Those are the big things. There are good reasons why I don't run a news organization, but on this one, I can't help getting the feeling that the article pretends like it was written to me, but my spidey sense tells me it really wasn't.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:53 AM on July 12, 2010


The fact that the article is titled "Why the world should care" points to the fact that usually ... the world doesn't care. And that is wrong.

That's human. There's only so much knowledge and compassion the world can muster about all the 200 counties in the world. And article providing context about how an event impacts the rest of the world is good.

'Cause lets face it, a lot of things that happen in individual countries don't matter to the rest of the world.
posted by new brand day at 6:59 AM on July 12, 2010


Nothing new here, I'm afraid. Monty Python even made fun of it in the "News for Parrots" skit:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20Kx9CyYPAQ
posted by DreamerFi at 7:28 AM on July 12, 2010


My sister was just down the street when the bombs went off. She's safe now.

I'll be sleeping very little tonight, I think. I have been made, swiftly and brutally, to care about Uganda.
posted by Iridic at 8:22 AM on July 12, 2010


What's wrong, in that kind of situation, with trying to make this bus-plunge story relevant to people? Are we just supposed to shut off the reasoning part of our brains entirely and sit around wringing our hands, as if trying to think through the implications would be somehow disrespectful to the people who died?

Can you not see the paradox you have presented here? To get on with life after learning of a tragedy that does not seem to directly affect you is downright logical. If otherwise, please don't send me an RSS feed of every death here and across the globe. But to say "well, you can't fault them for trying to make it relevant to you," then you're readily acknowledging that I'm only expected to "wring my hands" when I've discovered it is somehow relevant to me.

If I had to observe a minute of silence every time someone died through tragic circumstances, I wouldn't have time to boil an egg on any given day. But if something is to be learned and a call to action is necessary to prevent said disaster, then I don't need CNN to tell me "There are some really fucked up people out there who kill other people for selfish reasons, and some let this happen because it makes them rich."

Granted, my comment was half snark, but the other half is "well, we already know that oil interests and those who control other natural resources are always indirectly the cause of this crap, so the people who can do something about it were already notified and they don't give a crap." They won't do a thing unless dead people hurts their bottom line, but we know that these sort of conflicts only serve to put crude at $100+ a barrel, so... on to SportsCenter?

What? I already walk to work in the spring/summer months, I've written 2 congresspersons, and I've voted for the people I thought were going to put a stop to it. What do you want? Should I get more fired up about this? Should I start making plans to bomb people who aren't innocent?

I'd love to change human nature, but I've misplaced the source code and I wouldn't know where to embed it. The same function that tells me "hey, this is sad, but it's no one you know, it happened somewhere else, get on with life," is the exact same one that tells someone else, "hey, these people died for your profit, but hey, you have a mortgage and trust funds to pay for, so accept the fact you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette."

Oh, and BTW:

This is all way too sanctimonious.

Likewise.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 9:45 AM on July 12, 2010


Don't worry, CNN displays the same lack of tact for US news stories as well.
posted by chrisulonic at 9:50 AM on July 12, 2010


From the "Bombing link" : The Shabab, one of the more fearsome militias vying for power in Somalia, ban music, dancing and sports,

No wonder their members are disaffected enough to want to kill innocent people. Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with these groups that ban such essential human behaviors?
posted by quin at 10:10 AM on July 12, 2010


Here's an interesting Vanguard documentary about an American boy from Alabama who went to Somalia and joined Al-Shabaab. (Hulu)
posted by desjardins at 10:39 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, Bathtub Bobsled, but I've read your comment three times and I still have no fucking idea what you're talking about.
posted by nasreddin at 10:47 AM on July 12, 2010


One of the things that I think has increased Al-Shabaab's capacity in recent years is the American and Ethiopian backed removal of the Islamic Courts from power in 2006-2009. The Islamic Courts (ICU) also backed Sharia law, but they weren't nearly as corrupt as the Ethiopia-associated TFG has been, and rumors are that the TFG has been even more brutal, attacking mosques for instance. Al-Shabaab is the hyperviolent thing that happens when unequivocal anti-Islam tendencies in the West prevent diplomatic work with more moderate Islamic groups like the Islamic Courts in Somalia.
Also, I appreciate the fact that Uganda in these articles is not painted in the stereotypical starving-war-torn-Africa sort of way, but they've had their share of genocidal atrocity. Some of the violence in Sudan/Darfur can be traced to the Lord's Resistance Army, which got its start perpetrating violence in Uganda.
posted by skuzrag at 11:26 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ugh. Some dickbag on my facebook feed claims it's a response to FIFAs poor officiating during the World Cup. But to be fair, he also "finds it very suspicious that an Angelina Jolie movie about Russian spies is released at the same time real Russian spies are being deported" and believes the only reason that BP is attempting to cap the oil well is so they can capture the oil for resale.
posted by electroboy at 12:05 PM on July 12, 2010


I care because I've eaten at this restaurant, chit-chatted with the man behind the counter and the waitress who brought me misir wat and injera. It was a nice, peaceful place. They re-opened the kitchen so I could eat a late dinner with my friends. And now it's a bloody mess.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:06 PM on July 12, 2010


> I'm sorry, Bathtub Bobsled, but I've read your comment three times and I still have no fucking idea what you're talking about.

Same here, I'm afraid (well, except I only read it twice).

This bit from the CNN story struck me:

There's extreme violence in the south of the country but north of Mogadishu and in an area called Somaliland it's been pretty stable. In fact in Somaliland recently there's been an election with what looks like the peaceful transition of the head of state of that area.

It struck me because it's the first time I've seen or heard Somaliland mentioned in months. What should be a pleasing story of relative success in a hellish part of the world is completely ignored because Somaliland "isn't a country"; it's not officially recognized, despite its strong historical claims to nationhood, so how can we talk about it?
posted by languagehat at 1:26 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Murdering soccer fans now? And gloating about it on video, too? If we cannot muster the world to end those bastards after this, we don't deserve to win the war on terror.
posted by wobh at 7:51 PM on July 12, 2010


I'm not convinced that Bathtub Bobsled's comment wasn't largely the product of a Markov generator.
posted by painquale at 8:59 PM on July 12, 2010


Just to continue with this derail, I have no problem parsing Bathtub Bobsled's comment and can only assume that some people are being willfully obtuse. It's just a bit stream of consciousness in style.
posted by asok at 6:30 AM on July 13, 2010


> I have no problem parsing Bathtub Bobsled's comment and can only assume that some people are being willfully obtuse.

That's an unkind assumption; I assure you I myself am naturally obtuse. Since it's so clear to you, would you mind giving a capsule summary for those of us not so gifted?
posted by languagehat at 7:59 AM on July 13, 2010


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