Filling in the Gaps: What the Media Chooses Not to Tell Us

Giana Dawod, JHU:

Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh unwillingly shared his last moments with the world last week, as the merciless terrorist group, ISIL, revoltingly broadcasted his inhumane death for all to see. The final image of Moath gripping the iron cage has left a crippling imprint on my heart, while his courage and resilience after being held captive by ISIL since last December has strengthened the firm unity of the Jordanian people. As a Jordanian citizen, I have prayed countless times for the continuing detachment of Jordan from the dangers wreaking havoc in neighboring states. I believe the Middle East is one of the most culturally rich and beautiful areas in the world, but it also happens to be in desperate need of preservation from further damage caused by the region’s political and religious strife. I have nothing but good memories from my childhood summers. However, walking out of class only to get a phone call from my father of the news that Moath had been burned to death by the extremists was the first time in a while that I had heard of a threat to the country that I consider my home.

Not only was the threat of security now a concern to me, but the savagery in which Moath’s life was dealt with was infuriating. Logging into my social media accounts shortly after hearing of the news, I saw the outpour of posts from my family and friends in Jordan, expressing their disgust, sorrow, and steady solidarity with the people of Jordan. All Jordanian Army pilots must take an oath to serve and uphold the glory of Jordan regardless of circumstances—and that is exactly what Moath did. Now, with an aggressive series of airstrikes initiated by King Abdullah II aimed at annihilating ISIL’s existence, Jordan is more involved than ever, as it tries to avenge the loss of a hero. [1]

However, the pride in my country’s swift initiatives to end the threats to Middle Eastern and Western security has sadly been overshadowed by dismal media coverage in the US of this horrific event. America’s media sources have always seemed a source of controversy, but now—with the lack of attention drawn to the lives and liberties being lost in the Middle East and North Africa—I can’t help but ask why? Why is that the Charlie Hebdo attacks not only warrant a march through Paris of over a million people, with the world’s most esteemed leaders lockstep in support against terrorism while no vigils or reports focused on the 2000 people feared dead in Boko Haram’s “deadliest terrorist attack” in Nigeria? [2] Why was there no sign of a #IAmMoath trending on twitter for people to share their sentiment about a young pilot’s valor as he was filmed slowly turning into ash? Why is it that the American media is more concerned with the amount of snow in the Northeast region is expected to receive but can’t lend a solid hour to the discussion of this week’s latest act of brutality by ISIL the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya? And to continue on with the list of international crises that our television and newspaper sources have neglected to educate us about: why isn’t Syria’s Civil War, which has been raging since 2012 and has claimed the lives of over 200,000 people and displaced millions more, make the cut for a headline on the nightly news broadcasts? [3] My streak of rhetorical questions does not in anyway mean to devalue the lives of anyone who was a victim of religious, racial, or political persecution in any country or situation. Yet, I can’t seem to get a concrete answer. Which begs me to question if the media attaches different values to the lives of people in regions outside the Western world? Or in the manner in which they were killed? Or—dare I say—their race or their religion?

This assumption, although it saddens me, has proven to be more and more a reality everyday. In a country where freedom of speech introduces so many opportunities for education and furthering of knowledge, it seems the media does nothing but hinders these freedoms. When people ask me where Jordan is on a map, I have to say “right by Iraq”. Or sometimes, I switch it up and say “right by Israel”. Why do I choose these countries? Because anyone who lends their ears and eyes to American news outlets knows that there was a war in Iraq, and that this past summer, the Israeli-Palestine conflict was justly covered. But how easy is it to find people today who know of what actually is happening in each one of the countries, not just what the media chooses to talk about? The fact that I have to Google what the latest religious massacre in the Middle East is right now, but I can turn on the TV and see people still deliberating whether or not Beyoncé really deserved a Grammy or not, is vexing and makes me worry about the future of American media.

This may just be that the people we trust to keep us up to date have miserably failed to do their job. And because every life lost, struggle overcome, and freedom taken away has the right to be known, I wore black the day after I heard of Moath’s death. Black to mourn the passing of a hero. Black to mourn with the people of Jordan. But also, to attempt to communicate to my community the stories that have unfolded and the lives that have fallen, that they otherwise wouldn’t have heard about.









1 Comment

  1. Great article Giana. I have long thought that American news media has been a proponent to international ignorance in America. Much of this stems from how these corporations make their money, which is on advertising slots based on TV ratings. It is unfortunate that Beyonce gets more hits than political struggles in the Middle East effecting millions. Until the system of US TV cable news changes, the networks will only fuel the fire of misguided importance in regards to domestic and international issues.


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