The Beijing Olympics will remain unforgettable for humanity in ways more than one. The event has become a maxim for visible shift in the power relations of the realist world. Analysts suggest that the emerging China has been able to demonstrate its might over other powers of the world through this mega event. Humanity of the world celebrated the ‘spirit of Olympics’. The construct of nation-state seemed less visible to me as I saw my mom in tears when Yelena Isinbayeva poled to a record win and my Polish friend congratulated us on India’s first individual gold medal in Olympics. Despite being an ardent critique of Chinese government on its actions in Darfur, I could not restrict myself from screaming at the top of my voice as Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt redrew new margins for the extent of man’s supremacy on Earth.
We had had articles that have details on Olympics 2008. However, there have been some events happening simultaneously that brought certain discomfiture to the ideals of Olympics. One of them was the crisis in Georgia-South Ossetia. I remember hurrying back home from college one of those “Olympics days” to watch the re-telecast of Phelp’s performance that won him his eighth gold. I chose CNN, which I thought would be more appropriate than any other channel to get reliable details on this magnificent performance; after all he is an American. But to my utter dismay, CNN was busy reporting on mounting apprehensions in international relations about Russia’s intention to move toward Tbilisi. Since I have been constantly following the developments in Abkhazia, the issue was particularly pertinent for my study on the politics of the region. Even after forty-five long, untiring minutes CNN did not demonstrate any sign of getting in reports from Beijing. In fact the whole of western media appeared to have had a brief memory lapse in terms of reporting the cherished moments from Beijing – considering they rarely do, Beijing always brings delight to the West. But now, the western media was actively engaged in painting Russia a brute.
Ironically, on one side Olympics was held with conscious attempts to send the message of peace and unity as international affairs analysts conjectured on the re-emergence of another Cold War. Seldom was the western media keen on debating on Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia and/or even on the situation in Abkhazia. South Ossetia was purely a domestic affair of Georgia for the West, which blatantly questions the involvement of Khartoum in propagating violence and tension in Darfur. Isn’t Darfur a matter within the domestic jurisdiction of Sudan? I undeniably share the ecstasy of the West when the International Criminal Court indicted Sudanese president El-Bashir for the harsh crimes against humanity. The West objects to Darfur crisis solely because Sudan has entered into oil diplomacy with China with more than 70 per cent oil being bought by China while my concern is over the suffering of Darfurians who are being forced to leave the civilized world for mere survival (referring to reports suggesting that some tribes could have turned cannibals due to starvation). The highly contested terminology of ‘humanitarian intervention’ is a weapon for the West to propagate their hidden agenda.
Let me explicitly state that the effort here is not to justify Russia’s ruthless armed operation in Georgia but to bring to your notice the frequent manipulations occurring in media, especially in face of a catastrophe. The United States of America justified its actions against Iraq as a pre-emptive endeavour to protect the state from the assumed weapons of mass destruction and the western media was diligent in conveying the message to the audience. Humanitarian intervention was said to be the aim of NATO intervention in erstwhile Yugoslavia and also lately in Afghanistan. Not just the West, but rest of the world conveniently ignored the injustice meted to the people of Afghanistan by Taliban rulers until the September 11 attack on twin towers of WTC. Does not the West wish to intervene in Saudi Arabia on a similar ground? Presumably, the answer would not be positive, for Saudi Arabia is a major client, which the West cannot afford to disgruntle.
In this context, it is interesting to note the functioning of domestic media networks in India. They meticulously follow the Western version of the story. They neither take the pain nor effort to articulate a position that is different or dissimilar from that of the western media. This was apparent in the emergency circumstances of Georgia-South Ossetia crisis. It is understandable that our local media is cautious about raising the issue of self-determination of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which could be closely identified with the question of Jammu and Kashmir. Even so, there should not be a blind acceptance of the established view.
One of the most contested topics raised at various junctures is the manipulation of evolving international politics and power relations by the media. The media is, indubitably, one of the most powerful tools for the civil society to intrude in the international affairs. It is essential to acknowledge the fact that media is also a representative of the people of a nation where it is based. They form public opinions having substantial sway over their respective governments. We have to be cautious when articulating thoughts over a matter. It has turned out to be an imperative for us to read through the countering views as to establish our own understanding of the same. So I am left with no choice but to read Tehran Times alongside Washington Post or New York Times to reach a conclusion on Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme or I would be yet another victim of a manipulation that is the essence of the realist world. As a rational individual, we cannot afford to fall into this trap – we dare not!