Journalistic discourse should avoid activism

Journalists have the luxury to determine who is the savage and who is the savior – the American always being the savior, of course.

We hear Pakistan and we think ‘tribal’ fundamentalists. We hear Palestine and we think Hamas. We hear Afghanistan and we think of the ubiquitous boogeyman, Osama Bin Laden.

George Galloway, British member of Parliment, calls these journalists ‘armchair pontificators,’ people who have the luxury of distorting journalistic discourse from their comfortable little lives without real research into the people on the ground.

A great journalist is one who questions the question beyond the surface of images, someone who is not afraid to actively shape journalism’s fabricated and mythical representations of society prevalent in today’s discourse.

Most people believe the infighting between Jews and Arabs is centuries old – that religion is a factor to the divisions of today. For the Palestinian, the world is simply nonexistent. For the Israeli, the world is watching.

This is because many journalists do not tell the story for the sake of individuals who seek to actively participate and shape discourse. They tell the story that justifies the existing system’s conditions.

This is why so many people in Pakistan, Palestine, Afghanistan and other countries are picking up arms. They seek real recognition of their plight when many journalists and politicians simply ignore their voices.

The underlying questions are left unanswered because they are deemed ‘too complex’ for the individual. Journalists are told to simplify, hence most newspapers read at a 6th-grade level.

Because we are living in a technologically-dominated age, we get lost in the whirlwind of distractions around us – most of which are superficial. We live our lives according to the spectacle.

‘The spectacle presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable and inaccessible. It says nothing more than ‘that which appears is good, that which is good appears.’,’ Guy Debord, French situationist and philosopher, said in his book The Society of the Spectacle. ‘The attitude which it demands in principle is passive acceptance, which in fact it already obtained, by its manner of appearing without reply, by its monopoly of appearance.’

Journalists should not seek liberation for the oppressed. The journalist should seek to inspire individuals to want to begin a discourse, without prohibitions and exclusions, so the oppressed will no longer be oppressed.

Perhaps if we stopped thinking about liberation as a way of eliminating suffering, we can actually manage to create a range of debate within our society’s journalistic discourse. Until then, the only way we can create any sort of tangible change is by implementing a new range of debate, one in which people question the assumptions beyond the surface of superficial images.

Sousan Hammad is a communication senior and may be reached at [email protected].

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