Stealth Conflicts – The Blog

In addition to his book, Virgil Hawkins created a blog on the topic of Stealth Conflicts. It is a great addition of up to date info and data on these conflicts (and maybe a way to publish materials that did not make it into the book). For instance, compare these two maps which neatly illustrate the issue of ‘chosen’ versus ‘stealth’ conflicts:

This one is a map based on the level of conflict-related mortality by continent from 1990 to 2007:

Conflict-related mortality

And this one which sizes up conflicts by continents based on their coverage by CNN:

CNN Conflicts

Obviously, Africa, which is overwhelmingly dominant in the first map, shrinks to a small fraction of its size in the CNN map whereas the Middle East, Europe and the Americas grow disproportionately. This explains why the bombing of Gaza, as horrendous as it is, got wall-to-wall coverage these past days (you can thank the Governor of Illinois’s chutzpah for the current distraction) while persistent conflicts in the DRC remains largely uncovered despite the very recent massacre of more than a hundred people by the LRA, an organization that, I think, is way worse than the Hamas… but that’s just me.

The contrast between the maps also explains why conflicts in the former Yugoslavia got enormous media coverage while conflicts that took place almost at the same time (such as the genocide in Rwanda) got much more limited attention despite lower mortality.

Among the factors that account for such discrepancies: nationalism and capacity to identify with the victims, political interests, presence of media agencies and bureaus in affected countries, race to the bottom as competition in the Western media, possibility of simplifying the conflict to fit into a neat moral narrative with innocent victims and evildoers.

2 thoughts on “Stealth Conflicts – The Blog

  1. The maps tell us what is happening which is useful even though I think those of us that are avid media readers figured out the findings anyway. But we are still left with the unanswered question as to why the media reports on Africa are so low in relation to for example the conflict deaths. Could it be that as far as the West is concerned Africa just doesnt rate coverage – conflict or otherwise.

    • It’s more complicated than that. You really need to read Virgil’s book as he goes through all the different explanations as to why African conflicts just don’t register on the Western media radar, compared to other conflicts.

      AS always, it’s a mix of reasons but not necessarily the ones we hear all the time. As I mentioned in my review of the book, it’s not oil, because Africa has a lot of that and other resources that Western economies need (minerals, for instance).

      There is certainly a remnant of racism / colonialism, but also identification, the possibility of reducing a conflict to good versus evil, innocent victims and evildoers, etc. THe more possible it is to simplify a conflict in such 3rd-grade moral terms, the more coverage.

      It also has to do with the evolution of the media.

      As I said, get the book, it’s faily detailed on all this.

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