There’s no doubt that stories reported by the media often receive disproportionate amounts of coverage. While some important stories receive no attention, others get a ridiculous amount of media exposures (i.e., the Michael Jackson trial). This is especially true when it comes to international conflicts.
Everyone has probably heard of the recent Israel-Lebanon conflict. After all, it was on every major news network almost 24-7. After several weeks of fighting, both sides agreed to a UN-sponsored cease-fire, but there’s still sporadic fighting and casualties continue to mount on both sides. As of August 31, the total number of people killed was somewhere between 1,400 and 2,500, some Lebanese news agencies are reporting.
Even though this conflict, like all military conflicts, was an unfortunate event that resulted in the loss of many innocent persons, many other wars exist throughout the world, some that are far worse.
One such war is the Second Congo War. This conflict began in 1998 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has directly involved nine African nations, giving it the name of “Africa’s World War.” The war formally ended in 2003, but fighting still continues despite UN peacekeeping troops deployed in the region.
All told, this has been the deadliest conflict the world has seen since World War II. In 2004, a study conducted by a renowned British medical journal, The Lancet (www.thelancet.com), concluded that approximately 3.9 million (that’s right, million) have perished since the onset of the conflict. Even though the war has officially ended, the study concluded that about 38,000 people still die every month (that’s about 1,200 every day!).
A large majority of these deaths are due to malnutrition and disease. The war has caused a breakdown in human and health services, earning the title of what The Lancet calls “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find these figures to be staggering. What’s equally amazing is the fact that this conflict, the world’s worst since WWII, receives so little attention. I occasionally see small blurbs about it in the Denver Post toward the back, but never on the front page or on TV. So why does the Israel-Lebanon conflict, which throughout its entire span saw about as many deaths as the Congo sees in 2 days, warrant so much more attention?
One explanation is that the Congo has no relevance to the U.S. The Democratic Republic of the Congo doesn’t have any oil or any other major exports that we depend on. It’s not at all important to our economy, nor does it have any strategic military significance. It doesn’t give shelter to any terrorists. Simply put, what happens in the Congo doesn’t affect us here at home in any meaningful way.
Another reason the Congo War is not covered is that this conflict is not considered “news.” Africa is plagued by wars across the continent (Darfur, Rwanda, Somalia, Liberia, etc, etc, etc.). Another conflict in another area in Africa that really doesn’t mean anything to us apparently is old news.
The Isreal-Lebanon conflict, on the other hand, is very big news and is very relevant to Americans. Israel is a major U.S. ally and is located in a very important strategic location: the Middle East. Hezbollah is labeled as a terrorist organization, and thusly this conflict is often viewed as significant in The War on Terror. Finally, since Iran and Syria are major sponsors of Hezbollah, news anchors and talk show hosts speculated if this could be the start of World War III, with America, Israel and allies vs. Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and pretty much the rest of the Muslim world (If you aren’t for us, you’re against us right?).
At any rate, it’s important to realize that there is a whole world that the media isn’t covering. Entire wars, disasters and political corruption go largely unnoticed because it isn’t considered “news.” Sometimes it’s necessary to do our own research and find out for ourselves what the media isn’t telling us.
Andy Nicewicz is a senior political science major. His column runs Mondays in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.