Decapitated Journalism 101: Covering African Migrant Deaths in the Mediterranean

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ScreenShot20150428By Patrice Greanville

Backdrop to this story

HBO’s VICE series, which has covered the African migrant crisis in some detail,  reminds us that, since 2000, “more than 27,000 migrants and refugees have died —died—attempting the perilous journey to Europe. With an unprecedented number of people breaking through its heavily barricaded borders in 2014, the EU continues to fortify its frontiers.”

But what exactly causes this massive exodus? This question—the “Why” of the story—is carefully avoided or relegated to passing, unintelligible mention by most Western journalists, especially America’s big media correspondents, who lead the pack in the art of stripping stories of their core truths.  Why?

Endemic poverty, corruption, and social disintegration throughout war-torn Africa are products of aggressive Western colonialism that, though camouflaged,  continues to this day.

The simple and irrefutable answer lies in the fact that it is America and its NATO accomplices that have caused the tragedy in the first place, by constantly meddling in the affairs of the Middle East and Africa in general.

Justice Jackson

The conflicts in Iraq, Libya, later Syria, and most recently Yemen and other points in Sub-Saharan Africa, most notably the Congo, which have left these nations in ruins, basket cases, failed states with untold dead and millions of refugees, have all been instigated and conducted by the West and its proxies, (including the jihadists du jour) as wars of domination, invariably conducted under false pretexts for strategic resources and geopolitical advantage.  Such is the very definition of “unnecessary war,” a supreme crime for which we strung up a number of Nazi and fascist leaders in Germany and Japan at the end of World War II. What would Robert H. Jackson, the American jurist who presided over the Nuremberg trials, have to say if he witnessed today the behavior of the  sanctimonious Western alliance? The ugly truth is not so easy a sell to the American public as the highfalutin motives trumpeted by the propagandists, so it is the latter that gets disseminated around the world.


Nazi leadership listening to the trial proceedings at Nuremberg. Is there a substantive difference between their actions and those of Western imperialism?


The question is  Why?

As cub reporters and most J-School students are promptly told, the proper coverage of a story must satisfy all the basic questions.  According to  the Reuters Handbook, which typifies standard journalist practice, “a good Reuters story gets straight to the point and has all the main elements, including some context, analysis, human interest, and color – woven in from the top, not just tagged on as an afterthought.”  The Handbook stresses that all well constructed stories must answer what it calls “The 5 Ws” –Who? What? When? Where? Why? And of the Big 5 Ws, the most critical, the one that carries the most information about the context of the events reported, is the why. 
This easy-to-follow and essential rule of journalism is constantly flouted by America’s TV celebrity journalists and commentators. And similar dissembling goes on in print and radio, although the gravest damage is done by TV, the pre-eminent propaganda medium.
We said earlier that American TV correspondents are likely to avoid answering the crucial “why” when dealing with issues whose origins are traceable to Washington’s criminal policies.  A case in point is provided by Clarissa Ward while covering the African boat people tragedy for CBS 60 Minutes (4.26.15—see the video below).  Observe closely how Ward manages to give the illusion of solid coverage while leaving the audience in the dark as to the source of the tragedy—which, mind you, is certainly not hard to find. Why not mention that Libya, in particular, is the conduit and point of origin of many of these ill-fated journeys of desperation? This is decontextualized, decapitated journalism at its best, and America excels at it.


“Death in the Mediterranean”

CBS 60 Minutes (4.26.15)

Below, additional videos on the same crisis.

EU proposes to attack migrant ships before they take off from Libya

“60 Minutes” follows migrants fighting to survive


Patrice Greanville is Cyrano’s Publisher  and the Editor in Chief of The Greanville Post where this article first appeared.

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