Media & Violence

Nieuws, gepost door: marching for freedom op 17/05/2014 05:02:10

Wanneer: 17/05/2014 - 13:09

In order to effectively execute their anti migration policy of detention and deportation, it must stay hidden for the public eye, out of sight of the mainstream media. Once removed from the public sphere, the state can continue violently oppress undocumented migrants.

A typical European democratic nation state will legitimise its own existence by presenting itself as a peaceful, democratic society that values freedom and human rights more than anything. That self-representation stays credible for white documented people, because the way that media deal with violence is the exact same way that political and economic powers use violence to obtain and defend their power position. Direct, bottom-up, visible violence is considered to be absolutely unacceptable, both in the news paper as in the law. Invisable, hierarchised and organised violence on the other hand, is very much appreciated, and even needed for profits. That is why during two years of protest we still have failed in addressing the structural violence that migrants are subject to. Although I do not believe that asking powers for amnesty or empathy will bring about any structural change, I do think some short-term solutions are necessary for a lot of people who have been denied every right to live. Addressing the apartheid should be part of achieving those temporary solutions, because as long as the reality that white, documented, middle class citizens live in is the reality of the mainstream media, oppressions like the deportation policy can be carried out in the most subtle and effective manner.

Let’s look at a very good example of what violence means to mainstream media. This took place one year ago, during the Turkish uprising. For Western media it was very easy to criticise the Turkish prime minister for his dictatorial behaviour during the protests that occured, because those media (from Europe and US) have (next to) no audience in Turkey. Turkish media on the other hand almost completely silenced the uprising and went on with their pathetic game shows and a cute documentary on penguins. British news papers were diligently describing the terrible situation in Turkey, silencing extreme police violence at a break-up of a political meeting in a London squat which happened at the exact same time. In the building 180 people had gathered to protest against the G8 summit that would be held the next week in Ireland. Before the first demonstration had even started, the London police evicted the building. Two people were beaten up so badly they had to be taken to the hospital; one man got attacked with a tazer three times. One news paper wrote: “A man was arrested by the police. Several moments later he was taken to the hospital on a stretcher.” They literally wrote around the police beating him up. At the next page, the same news paper did not hesitate to condemn the police violence in Turkey.

This is how media uphold the insane idea that western democracies have got anything to do with freedom, equality and peace. In reality the democratic, capitalist, patriarchal order has been built upon five centuries of colonisation, slavery, sexism, oppression, exploitation and other forms of structural violence. But that is a narrative that is carefully kept outside “the public debate”.

Just two days ago, in the Netherlands I experienced another example of this mechanism. At a demonstration in solidarity with activist and writer Joke Kaviaar who last year got sentenced to four months in prison for writing critical texts, the police was agressive and provocative. Six people got arrested, four of them for showing a poster with one of the texts! This insane and blatant censorship happened in broad daylight in the center of Amsterdam. Yet, next to no mainstream media have bothered to mention this. If, however, a band from Russia gets arrested for criticising Putin, the whole white world is turned upside down just to let everyone know this kind of censorship is unacceptable. It is unacceptable, but only if it happens outside the area media consider to be democratic and human rights loving. (By the way, you can find the forbidden texts here in Dutch and English.)

At the appeal against Kaviaars conviction, last Thusrday, the prosecutor argued that Kaviaar “was not contributing to the public debate”, that she “is not a politician” (implying that politicans would be allowed to write what she had written) and, above all, that she “behaves like an activist”. The prosecutor demanded that she be sentenced to six months. All she said was very true: Kaviaar does not contribute to the public debate, because the public debate is one of many instruments – like the media are – to keep up appearances about democracies being tolerant, progressive, freedom-loving and so on. The public debate cannot use people like Kaviaar who time and time again unveal what is beneath the thick layer of appearances. And therefore, she needs to go to prison. She needs to be silenced, because she is fighting for the un-silencing of state violence, racism and apartheid. She is moreover succesfully silenced, as the mainstream media do not bother to report about this censorship, again, re-producing a reality in which white, documented, middle class citizens can comfortably and consumingly be part of a public order which protects them and their capital.

Self-organised protests of undocumented people however, have shown to have the powerful effect of breaking through that virtual reality. By squatting and occupying places, by going in hunger strike, by demonstrating as an illegalised person in public, non-white, undocumented, marginalised voices and faces have become audible and visible for a white, documented audience. At such an occurrence, even for mainstream media public it immediately becomes clear that capitalist democracies are not about freedom and equality for all, but about a division in classes, the distribution of privileges and rights to the one class and the denial of those things to other classes. One of the pilars that this border policy (and capitalist white supremacist patriarchy) is built upon, is the invisibility of that reality.

From the states’ perspective it is therefore important to silence that protest, to remove it from the public sphere. The terror aimed at migrants can only be executed in silence. That’s why all the tent camps so far have been evicted, in the Netherlands, in France, in Germany. (Of the latest eviction you see pictures in this article.)

At the eviction of the first big tent camp in the Netherlands, at asylum seeker center Ter Apel, the 23/05/2012, Dutch media showed their very typical conformist mentality. Some 400 illegalised people demonstrated against the way they were treated by the Dutch state. The 117 people who were still at the camp when 150 riot cops smashed the whole camp, got arrested. Cameras that wanted to film the eviction met resistance of the police. Every time when a camera tried to film the eviction from another angle, a cop bus would conveniently drive in front of it, blocking its view. As far as I know, not a single mainstream media outlet has even mentioned that, let alone protest it. The eviction was literally made invisible by the police and the media supported that by just letting it happen.

As media make themselves inferior to their authorities they are playing an indispensable role in silencing the apartheid we live in today. With just one day left before the start of the March to Freedom, I’m both very curious as a little frightened to what mainstream media will make of this event. If people get arrested, you probably won’t read about it in the paper. If the police (or fascists) will attack the group, you probably will not see that on TV. On the other hand, if one of us beats a cop (whether it be in self-defense or out of genuine provoked anger which cops have the amazing talent to get out of people) the liberals and the right winged will shout out loud that the public order and democracy is threatened and all that – of course, getting all the time and space in the media outlets they want to further spread their messages of fear.

If you want to stay updated on what really happens, or if you at least don’t want to let yourself be fooled by the lack of media coverage, try to get your news from channels that get updated by marchers and organisers themselves. The Freedom not Frontex blog for example, or an Indymedia website that spreads news in your language. Good luck at home trying to get the right information.


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