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The media volcano is about to erupt

india Updated: Jun 25, 2010 23:14 IST
Pratik Kanjilal

The unjust war in Afghanistan is reeling under a media offensive. General Stanley A. McChrystal, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) chief in Kabul, has been blown away by a story in the latest issue of Rolling Stone. Reeking of eau de gonzo, ‘The Runaway General’ depicts McChrystal and his entourage as locker room louts stiffing the finger to limp-wristed Washington. The miasmic eau emanates from the soldiers, not the journalist, who has the quotes to back his story.

Meanwhile, the whistleblower magnet WikiLeaks.org is releasing its second blockbuster video of the season — footage of the May 4, 2009, massacre in the Afghan village of Granai, where heavy bombing killed at least 100 civilians, most of them children. In April, it had released stomach-turning footage of a gunship attack in Baghdad in 2007, titled ‘Collateral Murder’.

Taken by the Apache’s gun camera, it shows civilians being machine-gunned after the telephoto lens carried by a Reuter photographer is mistaken for a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). It’s become a black joke on the internet: “That’s not an RPG, that’s a Canon!” When a van carrying schoolchildren pulls up and the driver tries to help the wounded, it is also blown away.

Both acts violate the Geneva Convention. But what’s truly shocking is the soundtrack. It reveals that the copter is crewed by sub-humans with no ethical faculty. While killing civilians, they talk like video gamers shooting for high scores. “Look at all those dead bastards,” crows one as the dust settles.

Now, Wikileaks is releasing the video from Granai, where the civilian death toll was ten times more than shown in the Baghdad footage. No wonder the Americans are seeking the “cooperation” of Julian Assange, the Australian founder of WikiLeaks. For some weeks it was feared that they were hunting him. Wonder why they couldn’t find him — he appeared recently on a panel of the European Parliament. But then, Americans aren’t very good at finding people. Consider the elusive superstar Osama bin Laden — 27 audio and video hits and counting, and he’s still on the loose.

Mainly, Assange has been in Iceland, helping to forge the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative. Last week, Iceland’s parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution for media law reform moved by an all-party group of 19 MPs. Laws will now be passed for the protection of free speech, whistleblowers and anonymous sources and against Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (Slapp) suits and ‘libel tourism’, in which an aggrieved party in one country uses the courts of another country with favourable libel laws to sue a newspaper, journalist or blogger in a third country.

Iceland is internationalising media law and bringing it up to speed with the information age, and it will make money off it, too. Which it needs to recover from the economic crisis triggered by bank failures. Soon, Iceland could become the Grand Caymans of investigative journalism and blogging, with huge server farms and the head offices of media organisations.

I worry for the future of the US war machine. Media control, embedded journalism and manufactured patriotism are primitive methods, unequal to the media volcano that Iceland is unleashing. And in Afghanistan, McChrystal has been replaced by General David Petraeus, the man who fainted at a Senate hearing while facing hard questions about Afghanistan. Seriously, I worry.

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine n pratik@littlemag.com. The views expressed by the author are personalThe unjust war in Afghanistan is reeling under a media offensive. General Stanley A. McChrystal, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) chief in Kabul, has been blown away by a story in the latest issue of Rolling Stone. Reeking of eau de gonzo, ‘The Runaway General’ depicts McChrystal and his entourage as locker room louts stiffing the finger to limp-wristed Washington. The miasmic eau emanates from the soldiers, not the journalist, who has the quotes to back his story.

Meanwhile, the whistleblower magnet WikiLeaks.org is releasing its second blockbuster video of the season — footage of the May 4, 2009, massacre in the Afghan village of Granai, where heavy bombing killed at least 100 civilians, most of them children. In April, it had released stomach-turning footage of a gunship attack in Baghdad in 2007, titled ‘Collateral Murder’.

Taken by the Apache’s gun camera, it shows civilians being machine-gunned after the telephoto lens carried by a Reuter photographer is mistaken for a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). It’s become a black joke on the internet: “That’s not an RPG, that’s a Canon!” When a van carrying schoolchildren pulls up and the driver tries to help the wounded, it is also blown away.

Both acts violate the Geneva Convention. But what’s truly shocking is the soundtrack. It reveals that the copter is crewed by sub-humans with no ethical faculty. While killing civilians, they talk like video gamers shooting for high scores. “Look at all those dead bastards,” crows one as the dust settles.

Now, Wikileaks is releasing the video from Granai, where the civilian death toll was ten times more than shown in the Baghdad footage. No wonder the Americans are seeking the “cooperation” of Julian Assange, the Australian founder of WikiLeaks. For some weeks it was feared that they were hunting him. Wonder why they couldn’t find him — he appeared recently on a panel of the European Parliament. But then, Americans aren’t very good at finding people. Consider the elusive superstar Osama bin Laden — 27 audio and video hits and counting, and he’s still on the loose.

Mainly, Assange has been in Iceland, helping to forge the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative. Last week, Iceland’s parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution for media law reform moved by an all-party group of 19 MPs. Laws will now be passed for the protection of free speech, whistleblowers and anonymous sources and against Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (Slapp) suits and ‘libel tourism’, in which an aggrieved party in one country uses the courts of another country with favourable libel laws to sue a newspaper, journalist or blogger in a third country.

Iceland is internationalising media law and bringing it up to speed with the information age, and it will make money off it, too. Which it needs to recover from the economic crisis triggered by bank failures. Soon, Iceland could become the Grand Caymans of investigative journalism and blogging, with huge server farms and the head offices of media organisations.

I worry for the future of the US war machine. Media control, embedded journalism and manufactured patriotism are primitive methods, unequal to the media volcano that Iceland is unleashing. And in Afghanistan, McChrystal has been replaced by General David Petraeus, the man who fainted at a Senate hearing while facing hard questions about Afghanistan. Seriously, I worry.

(Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine n pratik@littlemag.com. The views expressed by the author are personal.)