BY KWAME KARIKARI
If Western, specifically Anglo-American, culture is marching unhindered to conquer the minds and hearts and souls of even the most "primitive" communities on the globe, the spearhead are the mass media. The West very beautifully labels this speedy process of domination "globalization". And they find many choruses around the globe chirping or gloating the merits of the new label for old processes that used to be called "imperialism" and other less sweet names by its opponents and more discerning Western thinkers. The spearhead for this dizzyingly rapid process of cultural invasion and conquest are the media. Of the media, nothing has been as stubborn and pervading as the motion picture. And when motion picture was adopted by wire broadcasting into television, the miracle became complete. And so when, due to rapid progress in telecommunications technology and vast amounts of capital, investments in mass media became an international business, television became the most important missionary of Western culture, values, images, symbols and ways of life. For Africa and Africans, this means many things. By and large, ultimately and most devastating of all, as my dear friend Akoto Ampaw keeps saying, even if many times without the necessary audience, our leaders, at all levels, have abandoned thinking. Euro-America has the answers, the money to borrow, the food to "donate", the old clothes to dump, and the dazzle of TV to entertain. The dazzle of TV, of Western TV, could be blinding. It is awe inspiring indeed. The imagery is bewildering. The charm is so discreet it sucks you in, buys you out and leaves you stupefied. Its power of attraction and endearment goes beyond the glitter of advertising that makes you keep wondering whether God created you too in God's own image. It makes you a believer. And this is the point. The impact of TV news is overwhelming. In a second it turns devils like Osama bin Laden into household names. In a week, or less, CNN and BBC television coverage of starvation in Ethiopia touches so many hearts that even thousands of little American school children donate their lunch stipends to save lives in lands they may never grow up to know. An hour's documentary on CNN sends shivers behind millions of spines around the globe in anger against the butchery in Sierra Leone. Then, of course, the world goes agog instantaneously as millions watch great athletic feats on this or that international channel. So, TV news on the international networks has become a gospel. Few watch CNN or BBC TV news with any critical sense. Here is the picture, here are the words from the subjects' own mouths. There couldn't be anything more or less than what you see. That is how Western media, particularly TV, have succeeded in projecting or reinforcing images of western society, and of other societies too, for the world to see and believe.
So, it happens to be the case that, whenever there is a crisis in Africa, whenever there is an upheaval, whenever there is violent commotion - and also, nowadays, whenever there is a democratic election in Africa - CNN and or BBC will be there. And when there is violence in Africa, an outbreak of madness, it is the case also that, most of the time what you see is Africans on the run, women with bundles on their heads running, going where only heaven knows.
When there is violence, when evil strikes and there is bloodshed, you see bleeding people, broken limbs, perpetrators wielding machetes and guns and spears and weapons of torture and death. When there is mayhem in Africa or other places, CNN or BBC shows you the broken limbs, the dead bodies and the vultures feeding on them, the gore and blood. They show you human suffering. They show you helplessness. In Africa, when violence goes berserk, however, what the BBC and the CNN rarely, if ever, show you is an African mother weeping, wailing, shedding tears.
That is curious. But what is even more curious is this: since the most heinous act of terrorism hit America, the CNN and the BBC have not shown us one drop of blood. We have not seen one torn limb. We have not seen one dead body. The CNN told us that when some journalists attempted to take close-up pictures, they were arrested. All this is quite curious, isn't it?