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U.S. Calls Out Boko Haram

U.S. Calls Out Boko Haram

Why is it that the media in the West seem to fixate on some stories while completely ignoring others? The strategic analysis firm Stratfor recently sent their subscribers a report by Robert Kaplan that contained the following quote that provides an insightful answer:

The media love people stories; they love to humanize everything about a foreign country. Therefore, you have the obsession with individual Chinese dissidents to the exclusion of other critical developments in China… The media deal with drama — sudden developments, not with gradual transitions such as China’s acquisition of a formidable navy and civilian maritime force. We become preoccupied with the minutiae of every twist and turn in Egypt, Syria and Libya, even as we become blind to a larger and equally profound development elsewhere.

This nicely explains why those stories easily marketable with dramatic (or dare I say sensational) human interest angles dominate Western mainstream media. Don’t get me wrong–I like a good human interest story as much as the next person, but I think the explanation only goes so far. Take, for example, the case of Nigeria. There is a militant Islamist group there responsible for a series of atrocious attacks on schools, police stations and churches. Their goal is to impose Sharia law on the country and they attack any group–government, military or civilian–that they see as representing Western values. Their name, Boko Haram, actually means “Western education is sinful,” and this explains why they target schools and are particularly against educating girls.

So, think about this for a minute in terms of the human interest angle: schools and churches are being attacked over a long period of time with hundreds of people killed in a rising tide of sectarian bloodshed. Where are the dramatic interviews with local teachers about the attacks on schools, with police chiefs about the attacks on police stations, or with pastors about the attacks on churches? The stories practically write themselves. And, of course, I’m cynically assuming here that the human interest stories are required to provide the “hook” needed to tell the compelling story about why the U.S. and the West have an interest in the stability of a strategically important oil-rich country as well as an interest in making sure that Boko Haram doesn’t begin to coordinate attacks with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Still, our media is silent. Ask most Americans about the violence in Nigeria and you will draw a blank.

If it seems like the carnage in Nigeria has been overlooked by our media, it has not fully escaped notice. The U.N. has condemned the attacks and warned that continued attacks on churches and civilians could be considered crimes against humanity. The U.S. State Department imposed sanctions last week on three leaders of the Boko Haram, and Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) introduced legislation last month that would officially designate Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization. These are important steps, to be sure; it’s just a shame that our media seems to be missing in action.

Image Credit: AFP/Getty Images; Source:



Joel Davis

Joel Davis is the Director of Online Services at the International Studies Association in Tucson, Arizona. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona, where he received his B.A. in Political Science and Master's degree in International Relations. He has lived in the UK, Italy and Eritrea, and his travels have taken him to Canada, Brazil, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and Greece.

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Areas of Focus:
State Department; Diplomacy; US Aid; and Alliances.

Contact Joel by e-mail at [email protected].