Images can often be dangerously deceptive, especially when manufactured, packaged and delivered with that awesome twist and given that cloak of authenticity. And what is authentic is when officially authorised organs of the establishment produces, reproduces and delivers these images and where the establishment itself is considered legitimate. Consider some of the overwhelming images thus delivered by the global leader in recent times: Where does reality begin and farce end?

What do you call someone who drops a bomb from a plane and kills innocent people? - A brave American pilot.

What do you call it when a large corporation gives money to a government official in return for favours? - A campaign contribution.

What do you call the form of government where a small elite exploits and intimidates the citizens, and the citizens can choose every few years which part of the elite should occupy the government buildings? - A democracy.

What do you call it when the US takes the law into its own hands and kills people without a fair trial? - Operation Enduring Freedom.

What do you call a weapon that has killed 1.5 million Iraqis, including more than 500,000 children? - Sanctions.

What do you call an army in Afghanistan that will fight for whoever pays the most money? - The Northern Alliance (or United Front).

What do you call the destruction of an Afghan village by US bombs? - An attack on a Taliban command and control centre.

What do you call it when nearly 5 million people were killed in the Vietnam war? - A mistake.

What do you call it when very rich countries exploit poor countries? - Globalization.

What do you call a foreign oppressor in this century that controls the economical and social life of a country? - The International Monetary Fund.

What do you call it when 100,000 to 200,000 Iraqi's are slaughtered by the US at a loss to American forces of 148 (46 of which were killed by friendly fire)? - The Gulf War.

What do you call the extermination of Native Americans in the US? - A glorious episode in American history.

What do you call the BBC when the World News consists solely of half an hour of a Pentagon briefing? - Fair and impartial.

What do you call the 2000 presidential election in the US where there are serious irregularities? - A victory for democracy.

Images flirt by rapidly. Reality is manufactured and endured for some more time. The paradigm shift distorts, manipulates and creates a self-perpetuating media and notions of human rights as well.

The Shifting Paradigm The Politics of Economy Pronouncements predicated the closing years of twentieth century - the end of ideology as well as of socialism, the end of nation state and the dawn of a brave new world, and ‘the global village’. There are also the apprehension of the final clash of civilizations, impending nuclear war and ecological devastation.

Globally there was a perceptible change with the accumulation of global capital – a shift from the dominance of industrial capital to that of finance capital; a shift where the trader dominates decision-making in production rather than the producers themselves; a shift to the market determining matters of production and life itself; a shift where market determines interpretation of reality with images that justifies itself and all it does; a shift where the market gives for itself the facade of social responsibility; a shift that is to be achieved by globalization and the redefinition of the nation state, democracy, human rights, governance and national security.

Globalization Globalization is a new form of war without loss of life to the First World. War mongering and low intensity warfare across the world ensure the phenomenal growth and profits to the arms and military establishment. WB-IMF-WTO trio is the new instrument of this war, the supra-national global superior. The UN is pushed to the wayside - to be dismantled and destroyed, to be confined to a glorified ornament. The trio is both the transformer as well as the one to legitimize this transformation – the instrument of the perpetrator and the judge.

Globalization is not simply confined to trade flows, investment flows, financial flows, flows of services, technology, information, ideas and persons across national boundaries. It transforms relationship between sovereign States and world markets. It redefines social relations between communities and within communities. Diverse forms of inequality and inequity are legitimized. The growing insecurity conditions of vast sections of peoples are a precondition for the hegemony of the market. Exclusion of vast sections of people rather than mere expropriation of resources constitutes the engines of economic growth, and of progress and development itself.

The post-September 11 global US led mobilization against ‘terrorism’ demonstrated clearly the extent to which the economic integration – globalization – has also progressed towards political integration. The reach of the anti-terrorist operations indeed spans continents and diverse national governments – military ruled to fundamentalist to fully blown democracies ruled by the right, the neo-liberals and the left of centre.

Nation State The nation state has departed from distinctly a strong welfare state to that of a national security state (military) state. Security legislations constitute the bulwark of the redefined nation state. Firms or a cartel negotiate with governments and vice versa. Often states appear to represent cartels. Newer structures in civil society, both internationally and nationally, to manage both integration and dissension are evolved and deployed as an integral part of the redefinition of the state. They indicate a new phase of political integration that is ideological (the rise of right), structural and functional.

United Nations – a body of nation states – is no longer relevant. Parallel and substituting structures as the WB-IMF-WTO has emerged as the arbiter of world affairs. These structures are interfaced with the newly emerging ‘organizations of the civil society’.

Democracy Democracy, considered a panacea for equality, fraternity and justice was seen as an impediment to the growth of imperialism in the post-world war decolonisation phase. So, democracy had to be subverted by covert and overt political manipulations by the imperialist nations. Democracy however has now become very desirable and almost necessary for the growth of global capital. Democracy is almost becoming a precondition to a nation being considered a part of the emerging ‘global village’. In addition, ‘human rights’ is now tagged along with ‘democracy’. A deemed violation of desirable practices or standards of human rights constitutes a justification for intervention of the US led global police and of economic sanctions – an example to be emulated and replicated by nation states.

Imposition of democracy is considered justifiable and necessary. If need be through the elaborate war in conjunction with the propaganda machine. This is to legitimize ‘market’ as the prime mover and transformer of society through the expansion of the role of ‘market’ to governance in society. Problems in democracy, rather than leading to better and more democratic practices to address the weaknesses in democracy, are interpreted to justify further curtailment of democratic practices itself.

Human Rights International and national human rights standards are refined and upgraded along with the establishment of elaborate international and national mechanisms. Along with this, the protective components in national laws are dismantled to subserve the global hegemonic economic agenda. These form the administrative, governing and judicial basis for reinterpreting policies, programmes and laws. Democratic rights are sacrificed as an antithesis to the vehicle of global capital and its globalization. The human rights discourse is hijacked ironically in the name of national and global security, peace and prosperity. Both equity and justice are neatly dumped aside, substituted by paternalistic notions of individual alleviation and compensation defined largely on economic and market terms. Judiciary internalizes an ideology, which venerates the virtues of the free market and undermines the role of the State in matters of justice while endorsing unquestioningly the role of the state in promoting the logic of the globalization and all that it entails.

Governance Representative democracy represents democracy. Democracy and ‘good governance’ is pushed to the center stage at a time the state itself is made redundant or redefined as a national security state. Various forms of techno-managerial systems are labeled ‘local self-governance’. They integrate local resources and economies organizationally to the globalised systems now being set up in the market place, more efficiently. ‘Democracy’ and ‘governance’ require necessarily undemocratic laws for internal and external security to contain the democratic aspiration of the masses who are bullied, pushed aside and run over. Communities are broken up into fragments – atomized - to be assimilated to the ‘mainstream’. Corporatised bodies under the garb of civil society organizations interlaced into the WB-IMF-WTO system are set to govern the masses.

National Security A just and equitable social order, it was thought, guarantee the security of the nation. Space for the fulfillment of the democratic aspirations, internally and externally, it was thought, constituted the edifice of political democracy. But equity, justice and democracy is criminalized and de-legitimized by national security. They are definite threats as they challenge the shifting paradigm. The non-accountability of the global hegemonic forces and the state redefined as an instrument of global capital and social control sanitized by the corporate global propaganda machine, ironically for global ‘peace, freedom and economic prosperity’, has become pervasive. The global ‘war on terrorism’ has become a handy weapon for this elaborate deception.

Media and Human Rights: Reality Begins Where the Farce Ends The ascendancy of the market and corporate sector in managing conflicts and contradictions in society that includes human rights issues also, through techno-managerial means is intended with all that it portends and implies – a substitution of sorts. Reconciliation to the fundamentals of globalization and market approaches to both the understanding of human rights and as well as responses to the redefined restrictive notions of human rights violations are goals that the media pursues. Creation of conditions for the fulfillment of human rights is substituted with the abundant tolerance and therefore the acceptance of human rights violations. Progressively diminishing compensatory approach to the progressively restricted notions of what constitute human rights violations is then legitimized as just and indeed available in the market system. The images that the media provides of human rights, human rights violations and justice conform to the new paradigm. This de facto, it is hoped, manufactures consent. The deception, it is hoped, is complete.

Paper presented at the Workshop on “Media and Human Rights” organised by School of International Relations, Mahatma Gandhi University and DC Kizhakemuri Foundation, Kottayam, Kerala 30 March 2004

Permission to upload this was granted on October 03 2005


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