Multipolar World

For whom the media bells do not toll

Jorge Costa Oliveira

Data from various reputable organizations – the Global Conflict Tracker of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), and the World Population Review – show there are currently serious armed conflicts worldwide. Some are ongoing, while others are at a stalemate, leaving a vast trail of victims and misery.

From the wars between Russia and Ukraine and between Israel and Hamas to civil wars in Myanmar (34,000 dead in 2022-2023), Sudan (13,000 dead in 2023), Somalia (8,000 dead in 2023), Ethiopia/Tigray (100,000 dead in 2022-2023), the Central African Republic (1,300 dead in 2022-2023), Libya, Syria (6,000 dead in 2023), Yemen (10,000 dead in 2022-2023), Afghanistan (5,000 dead in 2022-2023), to terrorist insurgencies in Nigeria (18,000 dead in 2022-2023), Mali (9,000 dead in 2022-2023), Burkina Faso (12,000 dead in 2022-2023), the Democratic Republic of Congo (10,000 dead in 2022-2023), Cameroon (2,000 dead in 2022-2023), Niger (2,000 dead in 2022-2023), Mozambique (1,200 dead in 2022-2023), Iraq (3,200 dead in 2022-2023), to wars with drug cartels in Mexico (14,000 dead in 2022-2023) and Colombia (4,000 dead in 2022-2023) and criminal gangs in Haiti (3,500 dead in 2022-2023), to border conflicts between Afghanistan and Pakistan (4,000 dead in 2022-2023) or between China and India.

However, in the media and on social networks, news primarily focus on the war in Ukraine and the war between Israel and Hamas.

Unlike in the US – where the media cover national problems of a continent-country and little more (including Israel) – in Europe, there are a series of media outlets committed to providing good and comprehensive coverage of international events. However, in most newspapers and TV news channels, there is a blatant disinterest in the 17.7 million people that OCHA (a UN structure) estimates are currently facing acute hunger in Sudan, as well as the tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of deaths in Ethiopia/Tigray and the generality of wars, mortality, and suffering in Africa or Asia.

Since there is no curiosity or interest from the Western public regarding these conflicts, journalists are not sent to cover them, thus perpetuating the near invisibility of these conflicts in the media. Without media coverage, we also do not see Western university students tearing their clothes over these causes – or lifting a finger – on campuses or in demonstrations.

Regarding social networks, Diakopoulos teaches that “[we tend] to act based on the psychological predisposition to just expose ourselves to things we agree with,” which is facilitated and catalyzed by the algorithms of Google, Meta, and X, so nothing about these wars is shown to us.

The reason these numerous armed conflicts, with their cortege of deaths, suffering and misery, are unknown to the vast majority of people is that they do not receive adequate media attention, and they do not because the public has no particular curiosity or interest in remote “fly-ridden countries.” For these millions of dead and wounded, refugees, displaced, destitute, and starving people, the media bells do not toll.

Categories Multipolar World Opinion