As revolutions spread throughout the Middle East you can’t help but notice declining coverage in media – Quite different than the coverage of March 2003 during the American invasion of Iraq, with embedded reporters and constant TV coverage. That was followed in July 2006 with the Israel-Lebanon War of 34 days, when coverage was also limitless; night and day. Much of the American and even foreign media outlets were consistently covering the action.
On December 17, 2010, protests began in Tunisia, and we heard about it – in passing. Some of us paid more attention, but media gave it passing coverage as something going on in a foreign place; almost like the killing fields in Rwanda received coverage during the horrific genocides. It was happening, but it was so far away and so few details that it wasn’t top of mind.
And then Egypt came in January 2011. A revolution began and TV news was on the ground – even after being threatened and some correspondents being injured. Every day of the 18 day rally brought intense coverage of the people and the events. While Facebook and Twitter were part of the rallying cry for the people; the TV, Internet and print news coverage was a constant – as if to show us in the West, something completely revolutionary – a revolution by the people of an almost authoritarian hegemony. That was something to see and the media, and the people ate it up.
And now, we have Libya – a former arch-Enemy of America, replete with voluptuous nurses, the Lockerbie bombing and the years of stories…. And in mid-February a popular uprising began with the hope of ending the 41 year despotic rule of Muammar Qaddafi. We cared because “the region was in revolt”, and because of the oil. That said, we seem to be caring a lot less than we did…
Today, news reports that the revolt is “heating up” and that conditions in Libya are getting worse. Yet, TV coverage is trivial and far from what it was – many of the local papers reported on Charlie Sheen’s latest sanctimonious rant with more detail than the alleged deaths of hundreds, probably thousands, by Qaddafi forces. Media outlets were kicked out, and there’s no mass media within the country, the little we know is from handheld home videos. So, media can’t film it, so media doesn’t cover it.
The biggest revolution to happen in our time that can literally change the world has bored us. Qaddafi is not going fast enough for us to care, media is not able to walk around freely, so it just doesn’t get the headlines Egypt did – and hey, how long can we in the US stay focused on another region?
We are the A.D.D. generation, complete with blackberries and tweets wanting instant response, one wants revolution like we want our movies – in time and on schedule. One hopes that when history asks our generation about Libya’s fight for freedom, we can offer them something more insightful than the fact that it interrupted the war between CBS and a spiraling sitcom star.