The New Zealand media's coverage of the Haiti disaster has been uniformly terrible and has failed to tell the full story about Haiti's misery. It also seems that much of the local blogosphere has joined the conspiracy of silence.
While there has been much coverage of the earthquake itself and the attempts of the 'international community' to 'help' the Haitian people, the media have avoided talking about how the policies and actions of the United States and its allies have contributed significantly to the disaster.
The United States and the 'caring international community' have kept the iron heel of political and economic repression firmly on the throat of Haiti for many years yet our media would have us believe that Barack Obama and co are just trying to help.
For nearly a century, the United States has deliberately and systematically prevented Haiti from rising above its poverty. The excellent article by Peter Hallward (see previous post) provides details of this history of economic injustice.
The United States imposed a neoliberal economic agenda on Haiti and the result has been grinding and unrelenting poverty. Seventy-five percent of the population live on less than two dollars a day. The poor have been crammed into slums that lack even the most basic of necessities. The slums could barely withstand a heavy rainfall, never mind an earthquake.
This is the legacy of capitalism and imperialism.
Yet our media, while glibly talking about Haiti's poverty as if it's just 'there' like the weather, have had nothing to say about the United States making Haiti safe for corporate sweatshops. It has had nothing to say about the US – now appealing for emergency funds – actively blocking more than $500 million in international aid in 2000.
Nor has it had anything to say about the recent food riots which were largely the result of cheap US imports undermining the local food industry.
This political dishonesty has been especially true of the television news. If you relied on either TV1 or TV3 for you're information you would quickly get the impression that Haiti has simply been the unfortunate victim of a 'natural disaster' - and no one is to blame. We are all innocent. We are all just 'trying to help'. At about this point we are given details about where we can send our donations by newsreaders wearing they're 'gravely concerned' faces.
This is political censorship by omission.
The hypocrisy is even more sickening when we remind ourselves that our media has long been a cheerleader for neoliberalism - the same kind of neoliberal economic policies that the United States and the 'international community' has forced on Haiti.
I'm sure that tomorrow morning - while professing his 'concern' for Haiti - neoliberal zealot Paul Henry will not be criticising the economic policies that have been imposed on Haiti, the same kind of policies he supports in this country.
The political dishonesty has also been evident on the blogs as well.
The likes of Tumeke! and The Standard have fired shots at easy targets like US preacher Pat Robertson but they have had nothing to day about how the US-enforced neoliberal agenda has contributed to Haiti's misery.
Could it be because they both support a political party that continues to advocate the very same neoliberal policies for New Zealand?
Perhaps it could also because they continue to support Barack Obama, the so-called 'progressive president'?
In close collaboration with the new UN Special Envoy to Haiti, former President Bill Clinton, Obama has pushed for an economic program familiar to much of the rest of the Caribbean--tourism, textile sweatshops and weakening of state control of the economy through privatisation and deregulation.
It seems that the 'liberal' blogs like Tumeke! and The Standard are just going to keep their mouths shut. Like the corporate media they routinely deride, they are doing their little bit to paint a politically dishonest picture of Haiti and will not talk about the political and economic reasons why Haiti today looks like a war zone - just the reasons they are politically comfortable with.