Monday, February 6, 2012

Communicating Hatred

In the article, Administrative and Critical Communications Research written by Paul Lazarsfeld, the following passage on page 168 brought the Rwandan genocide to mind.

"Suppose that same popular evening radio program, known to attract a considerable portion of the total listening audience, includes an address dealing with the dangers of subversive activities on the part of aliens. News dispatches of the next day or two, however, bring reports from various parts of the country of outbreaks of feeling against alien groups."

Suppose that a government wanted to enlist civilians to eliminate a certain ethnic group and further their political agenda and used mass media to accomplish these goals?

"The genocide was sparked by the death of the Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport on 6 April 1994.

A French judge has blamed current Rwandan President, Paul Kagame - at the time the leader of a Tutsi rebel group - and some of his close associates for carrying out the rocket attack.

Mr Kagame vehemently denies this and says it was the work of Hutu extremists, in order to provide a pretext to carry out their well-laid plans to exterminate the Tutsi community.

Whoever was responsible, within hours a campaign of violence spread from the capital throughout the country, and did not subside until three months later.

But the death of the president was by no means the only cause of Africa's largest genocide in modern times."

This excerpt from the RADIO PROPAGANDA AND GENOCIDE, MIGS Occasional Paper written by Prof. Frank Chalk, November 1999, describes mass media's contribution tothe escalation of violence.

"The Rwandan media, encouraged by the Akazu , played a major role in inciting genocide by convincing many Hutu that they themselves would soon become the victims of a genocide mounted by the Tutsi. The largely Tutsi Rwanda Patriotic Front’s invasion of Rwanda from Uganda in October 1990 played into the hands of this campaign. While newspapers and magazines spread the message in urban areas among the small proportion of the population that was highly literate, the Akazu skillfully employed radio broadcasting to sow hatred and distrust among the much larger rural population, as well as the unemployed youth of Kigali.When they were finally signed, the Arusha Accords barred Government-owned Radio Rwanda from inciting hatred, so hard-liners from Madame Habaryimana’s circle created Radio RTLM (Radio-tÈlÈvision libre des mille collines), a private station of their own. RTLM whipped up fear and ethnic hatred more effectively than Radio Rwanda ever had, using dynamic, innovative programming which introduced to Rwanda’s airways for the first time a unique cocktail of the liveliest African music and informal talk radio, blended with culturally-coded attacks on Tutsi and their defenders. Enormously popular and widely heard thanks to its special access to the facilities of Radio Rwanda, Radio RTLM severely damaged the bonds of solidarity between Hutu and Tutsi, people who lived and farmed together as neighbors on almost every one of Rwanda’s thousands of hills. When the genocide began, its exhortations to Hutu peasants and militias—to go to work, to kill the snakes in the grass, to reach above the door and take down the useful tools, and to shift the focal points of the killing to new regions as the genocide advanced throughout the country—were highly effective in neutralizing Hutu by-standers, as well as mobilizing and maneuvering killers."

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