The attentional dynamics of US responses to Egypt, to Tunisia, and to Iran in 2009.
First, there is the political calculus: ambiguous words that support no one, near silence, or hollow cheering from the sidelines. True, it must be challenging for the Obama administration to formulate a response without having defined set of clear foreign policy goals. But I also doubt any other recent presidents would have done anything saner or more coherent.
Second, there is the media reaction. I guess it’s down to which one is more entertaining. In Iran, despite all the attention, there was no realistic prospect for change. Yet the Green protests were treated as the coming of a new regime. It was all about the projection of US hopes. In Tunisia, it took at least three weeks for coverage to rise above the threshold of what the US media considered to be sufficiently entertaining. Besides, events there fit none of the current available narratives about the undifferentiated mass of countries known as “The Middle East.” Now Egypt, front page news and live coverage. Maybe because more people have heard of it? We’ll see how it plays out, unless some new attention fodder pops up first.
I suppose my only real point is that, in media and in politics, in the US, these events are simply channels. For the one, they serve as a means for gathering our attention and reselling it to advertisers, but that particular form of produce rots quickly and needs to be refreshed. For the other, they are just part of the show, another chance to spin some plates and juggle some balls, moves in a game of mimed responses designed to deflect attention from ”unsolvable” challenges that continue to degrade. Both are built from an elaborate architecture of “Look here, not there.”
And somewhere, behind, or inside, or totally apart, are the day-to-day struggles of people’s actual lives, the context of these actual places, the swirl of conflicting interests, the pressures of needing to eat and sleep and make, the injustices of those who by whatever means have found ways convert the human into a commodity…
May all peoples find ways forward to better days!