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Daw Aung San Suu Kyi & International Western mass media: Amazing Grace – no Sir! just Eurocetric

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi & International Western mass media: Amazing Grace – no Sir! just Eurocetric

When I read Western mass media’s accounting on Myanmar, some articles are factual, showing evidence while others distort using old facts support by some externally funded group. My analysis on different media outlets, comparing one with the other to find out that many repeat one journalist’s view which then becomes fact. This lack of fact check occurs, half-truths become truths and self-appointed human rights gurus make statements which then becomes the sound bite of the year. Over and over again I have found Western media outlets to perpetrate this heard like approach to their truth in Myanmar.

On Twitter I get enraged and engaged with mostly White individuals who ‘fought’ for the release of Daw Aung San Su Kyi and democracy in Burma. I applaud them for their activities for the oppressed but do the peoples of Burma now owe them their allegiance? These individuals now want the Lady and others to speak out against the Buddhist in Rakhine and give status to the Muslims who live there. After all they used their time and energy fighting for human rights in Myanmar. Like South Africa, Myanmar must be allowed to build their path to freedom. Not perfect, both countries are going in the right direction. Today the same voices shout abuse at their ‘democracy baby’ as it takes small steps and they command it instead to run and jump.

As well, to define democracy is not only difficult but it is a system that really does not exist in any part of the world. One can say that pseudo democracy exist in the North where rights of minorities are still trampled on and indigenous rights ignored until they are upheld in courts.
With this new openness in Myanmar came the hordes of NGOs and Human Rights groups who post facts laced with bias on Twitter. If one does content analysis on the 140 words before the link, it would show how over and over again words such as: “sinister threats” against reporters, stop backsliding on media freedom, genocide, extremist anti-Muslim monks, Hegemony, axis of ANTI- Buddhist extremism, control by 969 mob, inciting deadly religious violence, and In Myanmar, Democracy’s Euphoria Losing Its Glow. These words are meant to produce for the overseas reader a culture where intolerance towards the press, extreme values towards minorities, Muslims, and Christians – anyone who in not Buddhist. As always, Human Rights Watch or the other groups monitoring Myanmar do not take the messages of trauma of minority groups, citizens in the North who claim genocide like our indigenous groups, or the religious violence towards women’s health in the US. After all, these nations in the North have democracy and courts. Our great justice systems will take care of human rights and social justice but we cannot leave this to Myanmar or any countries form the South.

Living in Canada, close to the US, it annoys me to read these self-appointed experts pontificate about how this country, Myanmar, should have open democracy, and how they should live. At the same time many of these experts produce Burmese images to give their readers in the North with primitive ideas of how people look with gold teeth or without teeth in their open smile. This always reminds me of how when the USIS (the US library in Rangoon) brought ‘An American Indian’ who danced and drummed for children who went there. Now, I understand that this was the stereotype of the Indian aimed at young children – the same visuals now displayed when depicting Myanmar. The visuals exist but show bias because these tweets are never balanced by showing the whole.
I became aware of how foreign visitors behaved as a little girl living in Burma. I saw tourist taking pictures of a nice hut opposite coiffured lawns, large luxury homes in brick with servant quarters. You should know that my cousin lived very close to Durbin Beach and I stayed there often. They never took pictures of the beautiful homes or hotels. Like every country in the North and South there are pockets of wealth and pockets of poverty. When NGOs and the Western media play to their bias when reporting the South, their Eurocentric interpretations presents countries such as Myanmar in a subordinate position. Their Eurocentric based analysis, I interpreted as disrespectful. Colonial Europeans always saw themselves as superior not just in behaviour but in knowledge. The great white North’s agenda can now be seen in the social media accounting of Myanmar by many in the West.

Merle Jacobs

From Rangoon to London then to Canada, now home. Professor at York U in Toronto. Equity Studies.

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