North-South Divide: Beyond Unsustainable Security Due to Mainstream Media
“ISIS: Video shows U.S. soldier deaths in Niger,” reads a USA Today headline from this March. With recent events of the failed operation in Niger, the American public was left questioning the little-known aspect of Washington’s ongoing war on terror. President Trump’s unfathomable fight with the widow of a Green Beret who was killed in Niger has sparked a political firestorm that shows no signs of diminishing. The Pentagon is rapidly expanding its presence in Africa and is now engaged in military operations — including active combat — in more than half a dozen African countries. With Niger falling under one of the top ten poorest countries in the world, the question remains: More than one billion people in the world live on $1.25 a day, but how much do we read and hear about them?
Prior to this incident, many Americans were unaware of how entrenched their troops were in African countries even since before 9/11. Yet, the article written by USA Today reporter John Bacon immediately correlates ISIS in Niger killing, rather than American soldiers in Niger to begin with. Following the beloved journalistic writing style, the inverted pyramid, Bacon’s article starts with the video released by ISIS murdering US soldiers. However, the last few paragraphs describe the soldiers whose lives were lost, with a description of what they were doing in Niger only appearing in passing. The closet explanation the reader is given is,
The four soldiers were part of a joint U.S.-Niger patrol that had been asked to assist a second American commando team that was hunting for a senior Islamic State member. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said the troops had not expected to encounter enemy forces at the time of the attack.
However, academics note that U.S. troops entered the region en masse in the early 2000s when the United States began training and equipping militaries and helping “build capacity in dozens of African countries that had never spawned a terrorist attack against the United States." Nonetheless, the press insists on portraying areas of the world which have people of color to be villainous.
However this is not to be confused with the idea that all acts of American press villainizing Nigeriens are solely against US troops. For example, the article written in Al Jazeera headlines “Boko Haram attacks border towns in Niger.” But the most seen news circulating around Niger, at least within the past two years, has solely been with the ambushed attack against US Soldiers in October of 2017. Similar to many other articles published around that time, NBC News also covered what the troops were doing in Niger as well as the aftermath domestically. Nevertheless, within five paragraphs the article begins questioning whether or not the Nigeriens associated with the unit “and that residents in a village they visited provided information about their location to the militants who later ambushed them. It was unclear, the officials said, whether the villagers tipped off the target the Americans were pursuing.” Yet the article pushes that government officials insist American troops are only in Niger due to ISIS and Al-Qaeda, regardless of documented insertion prior to 9/11.
Similar to the coverage of Niger, Togo has limited media attention other than violence or protest. As one of the smallest countries in all of Africa, Togo was a former German colony, but was conquered by Anglo-French forces at the start of World War I in 1914, then divided into British Togoland in the west and French Togoland in the east. In 1956, British Togoland joined what the following year was to become the independent state of Ghana, the former Gold Coast. The remainder became independent Togo in 1960. Yet French remains the official language of commerce, along with Ewe and Mina (the two major African languages in the south), Kabye, and Dagomba (the two major African languages in the north). Also within one of the poorest countries in the world, Togo is experiencing a revolutionary period recently with the unstable current government. France’s role with it’s former colony has been more relaxed than perhaps the people of Togo would like, however, the reinvention of modern colonization is not absent either.
For example, major French outlet France 24 reported about “The Plight of Togo’s so-Called ‘Witch Children.’” While recent historical studies have shed light on the sociopolitical developments that led to the collapse of the French empire in this part of Africa, revealing the story behind decolonisation leading to a Franco-African affair. France 24’s coverage of these Togolese children experiencing brutality allows for, primarily whites to correlate people of darker skin tones to increased violence. The article, supplemented with a six-minute video saying:
Togo is one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa where the belief in witchcraft is still widespread. Children who are slightly different from the others are among the worst affected. Whether it's due to a physical or mental handicap, hyperactivity or being intellectually gifted, they are often accused of witchcraft and even held responsible for deaths in their family. These children are then subjected to all sorts of abuse: kidnappings, forced labour and torture.
This impact of the media on people's perception of the “stereotypical African villager” is a dangerous way to generalize a group of people, let alone an entire continent. In Johanna Siméant's La cause des sans-papiers, only about a dozen pages are devoted to a discussion of the actions of the African sans-papiers (undocumented immigrants). As Siméant shows, French sociologists appear to be reluctant to recognize African immigrants as political actors. Leading to repetition of imperialist actions of sorts.
Even the optimistic articles written about Togo include an element of distinguished violence. For example, The New York Times reporter Raluca Besliu wrote about the transition in power after being ruled by one family for over 50 years in Togo.
Yet within the first few lines Besliu writes, “In two marches last month, 11 protesters were killed, 44 wounded and 55 arrested, organizers of the demonstrations said at a news conference. The minister of security said no one had died and only six arrests were made.” A simple media literacy analysis can lead to detecting a repetitive narrative of non-white regions in majority-white countries: successfully “other” and cleave any relatability. Similar to France 24’s article about the witchcraft children, The New York Times focuses on the protesters inciting violence rather than focusing on the movement inciting change.
In addition to the East-We