Like many Americans, I missed last month’s news of Mohamed Bouazizi from the rural town of Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia.
The 26-year-old Bouazizi, like many Tunisians for many years, was counted among the unemployed. To make ends meet, he sold fruits and vegetables from a cart in Sidi Bouzid. He had no state-issued license to sell food on the street, and when the authorities on December 17th confiscated his cart and allegedly slapped him in the face, the angry and frustrated Mohamed Bouazizi went down to the local governor’s office and conducted a no-notice public self-immolation.
American media failed to report this political act, as it failed to comment on the riots and civic unrest that rapidly spread across the country and into Tunis. After ordering his police and security forces to fire on protesters, and end the riots, seventy-four year old President Ben Ali, "elected" with "99.9%" of "the vote" and "serving" Tunisia and the United States for the past 23 years, fled to another non-democratic U.S. military ally, Saudi Arabia on January 14th.
Tunisia made the Drudge Report last week, after a number of people had been killed in Tunis and across the country, and by all appearances, about the same time the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Tunisia. However, the events and the story were already big news across North Africa and the Middle East, where several dictatorial old-timers rule US-compliant states, with limited economic and political freedom, high unemployment, extreme injustice and blatant government corruption.
Contrast this modern Tunisian example with US media reporting of a similar political act that led to the downfall of another unpopular, corrupt, dictatorial U.S.-supported government. The 1963 public self-immolations of four Buddhist monks protesting the US-backed Diem government in South Vietnam were indeed well-staged by the Buddhist opposition, designed to gain national and global notice.
Beyond clever staging, what else might account for the difference in American contemporary awareness of that desperate and revolutionary act, and what has happened nearly 50 years later in Tunisia? In 1963, the Vietnamese political drama was brought to us initially by low budget and daring AP reporter Peter Arnett and AP journalist and photographer Malcolm Browne. The imagery and stories produced were horrific and attention grabbing, to Americans not yet jaded by nightly news imagery of body bags, air attacks on rice paddies, and swathes of burning jungle. In an age before the Internet, Americans were still reading daily papers and watching the nightly television news, active beggars rather than deliberate choosers of information.
Please read more here..
The Revolution has Began!
via Flickr http://flic.kr/p/9ciiDw