by Ann Garrison
KPFA Weekend News broadcast April 25, 2015
Professor Ed Herman explains the politics of genocide manifest in media coverage of the 1995 massacres in Kibeho and Srebrenica.
KPFA Weekend News Anchor Sharon Sobotta: This week marked the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Kibeho Massacre in Southwestern Rwanda, where an estimated 8,000 Rwandan Hutu people were killed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Army. The same number of people were killed in Bosnia, also in 1995. The only English language press to report the anniversary were Australian print and radio outlets, Pacifica’s Flashpoints Radio and the San Francisco Bay View newspaper.
KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Professor Ed Herman, the co-author of “Manufacturing Consent,” “The Politics of Genocide” and “Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later” about the massacres and the Western press.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Professor Herman, could you explain why the Kibeho Massacre has no place – except by its absence – in what you first identified as “the propaganda system” in “Manufacturing Consent”?
Professor Ed Herman: Because it was carried out by a client of the United States. So, therefore, the people he kills are what, in “Manufacturing Consent,” we call “unworthy victims.” They’re unworthy victims. And the media follows the party line, so they’re “unworthy victims” and the media pays no attention to them. It’s a beautiful system.
KPFA: I should add that the Australian press reported the anniversary of the Kibeho Massacre because Australian combat medics and peacekeepers witnessed it and several of their veterans were quietly decorated for heroic efforts to rescue and treat wounded victims. Many left the military with post-traumatic stress syndrome consequent to witnessing the massacre.
But even as they reported that, the Australian press shied away from challenging the official account of the Rwandan massacres that included Kibeho.
Herman: Australia is a client of the United States. Its government follows the party line established by the United States, and its media do the same. So it works out very nicely.
KPFA: And now, by contrast, could you explain the role that Srebrenica, the massacre of 8,000 people in Bosnia, also committed in 1995, plays in the propaganda system.
Herman: Well, that was a massacre that was carried out by a target of the United States, and therefore the victims were what, in “Manufacturing Consent,” we call worthy victims, and therefore the government pays a lot of attention to them, and the mass media do the same. In fact, in that case, the numbers are usually inflated, and I don’t believe there were 8,000 actually murdered.
There were thousands killed but many of them were combat troops, and they were sort of merged with the people who were in fact executed. So there’s an inflation process too, but it all works out beautifully. The Serbs were demonized and therefore their victims were worthy victims and in a good propaganda system such as we have, the press pays a lot of attention to it.
KPFA: Professor Herman, would you like to say something about the essay you’re working on now about golden silence?
Herman: Well, yes, what I’m writing in “Golden Silence” is that the media is silent about things where unworthy victims are being killed. And so this is a case study. I mean it’s not reported at all in U.S. press, although you had thousands and thousands of people killed, almost surely more killed than in Srebrenica. And yet the media ignores it completely. So it’s a golden silence.
KPFA: And that was Professor Ed Herman, the co-author of “Manufacturing Consent,” “The Politics of Genocide” and “Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later.” The audio archive and transcript of Flashpoints’ report on the Kibeho Massacre can be found on the website of the San Francisco Bay View, sfbayview.com.
For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.
Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch, Colored Opinions and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.