This article is excerpted from the conclusion to Mahmood Mamdani's book Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror, forthcoming from Pantheon in January. This article appeared in the September 29, 2008 edition of The Nation.
The basic tragedy of the African continent whose natural wealth has generally brought about even greater misery for its own people because of the rapaciousness of native and expatriate profiteers may not end so easily. It might be worth keeping this in mind the next time we look at those soft-focus advertisement photographs of women wearing those gleaming stones as symbols of lasting love. Economist Jayati Ghosh writes.
"In a civil conflict such as the one in Colombia, propaganda is an important weapon. It is difficult for journalists and analysts to independently investigate the reality on the ground and so statistics and information are obtained from a variety of sources in order to draw conclusions. However, the mainstream media in the United States is often over-reliant on two sources: Colombian and US government officials. Not surprisingly then, it is the perspectives of the Colombian and US governments that inevitably dominate most news reports. By comparing conflict trends and human rights statistics with media coverage of Colombia’s violence, it is possible to understand why and how the public’s perception of the conflict has been distorted."