Sunday, December 7, 2008

CNN's Genocide Report and What Will Motivate Us to Act to Stop Mass Murder

CNN's pushing "Scream Bloody Murder," a special report from one of its reporters about genocide. Here's part of the report's overview:
(CNN) -- They share a deep sorrow: an idealistic American who tried to protect the Kurds of Iraq, a Canadian general who refused to follow orders in Rwanda, a French priest who fought for the soul of Cambodia.

Each one tried to focus the world's attention on the world's most heinous crime: genocide. Each time, they were shunned, ignored or told it was someone else's problem.

To understand why, CNN's Christiane Amanpour traveled to the killing fields of Europe, Africa and Asia for a two-hour documentary, "Scream Bloody Murder."

Having reported on mass atrocities around the world, this time Amanpour traced the personal accounts of those who tried to stop the slaughter.

The yearlong CNN investigation found that instead of using a U.N. treaty outlawing genocide as a springboard to action, political leaders have invoked reason after reason to make intervention seem unnecessary, pointless and even counter-productive. (Overview)
I suspect I already know some of the reasons why governments ignore genocide, but I'll try to watch the special that airs again tonight, 8 p.m., EST, December 7, to learn more. I couldn't watch it last night. The special will cover genocide in Rwanda, Darfur, Iraq, and Cambodia.

The overview informs us that "December marks the 60th anniversary of the U.N.'s Genocide Convention, when -- in the aftermath of the Holocaust -- the nations of the world pledged to prevent and punish future attempts to eliminate ethnic, religious and national groups."

Generally, I have difficulty watching heartwrenching documentaries and dramas. I own a copy of "Hotel Rwanda" starring Don Cheadle, but have not gathered the strength to watch it. Schindler's List tore me up. Laughed but cried often during Life is Beautiful, and I barely made it through The Last King of Scotland, the movie about Idi Amin's atrocities in Uganda for which Forrest Whitaker won an Oscar.

It wasn't long ago that the world was up in arms over Darfur. A poet friend produced a spoken word piece about that genocide. I wrote a more general poem that took in many human tragedies, "The Poets Speaking Beauty."

We humans tend to rise up in arms when horror first registers, but later forget or lose interest.

As said, I will watch the CNN special to see the reasons given for why governments ignore genocide for so long; however, I've read that humans are more prone to experience "psychic numbing" when hearing of large numbers of dead, and so that's why while we may see public instant outrage as the death of one or a few people but not see widespread concern about genocide. Science Daily has an article entitled "Why Nations Fail to Act in the Face of Genocide."
Still, Slovic recognizes that in some instances, people act to help large numbers of people as was the case in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit the north-central Gulf Coast of the United States and in 2004, when devastating tsunamis slammed into 11 countries in South Asia.

"It was easier for people to have empathy in those cases," he says. "People could see vivid, descriptive images in the news and feel what it might be like if they themselves were in a similar circumstance." (Science Daily)
Images of suffering seem to be the key to motivating people to act against genocide. I can't find a source this evening, but I recall learning in history that America did not act immediately when it heard of Jewish deaths under Hitler. However, as images of concentration camps became public, people realized Hitler was a monster.

CNN online video under the heading "the world's most heinous crime" and promoting the genocide special begins with the saying "evil happens when good people do nothing."


Perhaps the CNN special will help us grasp the need to stop mass murder.

I believe that hate speech against certain groups also precedes genocide, which is why I think we should monitor hate speech. We believe in free speech, yes, but should learn to recognize when that speech is encouraging violence against others.

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