THE LAST WORD: By Andrew M. Mwenda
The new U.S president is a breath of fresh air into a political atmosphere polluted by liberal lies and hypocrisy
Over the last two weeks, the mass media in America and the Western world has been pounding President Donald Trump for imposing a travel ban on people traveling from seven Muslim majority countries. They project Trump as a racist violating “Western values.” Yet Trump’s actions are the logical (and inevitable) culmination of a protracted campaign by Western opinion leaders (liberal and conservative) propagating a false and dangerous narrative that demonises Muslims and criminalises black and brown people.
Democracy assumes that ordinary citizens have power to hold their leaders accountable. However, for citizens to meaningfully perform this function they need to be well informed. Yet many public policy issues are too complex for ordinary minds to digest. John Keynes suggested that ordinary people handle complexity through narratives. A narrative is a complex issue that is made easily understood by ordinary minds. Narratives spread easily and quickly, thereby becoming public goods. But narratives can also stray a long way from the truths, thereby becoming dangerous.
To understand what I am saying, ask what is the biggest threat to the lives of US citizens. You are likely to imagine terrorism. Then imagine the profile of a terrorist. It is likely to be a Muslim male wearing a beard shouting Allahu Akbar! This is because Western media has consistently projected terrorists as Muslims. This media blitzkrieg has led most people to believe that the biggest security threat is terrorism and the perpetrators are Muslims.
This has justified America and her Western allies invading Afghanistan and Iraq, bombing Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria in an endless “war on terror”. It has justified the imposition of checks and searches on Muslims traveling to America and the West that make the searches of Hitler’s Gestapo look benign. It has also justified the imposition of security procedures in airports that border on the absurd and forced all governments in the world to follow them. They have arrogated themselves power to monitor all financial transactions not to mention mega data where they eavesdrop on all electronic conversations.
Yet the facts do not prove this narrative. For example, the average number of Americans who die of gun violence is 22,000 per year. Since 9/11, over 300,000 Americans have died in gun violence. How many American citizens have died in terrorism related acts on US soil over the same period? Only 93! Yet over the last 20 years, America has failed to pass even the most modest law on gun control. Why don’t the American media and political elites treat gun violence as a bigger danger? Because the perpetrator has an identity: he is largely an American citizen. He also has a colour, often white.
All societies create narratives on what they think is important and, therefore, see what they want to see. They focus state and public attention on what they have defined as important. But the fact that you do not look at something does not mean it does not exist. And this is where narratives become dangerous. Out of the 27 terrorist attacks (categorised so by the FBI) on US soil since 9/11, only nine have been orchestrated by Jihadist while 18 such attacks have been orchestrated by right wing terrorist groups. The Jihadist attacks have killed 45 people, while right wing terrorist groups have killed 48.