Why journalists generally get their Burma stories wrong, horribly wrong.

Who would have thought the journalists and their decent humanity are a bad thing, intellectually and professionally speaking, when it comes to Burma or Myanmar coverage? 

There is no such thing as an unbiased reporting or scholarship.  This much is settled among those know the inevitably biased nature of interpreting the world, scholarship or journalism.

So, I don't fault the journos for their biases and editorial and publishing slants.

However, when it comes to reporting Burma the coverage has been beyond being biased.  It is generally horribly inadequate, or downright incorrect.

From a Burmese perspective, especially from the perspective of those who have borne the brunt of the half-century of military rule under various and evolving disguises, the way Burma is being reported is like adding insult to injury.

Take, for instance, the media's standard framing of the violence against the Rohingya and now the Muslims of Burma as 'communal' or 'sectarian'. 

Here is a sample of a Burma reporting from an otherwise decent and intelligent international publication.

Communal violence in Myanmar
When the lid blows off

Sectarian violence was not supposed to be part of Myanmar’s bright new direction
Mar 30th 2013 | YANGON |From the print edition of The Economist

Empirically speaking - not that one should hold any mass media coverage to the standards of empirical research - there is absolutely nothing sectarian or communal about the violence that has been unleashed in waves and phases by the organized Buddhist mobs and executed with 'brutal efficiency', as UN Myanmar Envoy Nambia put it.   The violence in Burma against the now terrorized and permanently displaced populations of the Rohingya and the Muslims in 15 towns across the country is one-way, organized, and state-backed.

The overwhelming death and devastation has been borne by only one single community:  the Muslims, Rohingya and all other ethnic groups, including ethnically Burmese or Bama Muslims.  

So, why has the media kept getting even a rather straightforward story wrong - that organized Buddhist monks were killing and destroying Muslims of Burma in broad day light before the presence of armed security personnel?

Why has it failed to connect the two simple dots between local security troops' inaction and Naypyidaw's central command?  

Burma's security troops were reportedly ordered to 'do nothing' as evidenced in a local investigative report published in the New York Times.  The same observation was made by UN Special Rapporteur Tomas Quintana in an AFP wire news report that was released in the same day.  Further, the state-organized and controlled-fire department also put out fire only in Buddhist homes while it let Muslim houses, shops and mosques burn to ashes as local eye-witnessed told the EU-funded NGO in Burma, Euro-Burma Office while the pogrom in Meikhtila was still unfolding from 20-22 March.

Whatever their editorial stances or slants, one major problem that keeps the journalists from reporting intelligently, professionally and realistically about Burma is the following:

journalists are decent human beings and they think, feel and view things from a human perspective, informed by their own human decency expected of all healthy humans.

but Burma is ruled by sociopaths and psychopaths who will stop at nothing as far as their defense of power, wealth and delusions.

So, the journos end up trashing reality-grounded views as 'extremist' and 'incredible' and pooh-pooh any analysis, as 'conspiracy theories', that suggests a central role of the State - from President Thein Sein's office down to local security units in the waves of violence against the Muslims and the Rohingya Muslims.  Un-able to read Burmese social media sites and other internet mediums, the journalists miss out on the open-source materials such as Burmese language Presidential Office facebook or Myawaddi News, the Myanmar Ministry of Defense main propaganda organ, where neo-Nazi messages and posts, official and un-official, are disseminated.  

Instead the international journos go with their own 'humanly' pet narratives and paradigms.  Consequently, they their Burma stories horribly wrong, identifying trees but unable to see the forest that the tree make up.   On the tips of the journalists' fingers, the state-orchestrated anti-Muslim terror campaign degenerates into a 'communal violence' and the man with no integrity becomes 'a pursuer of peace' and a sincere reformer to whom all good things and changes are 'traceable'.

In short, the mass media on Burma has proven incapable of connecting the Burma dots.

The reading and viewing world is thus ill-served by the humanity of the journalists.

(ThinkTanks, for instance the International Crisis Group, which write about Burma, would label the state-backed anti-Muslim violence as 'communal violence', something "not unusual for countries emerging from authoritarianism to experience inter-communal strife". To me, these expert sinkers of countries such as Jim Della-Giacoma in these world famous SinkTanks show absolutely no signs of what we would call 'human intelligence', that is active, searching and capable of thoughts.  That's a story for another day.)

Who would have thought the journalists and their decent humanity are a bad thing, intellectually and professionally speaking?

When reporting about sociopaths and psychopaths, either from Burmese society or from the ruling generals, one has to try to think like a sociopath and psychopath, or one ends up spreading half-baked or completely un-baked Burma analyses.


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