Media Promotes Flawed Haiti Narrative is the headline and title of a commentary and new youtube video by Kris Broughton (*see editor’s note below) at Brown Man Thinking Hard.
*editor’s note: Kris Broughton, aka the Brown Man from Brown Man Thinking Hard, contacted Motley Moose and provided the link to his original post of the above video.
The video was written, voiced, and produced by Kris and kindly uploaded to Youtube by Baratunde Thurston.
The text for those of you with no you tube access:
Haiti was the original payday loan customer.
Back in 1804 after Haiti’s slave populace resisted Napoleon’s efforts to subdue them, France put down its guns and checkmated Haiti. Before the ink on the Haitian declaration of independence was dry, France called on all the advanced nations of the world to freeze Haiti out of the international finance game.
By 1806 these countries, including the U.S., who had all coveted Haiti’s powerhouse economy, the largest in the Caribbean, all agreed to put a financial embargo on the new West Indian nation of blacks. It was only after Haiti agreed to pay reparations to France for the loss of the economic productivity of its former slaves that the rest of the world accepted Haiti into the finance arena.
They have been paying interest ever since.
That 150 million francs was more than twice Haiti’s net worth in 1825. If you think about it, it might have been the first subprime loan in the world. To add insult to injury, Haiti was forced to borrow a third of the money to pay these reparations back to France from France itself, at 6 percent interest.
Could you imagine the British rounding up the rest of the world after the Revolutionary War and demanding that America pay them a sum equal to twice the country’s net worth at the time,or else be subject to a financial embargo and the possibility of being attacked by its allies?
As I said at the beginning of the year, the narrative is the thing. We are not in charge of our own narrative, nor are enough of us versed in our history to counter the revisionist version our government and our presidents have used to advance programs and policies that twist the sword of U.S. domination ever so slowly in the gut of countries like Haiti.
Which is why you are going to get the “helpless Haitians” theme and the “corruption plagues the country” meme in all the background stories the major outlets release, as if there is no evidence that shows that our own government, among others, has for decades upon decades worked to keep Haiti in a state of chaos and financial upheaval, beginning with the very first $750,000 the United States sent France over two hundred years ago to help put down the original Haitian slave revolt.
The paradoxes of Haiti are not all historical:
We can send money to Haiti, but Haitians can’t seek refuge here.
We can support Haiti’s efforts at democracy, but only if Haiti supports unfettered access by foreign capitalists to their workforce and their resources.
These are just some of the reasons why we need to quit crying our eyes out and start asking some hard questions about what has really gone on in places like Haiti. Lyndon Johnson exploited JKF’s death to get his legislative agenda passed. We need to do the same thing – forcefully, factually, and relentlessly, while those who have helped to perpetuate the inequities of Haiti are weak and vulnerable on this issue, and while the press are all so hungry for Pulitzer Prizes that they forget who they are really working for temporarily.
And in the meantime, while we are pushing for the real story, we can begin to practice pushing our own narratives instead of repeating the carefully manufactured storylines from the nightly news.
I may sound over the top, or insensitive to some of you, but just in case you forgot, it wasn’t that long ago that black people in America were getting beat over the head, kicked, stabbed, shot or hung from trees on a regular basis for trying to gain our civil rights. It wasn’t until the ugliness and the blood were photographed and filmed and shown all over the world that some semblance of moral suasion kicked in right there in America enough for us to get from there to here.
And just in case you are a “bootstrapper”, who feels the “real Americans” in the heartland did it on their own, I will connect some dots for you. The 565 million acres gained in the Louisiana Purchase for $15 million dollars, the acres the government handed out like water in free homesteads to anybody who immigrated from Europe with a strong back, were a direct result of the slave revolt in Haiti. The revolt made the French abandon their hope of expanding their empire in America. By comparison, the 150 million francs France extorted from the freed slaves was twice as much, when converted to dollars, as the price Jefferson paid to the French to dramatically expand America.
If you are not willing to press for a political advantage while you have the stage, this same tragedy will very likely happen again. If we are saving people today so they can die in sweatshops for our corporations later, THAT is a travesty
So press on, people. Press on
Thurston is not the only person raising issues about media coverage.
Al Giordano, at The Field, has provided links to stories you won’t see on CNN like this one from Ansel Herz at Media Hacker who is on the ground in Port-Au-Prince:
I just checked the front page of CNN. The lead reads:
In the shadow of Haiti’s wrecked presidential palace lie the new homes of the capital’s 500,000 displaced residents. But with 4,000 convicted criminals on the loose, nothing and no one is safe.
They started pushing the violence meme the day after the earthquake. I was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer that evening via Skype. Part way through the interview, they cut to their correspondent for a live chat from the airport. He spoke briefly with Mario Andreso, the chief of Haiti’s national police, who warned of out-of-control violence from all the prisoners who escaped the penitentiary the day of the quake. The CNN reporter repeated the claims uncritically.
When they came back to me, I began to explain that I had walked through the remains of the jail (here’s the video). That many of the prisoners were reportedly shot dead by police as they tried to escape. And that I had not seen or heard of violence so far. The prison was a hellish place, with almost no medical facilities. Did it contain some genuine thugs? Yes. But it also contained many political prisoners and people who never received a fair trial from Haiti’s flawed courts. These are simple facts that CNN is too happy to overlook. I was quickly interrupted by Blitzer and they went to commercial break. Haitians on the streets are not worried about the jail. Food, water, fuel, medicine, and shelter is all I hear. I received five calls yesterday from friends with 200 children here, 300 people there huddled in schools, with nothing to live on. I sent the info on to a few contacts in the aid community. The linked CNN article describes no violence from eye-witnesses. It quotes the police chief again, warning of possible rape and murder in the tent camps. To date, since arriving in Haiti in September – including the earthquake’s aftermath – I have not seen a single incidence of violence. The tent camps through the city, whether in Chanmas or near Delmas, are destitute but totally peaceful.
Also over at The Field they have posted this report from TeleSur’s Reed Lindsay, with subtitles provided by Joaquín Nezua Herrera.
Original TItle: “Sobrevivientes haitianos se desplazan de la capital a las provincias” | Reed Lindsay of Telesur and Narco News School of Authentic Journalism reports on Haitian Survivors and the ongoing challenges in Haiti.
In other Haiti News, the International Monetary Fund (a major player in crippling the Caribbean) has now spoken.
The IMF last Thursday promised an interest-free loan of 100 million dollars in initial emergency funds to the Haitian government to support essential activities and finance urgent imports.The IMF loan has drawn criticism for adding to the debt burden of Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
“The most important thing is that the IMF is now working with all donors to try to delete all the Haitian debt, including our new loan,” the former French Socialist finance minister said.Strauss-Kahn recalled that the IMF had no immediate way to make a grant.
“If we succeed — and I’m sure we will succeed — even this loan will turn out to be finally a grant, because all the debt will have been deleted. And that’s the very important thing for Haiti now.” The IMF and the World Bank classify Haiti among “heavily indebted poor countries” eligible for debt forgiveness. The Caribbean nation was granted 1.2 billion dollars in debt relief last June.
My suggestion is that you read the excellent piece at HuffPo by Saskia Sassen, for background on the role of the IMF and World Bank:
Haiti and the Catastrophic Role of the International Financial System
Haiti is one of 49 countries that have been subjected over the last 20 or 30 years, depending on the country, to an extreme debt-repayment schedule by the international financial system, particularly the World Bank and the IMF. Generally, the IMF asks these countries to pay 20% to 25% of their export earnings toward debt service.
In sharp contrast, after WWII the Allies only insisted on 3% to 5% of Germany’s export earnings for debt service, as well as cancelling 80% of Germany’s war debt. And they asked 8% from Central European countries when communism fell after 1989.
In other news relating to Haiti, and donations pouring in from the US:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) — The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill allowing donations for Haitian earthquake victims to be deducted from taxpayers’ 2009 returns.Donations made by the end of February to Haiti can be written off from donors’ 2009 returns this spring, instead of waiting until next year to be deducted from 2010 returns under current law, according to the newly passed bill.
The House passed the bill unanimously and the Senate is also expected to give a green light soon.The House bill gained support from the American Red Cross, which had raised a total of 127 million dollars for Haiti relief efforts as of Tuesday evening.
Though much of the focus has been on US efforts, let us not forget those who are Haiti’s neighbors, and South and Central American partners.
The BBC has this report from the Dominican Republic:
The Melenciano hospital at Jimani on the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti has space for about 30 patients – but since the earthquake struck they have treated hundreds, in the most difficult of circumstances and with limited resources. And this small country-town hospital is now in the front line of a major international disaster relief effort.
Many Haitians had little option but to cross the border and seek urgent medical help here, such was the scale of devastation in their country.
The team working here says there was “an avalanche” of patients arriving in the first few days after the quake – sometimes as many as 20 to each doctor.
And Costa Rica has stepped up its efforts:
SAN JOSE, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) — The Red Cross of Costa Rica has so far received 429,000 U.S. dollars in donation from Costa Rican enterprises and individuals for quake-torn Haiti, the organization said Wednesday.
Costa Ricans in a national campaign also donated 10 tons of food, medicine, water and other necessities which were collected and packed by the national youth commission and other 117 groups.
As Haiti gets pushed off the front pages of the TM I hope that we can continue to pay attention. There will be much help needed in the weeks, months and years ahead.
One of the things I would like to see is for us to compile a listing of grassroots groups in Haiti that need our support.
One of those is the Honor and Respect Foundation . Take a look at their programs, and how you can help.