Hotel Rwanda

We watched Hotel Rwanda last weekend. We skipped it on the big screen – sometimes we let movies slip by, even though we know we want to see them, especially when we know they’re going to make us sad or angry in the end.

I’ve been having a hard time all week putting into words what I felt, what we felt, watching the all-too-true story of what went on in Rwanda in 1994.

Genocide is just a word.

When you see a dead bodies piled up as far as the eye can see, something breaks inside you.

There are certain horrors in this world which defy all rational thinking, and genocide is on top of the list.

We kill each other because we are different, because we are jealous, because others have exploited our differences to their advantage. In Rwanda, white colonists turned the light-skinned, tall, thin-nosed Tutsi minority into the elite of the country, then left the citizens to the wonderful freedom of democracy. The majority, darker-skinned Hutus took power in an election. Then they began to kill the Tutsis. The Tutsis fled to neighboring countries. In 1990, a Tutsi army invaded Rwanda with the mission of liberation. In 1994, the signing of a peace agreement was quickly followed by the death (cue suspicious plane crash) of the Hutu President. Hutus blamed the Tutsis. The Interahamwe militia and the military began to carry out the genocide against the Tutsis. Rape, murder, destruction. Machine guns, rockets, machetes.

Estimates of how many Rwandans died in 100 days in 1994 generally fall between 500,000 and 1,000,000.

If you haven’t seen Hotel Rwanda yet, and you think you have any interest at all in journalism, government, sociology, race, human nature, economics, Africa, or basic ideas of right and wrong, I recommend you sit down and watch this movie.

In case the question doesn’t pop directly into your mind on its own: How does a nation decide which genocides are worthy of our intervention?

More reading:

[tags]Hotel Rwanda, Rwanda, genocide[/tags]

Reporters Without Borders Publishes How-To For Dissident Bloggers

Reporters Without Borders has published the Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents.

It’s available for download in English, French, Chinese, Arabic and Persian.

The handbook is designed to encourage free speech online, regardless of what your local laws might have to say about it. There are tips on maintaining your privacy, blogging anonymously, and, perhaps most important, how to evade technological gatekeepers.

Rebecca MacKinnon of Global Voices:

“It is the first truly useful book I’ve seen aimed at the kinds of bloggers featured here at Global Voices every day: People who have views and information that they want to share with the world beyond their own national borders. They are often people whose perspectives are not well represented in their own country’s media, and certainly not well reported by the international media. Sometimes they are political dissidents, but usually not. Mainly, they are just ordinary citizens with a passion to communicate with the world – and no easier way to do so than by writing, podcasting, and posting pictures on their own blogs.”

In the Ethics section, Dan Gillmor lays out the five “pillars of good journalism:”

  • thoroughness
  • accuracy
  • fairness
  • transparency
  • independence

Sounds good to me. How many of those did you check off your list today?

[tags]reporters without borders, free speech, global voices, ethics[/tags]

It’s Margarita Time for “Brownie”

AP: “Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, the principal target of harsh criticism of the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, was relieved of his onsite command Friday.”

So Brown gets sent home to Washington to manage the situation from there, right? And do his job, right? Like solving the simple bureaucratic that problem where the only way to apply for an emergency loan on FEMA’s website is by using Microsoft IE6, right? Or the problem where FEMA sends the packet of forms and information about your claim to your permanent home address, right?

Maybe not…

I’m going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife, and maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night’s sleep. And then I’m going to go right back to FEMA and continue to do all I can to help these victims,” Brown said. “This story’s not about me. This story’s about the worst disaster of the history of our country that stretched every government to its limit and now we have to help these victims.” [emphasis all mine]

Damn. At least he didn’t say he was going to kick back with a nice Hurricane. Did anyone else hear President Bush mention a “tidal wave of compassion” a few days ago, or did I hallunicate that one. How about a “hurricane of hope” headed towards New Orleans? A “genocide of good feelings” for Darfur? An “atomic explosion of awesomeness” for Hiroshima?

How about a do-over on that whole election thing.

How about “Impeach Bush.”

[tags]Katrina, New Orleans, FEMA, Michael Brown, Bush, Impeach Bush, Margaritas[/tags]

Why did the media know more than the government this week?

All week long, anyone reading a newspaper, listening to the radio, watching a television, or checking a blog in their RSS reader knew more than the President of the United States and his high-level staff seemed to know about what was going on in New Orleans, Gulfport, Biloxi, and everywhere else torn up by Hurricane Katrina.

There was Robert Siegel explaining the Convention Center to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

There was the President, fresh from vacation, joking about the possibility of sitting on Trent Lott’s rebuilt porch.

There was the parade of administration officials acting like things were fine and dandy.

And then there was reality.

Slate’s Jack Shafer has a great collection of the most stunning media moments of the week.

CNN has a great riff on the Big Disconnect.

The BBC wonders if this is a turning point in the relationship between the reality-based community mainstream mass media and the current government.

How do you think the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has changed the way Americans of all races, classes, and political persuasions view this government, or any government?

There are those who will find ways to justify the Iraq war. There are plenty of people who will say this government had no reason to anticipate 9/11. But is there anyone at all who will stand up and say the government was prepared for this? Is there anyone at all who will defend a government that turns its back on its people in their hour of need? Is there anyone at all who will say “No, the Federal government isn’t obligated to save lives quickly and efficiently in the event of a natural disaster?” Has our government become an insurance company?

[tags]Katrina, Bush, Crawford, Media, Disconnect, Journalism[/tags]