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Overwhelming Pictures, Perturbing Reportage

Sina Odugbemi's picture

David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, opened a recent piece brilliantly titled ‘Aflame’ thus:

"Because memory, particularly historical memory, fails unfailingly, this summer feels like a uniquely horrific season of dissolution and blood."

Wars seem to be kicking off or intensifying everywhere. States are unraveling in what someone called ‘a great sorting out’. Global leaders and global institutions are struggling, unsuccessfully thus far, to contain, manage, and end not one conflict but several. And some of the conflicts are merging, evolving, transforming in ever more macabre ways. Above all, civilians are being killed in every one of these conflicts. Mortars are landing on homes. Women, children, the old and infirm are being slaughtered. The hard men – and they all seem to be men – leading these fights have welded iron into their souls. They have decided that they will not allow moral or legal niceties about protecting non-combatants to get in the way of an all-out drive for ‘victory’ by any means necessary.
 

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Can Big Data Stop Wars Before They Happen?
Foreign Policy
It has been almost two decades exactly since conflict prevention shot to the top of the peace-building agenda, as large-scale killings shifted from interstate wars to intrastate and intergroup conflicts. What could we have done to anticipate and prevent the 100 days of genocidal killing in Rwanda that began in April 1994 or the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica just over a year later? The international community recognized that conflict prevention could no longer be limited to diplomatic and military initiatives, but that it also requires earlier intervention to address the causes of violence between nonstate actors, including tribal, religious, economic, and resource-based tensions. For years, even as it was pursued as doggedly as personnel and funding allowed, early intervention remained elusive, a kind of Holy Grail for peace-builders. This might finally be changing. The rise of data on social dynamics and what people think and feel -- obtained through social media, SMS questionnaires, increasingly comprehensive satellite information, news-scraping apps, and more -- has given the peace-building field hope of harnessing a new vision of the world.

The economist who revealed how media bias works
Quartz
It’s heady company. When he won the John Bates Clark Medal earlier this month, University of Chicago economics professor Matthew Gentzkow suddenly found himself among legends such as Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman. Both are past recipients of the award, which the American Economic Association bestows on the American economist under the age of 40 who “who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.” Plenty of past winners have worked in familiar areas, such as wage dynamics or health economics. Gentzkow’s work is less orthodox: an interesting mix of the history and micro-economics of the media world.

The Art of War: Cultural Policies and Post-Conflict Reconstruction

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

Are post-conflict societies that foster, promote, and develop their cultural industries providing important reconciliation benefits to their communities? If so, should governments make cultural policy a vital part of their post-conflict reconstruction plans?

After the traumatic experience of war, a number of policymakers may consider health, security, food, and shelter as the highest priorities without much consideration for culture. However, what many leaders in post-conflict zones often forget is that a conflicted, divided, and wounded population often compromises real prospects for peace and stability. Consequently, I argue that policies that encourage the development and growth of the cultural industries should be a critical part of post-conflict reconciliation efforts.

Simulated Realities, Manipulated Perceptions

Caroline Jaine's picture

Twenty years ago, the French philosopher, sociologist and political commentator, Jean Baudrillard wrote an essay entitled “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place”.  Published in French and British Newspapers (Libération and The Guardian), it attracted huge criticism from people like Christopher Norris, who castigated Baudrillard and other postmodern intellectuals for arguing the Gulf conflict was unreal and essentially fictive. Some even labelled Baudrillard “a theoretical terrorist”.  He was not, however, in denial that lives were lost nor that “more explosives were dropped in the two months of the Gulf War than the entire allied air attacks in World War II”. His central issue was one of interpretation and the presentation of the facts through a media lens – his concern was whether these events could be called a war.

The Goal is Sacred Space

Naniette Coleman's picture

When Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the first goal of the World Cup, that beautiful, upper right hand corner net buster, just minutes into the second half, I fell in love. I took to my suburban balcony, danced with wild abandon, and screamed “GOAL SOUTH AFRICA, GOAL BAFANA BAFANA” at the top of my lungs. I celebrated because during the 55th minute, of the first game, of the first World Cup on African soil, we all accomplished something great. No, I did not fall in love with Tshabala or South Africa or Bafana, Bafana per se in those moments. I actually fell in love with the idea of world collaboration all over again.   I fell in love with the idea that if we are all present in one room/stadium and devoted to the same initiative, magic can happen. It was ethereal, and I, I was committed and in love and on top of the world for about 24 hours before reality brought me and all that idealism back to earth. Actually, it was the words escaping the mouths of my fellow Americans during the US vs. England game.