Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Sunday, January 25

Privacy

A caveat: In the midst of busy preparations for the release of Allure of Deceit, I have not seen the film American Sniper. Such war films have little to do with my books set in Afghanistan, even though a primary character of Fear of Beauty was an Army Ranger.

Chris Kyle, his story in American Sniper, stood apart among veterans for many reasons - a special skill, intense feelings, an ability to relay his story.

My stories address the workings of modern globalization by examining personal relations on the ground, eye to eye, along with village and family routines, the everyday and ordinary relations that are complicated enough without extra layers of social controls or conflict. Few of the American and Afghan characters in my stories seek out attention, and instead most strive to blend with their communities. They keep their motivations a secret and they grieve, plan, love, manipulate, dream in privacy - and that lends them a special strength.

Such characters often discover a special affinity with strangers.

Like my previous four novels, Allure of Deceit is story about parenting. Yet it's a story of several parenting styles, not just one. Parents make choices about how to raise their children and this influences entire communities. As such, the story is political and, like our world, the story is complicated and never one-sided.
Not to be missed: The essay "The United States of 'American Sniper'" by Kyle's teammate in The Wall Street Journal. Won't repeat and spoil his conclusion here, but will remind readers that many rights and privileges, challenges and conflicts, are tightly interconnected.

Photo of abandoned Afghan village, courtesy of Todd Huffman and Wikimedia Commons. The reason for the desertion is unknown, though Huffman speculates that occupants either fled to refugee camps in Pakistan or were killed during the war with the Soviet Union. Request a review copy. 


Wednesday, December 5

Jihad

The old argument continues about whether religion and politics belong with polite conversation. "The old adage that polite conversation should not include talk of politics or religion is understandable because both subjects are so heavily laden with emotion that discussion can quickly turn to shouting," wrote John C. Danforth, former US ambassador to the United Nations. "Blood is shed over politics, religion and the two in combination."

Dodging such topics does not achieve understanding.

Abukar Arman, Somalia special envoy to the United States, urges such discussions as "essential to coexistence, development and progress!" And he takes advantage of a public forum in YaleGlobal Online to defend jihad as "the constant motivation for gaining knowledge, to seek and create opportunities for ourselves, to cultivate good families and good communities, to spiritually develop and purify ourselves, find the sublime Creator, understand the purpose of our respective lives and find a common ground in which coexistence is possible."

He maintains that the spiritual process is about truthseeking, not violence. To understand the process, literacy and individual interpretations and expressions are required. He offers a theory as to why and how extremist groups engage in reckless violence - to secure power with an attitude that he labels "assertive ignorance." But the power and recognition built on violence, oppression or inequality do not endure.

"The world has but one religion - love, which is its life," wrote Indian poet Ulloor S.Parameswara Iyer. And I suppose we need the politics for those who don't agree.

Statue of Uloor S. Parameswara Iyer outside the State Central Library, Trivandrum, Kerala, India, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Ajeeshcphilip.

Tuesday, April 10

Bias

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post has questioned whether Mika Breziniski should have moderated a Women's Economic Forum at the White House.He maintained that she “is entitled to have opinions, on an opinion show, But I think the optics of moderating at the white house are not ideal,” according to a TVNewser.com report.

Journalists are increasingly under fire for joining political parties, signing petitions, donating to candidates, thinking twice before attending public rallies sponsored by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, for speaking engagements with advocacy groups.

Most reporters have a point of view, and news organizations try to impose policies, not just on politics but other community activities, too. For example, here is an excerpt from Reuters' policy: 

"Outside work, Reuters respects the right (and in some countries the obligation) of staff to vote in elections and referendums and does not seek to interfere with that right. The company also recognises that staff enjoy certain fundamental freedoms as a result of their nationality or where they live. Reuters, however, expects journalistic staff in all branches of editorial to be keenly sensitive to the risk that their activities outside work may open their impartiality to questioning or create a perception of bias.... The Trust Principles and the values of unbiased journalism in deciding whether to donate to certain charitable causes or be active in the affairs of their community." [Emphasis added.]

NPR's policy was scrutinized after it sent a reminder about its code of ethics to editorial staff: "NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them. This restriction applies to the upcoming Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies."

NPR had to go on the defensive. "We are not violating the civil liberties of our employees," wrote Vivian Schiller, former NPR president. "We understand that our employees are citizens as well as journalists. Our policy is not intended to tell them how to live their lives, nor do we compel anyone to become a reporter or work for NPR. But when an individual decides to sign on with NPR as a journalist, he/she understands that comes with certain rules."

NPR's policy on political donations is equally problematic, encouraging a lack of transparency: "Since contributions to candidates are part of the public record, NPR journalists may not contribute to political campaigns, as doing so would call into question a journalist's impartiality."

Modern politics and ideological philosophies extend into many parts of life - protecting the environment, property ownership and taxation and making appeals, health care, religion, and education. 

Could the next controls be telling journalists that they cannot send their children to certain schools, practice a faith, purchase a home in certain neighborhoods, seek certain health treatments, write novels, marry, invest, or search out hobbies and friends?

In his book Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism, media historian Eric Burns wrote about journalism circa the American Revolution and he warns that journalists and readers from that era "would be startled by, and perhaps not altogether approving of, the extent to which we have tamed the wildly inglorious impulses of their journalism."

Reporters may start an article with objectivity, but few end that same report with no attitude or opinion. An article lacking in persuasion, advice, analysis or, yes, even morality is not worth reading. 

 
Every reporter has a point of view. It's not unusual for journalists to admit and monitor their biases, review counterarguments, and issues the hardest challenges on those they support. Perhaps it's impossible to avoid bias in journalism.

Photo of  the Islamic Center of America of Detroit, largest mosque in the United States, courtesy of Dane Hillard and Wikimedia Commons