April 27

       APRIL 27 fifteen years ago – Genocide and Election
In April, 1994, I was staying in Durban, South Africa.  I was one of many election observers to
witness this amazing history unfolding.  Legalized racial discrimination called Apartheid was
officially abolished .   On April 27, every citizen of South Africa regardless of skin colour  was
voting.  Democracy, which I thought would never come in my life time, after so much suffering
and bloodshed, was actually a reality.

It took several days for everyone to vote and all votes to be counted.  With other observers, I
watched a briefing by the Electoral Commission on the TV every night.  The theatre in Pretoria
where it was held was full.  Every media organization in the world was there.  But after a few
days after the voting and the result was not final, suddenly the theatre became almost empty.  On
that day, much of the world’s media attention was shifted to Rwanda from South Africa.  The
journalists covering South African election must have been ordered to move to Rwanda where
genocide was unfolding.  A cynic among us said, “I guess genocide is more exciting than the first
democratic election in South Africa.”    The election of the first South African black President,
Nelson Mandela, was no longer news, even though the last of the result had yet to come in. 

I guess the media organizations had no choice.  They have to get as much exposure as possible
for the maximum rating, otherwise they die.  Newsworthiness and ratings make or break the
media, not necessarily the truth.  In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, he worried that the Truth
would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance (by moving to a new excitement one after another. I am
not making Rwandan genocide trivial for sure.):  we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied
with some equivalent of “the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal blumblepuppy.” 
Anything that grabs the public’s attention is the prime target.  News is show business.  It has to
be entertain and excite us.  We ignored Rwanda at first because there was something more
exciting going on.   When that excitement was a few days old, it lost its novelty and we shifted
our focus to genocide.  We need the media whose concern is the truth not the ratings.   That’s
why we need a strong CBC, BBC, or PBS, or whatever, which should not be dictated by

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