Saturday, July 15, 2006

Nepal for Dummies

(This is a reprint of an article I submitted at the request of Dharma Adhikari and his excellent It ran on June 9th of this year. I was reluctant to reprint it here, but I've just had a run-in with another Nepal know-it-all nut case and feel it is important to get this out to our readers. I'm weary of refuting every blow-hard with an agenda and a press credential, but life goes on. -=BD)


Zilch. Zip. Nada, can't find it anywhere. Where are the big follow-up stories and coverage on Nepal from the Western media?

Dropped like a hot potato, Nepal was., as good an indicator as any of what the World media find to be the story of the moment, made events in Nepal their number one covered story for the week of street protests leading up to the King's restoration of parliament. From that day on, no longer considered sexy, Nepal coverage dropped off the map--used and discarded like a busted rickshaw.

Prior to this--created, tweaked, embellished and spun for those sitting on comfy democratic couches who don't know Nepal from Naples--the troubles in Kathmandu, with all their nuance and political complexity, were somehow distilled down by a lazy and uninterested Western media to:

"Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy."

It played. It had legs. It was a simple, accessible tale of good vs. evil, opined the Washington Post, Western pundits and virtually all Indian dailies. Most importantly, it became a seductive mantra that would be used to explain all current events in Nepal. The Western media had found their "hook." In their minds, further insight and research on the story was unneccesary and all future reporting on Nepal would reflect the new mantra.

Today, Nepal can't buy a headline from the Western media; they've all retreated to the comfort of once again covering all things Angelina and Brad. Now that the West believes that the violence has subsided, Nepal can't be counted on to sell newspapers or keep one from changing the channel on their remote. The novelty and remedial geography lessons supplied during the protests are now passé to short-attention-spanned Westerners. Nepal is returning to world media obscurity. Pity.

I am walking the streets of Kathmandu today, mostly listening. People have a lot of interesting things to say. My questions about the Western media's role in Nepal's crisis only compound as their mantra plays in my head.

"Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy."

Why, during all its frenzied protest coverage, did the Western media go out of their way to vilify the Royal Nepal Army while barely acknowledging any Maoist complicity or wrongdoing?

"Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy."

Next, why was there no coverage or explanation of the corrupt practices of ALL parties, not just the King? The prior governments under Koirala and Deuba were documented and legendary in this regard-- arguably bringing Nepal to the verge of fiscal collapse-- but where was the editorial balance now?

"Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy."

Where is the coverage of the reinstated parliament's decidedly autocratic mannerisms? They floated into power under the banner of restoring "absolute democracy" but instead have forbidden street protests, punished dissenters and jailed members of the opposition: some very undemocratic things.

"Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy."

And, most of all, where is the coverage of the Maoist's uninterrupted rise to power? At the very least, someone should have covered their open and blatant parading and sloganeering through the streets of Nepal, wouldn't you think?

"Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy."

Media influence is a curious thing. In the West, news events are often packaged and encapsulated with an eye towards maintaining the widest reader or viewer interest. Generally, when a competitive and thorough media is present for verification, this method works just fine. Unfortunately, so little credible reporting about events in Nepal actually makes it through the Western wire services that a journalist's best "guess" is often considered as good as source-verified holy writ.

Until this situation changes, all of us are, basically, stuck with whatever reporting we get from Nepal; and whatever that reporting may consist of, rest assured it will be sexed-up and dumbed-down enough so that we won't dare turn the page or change the channel.

Nepal is no longer a source of cheap entertainment for the West. It no longer "sizzles." Don't look for anyone to try and make the 25-point Code of Conduct or the 8-point agreement a compelling sound bite. No, only real issues remain. On that note, the Maoist’s big rally at Ratna Park was a pivotal event in Nepali politics. We learned much about the Maoist’s strategy and strengths. It was covered extensively by the local media in kathmandu.

I doubt the BBC gave it a second glance.


At 7:43 AM, July 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy."

And yes he did, after all has been said and done...... And it was not wrong to give him a kick at the seat of his pants. (R)NA must be held at a higher standard than the PLA. "PLA was doing it too.." is not enough a reason for the (R)NA to commit atrocities against the very poor people that it has sworn to protect.....

At 9:15 AM, July 17, 2006, Blogger blogdai said...

Human rights are human rights. Where do you get off saying that the PLA should somehow be held to a lesser standard? the PLA wasn't just "doing it too," they were doing it years before and more brutally. Funny, now that the WEstern media is gone, we don't here much about your "brutal" RNA. Why? Because the "Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy" simpletons have moved on to something sexier. Funnier still, we continue to read about maoists committing atrocities and not honoring their "ceasefire." Get your head out of your ass and pay attention. You and many like you were duped by a media concoction. Also, funny, those screaming little-boy nepal blogs calling for the overthrow of the palace are now lamenting the ineffective (surprise!) Koirala government and the out of control maoists they all helped to create.

But oh! Never mind that, wasn't it fun running around the streets and throwing rocks?

Next, would you call the parliament we have in place right now and example of a group of guys committed to a vibrant democracy? Looks like old girija is about ready to croak, and from all indications--rather than hold a very democratic and necessary election--he's going to pass on the Prime ministership to a family member; quite possibly (shudder) Sujata. And also, how very democratic of the rest of parliament to go behind girija's back and dismantle the constitution and give the maoists what they want via an interim government voice. Old Girija was so surprised by this betrayal he nearly melted his bed pan.

So, these spoiled greedy brats in parliament are the exact guys who were running the "Vibrant Democracy" that you think G. Stifled. Geez, I hope someone stifles them again.


At 10:28 AM, July 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Get your head out of your ass and pay attention."

Now, now Blogdai, no need for namecalling. If you see the need, then you get your head off (R)NA's ass first.

What kind of a logic are you trying to propound? That the organization(s) that are supposed to uphold the law, break the law in order to do so? "Burn the village to save the village?". If the dog bites you, bite the dog back? Agreed, that the Mao outfit is a terrorist organization, (I am in no more "happy" to see the current state of affairs same as you), but terrorising the same victims of the Mao terror in the name of fighting terrorism is couterproductive to say the least. Did it ever occur to the bright (Shumshers, Ranas, Thapas etc Generals) ever to try win the "heart and minds" of the general populace to fight the insurgency? No sir, they are way beneath that. Instead lets go into a village, shoot the shit out of them, plans some pamphlets and say in the eveing newas that we bagged ten terrorists. Thus we bury our little heads in the sand, and the problem will magically go away.

I see that you've dropped names like Sujata (Koirala) to discredit the current scheme of things. Well let me reciprocate and drop names like Sharatchandra, or Bharat Kehsari, Sachit Shumshere, Jagat Gauchan or even Paras. So you'd rather live is a system where guys like these have absolute say over things than on a system where people (maybe even Sujata) may be elected but we would be able to kick her out through legal means (without having the need to throw stones?). Suddenly human rights is a word that you'll use when Bharat Keshari;s car gets thrashed in the middle of the road, but forget it when your precious (R)NA is burning whole villages?

- twaaks

At 11:37 AM, July 17, 2006, Blogger blogdai said...

Ah, finally a good argument and a credible rebuttal. Kudos to you, sir/madam. On to the fight...

The RNA is an undisciplined lot, and a brutal one, to be sure, but how else does one go about dealing with a 10 year history of escalating and unchecked abuses by the Maoists? You imply that the RNA seems to feel they can "terrorize" citizens because the Maoists are doing it, and we can always blame them for everything. How misguided and pathetic. Maoists used villagers as human sheilds. No one denies that this resulted in a bloody, mistake-ridden campaign by the RNA, but Maoists WERE being defeated and they WERE beginning to divide. Prachanda was pleading for world help, quelling bickering in his own ranks, and asking India to intervene during this time. Basically, the Maoists were on the defensive. Do you think they would ally with SPA otherwise?

We see today that the peacetalks are turning more and more into a Maoist shell-game with the announcement that the maoists will begin a nationwide "voluntary" donation program. These are people who are unbent, unbowed and uncompromising. Perhaps you think a strong reprimand from the world community will be enough to deter a maoist field commander in say, Dailekh? And what exactly are you still seeing here? The Maoists have NEVER shown an inclining towards anything but a strategic compromise. If your head's not in your ass over this, then where is it? Now the Maoists are going to effectively bully their way into controling government thanks to your stallwart boys in parliament and their "vibrant democracy."

No on is disputing your assertion that all the King's political horses were in fact all the Kings horse's asses. The King is undoubtedly a bad politician; but as we've said here many times, Girija, Deuba and their ilk were worse at the trade and were Maoist enablers to boot.

The breathless use of the term "despot" to describe the King is pure media driven tabloidism. Seeing protesters on durbar marg scatter and disperse over a few teargas cannisters, the King could have easily made the choice to end the movement by opening fire. We were there, we saw it, it could have happened. Instead he abdicated-- some "despot." There also was no mass "shoot on site" order carried out, only out of control cops and military thrown into a pressure cooker situation, unable to deal with it. What, 24 or so total deaths from a reported 1 million angry protestors? I've seen worse numbers from a Los Angeles rock concert, thank you.

I do see a familiar pattern in your argument. This incessant desire to put the RNA's and the King's actions on par with Maoists atrocities. Where have you been during the last 10 years? Come to think of it, where are you today, now that the Maoists have stepped up their brutality campaign yet again and the RNA has not acted?

I just don't get this disconnect. Who, in god's name , is informing your opinions? Let's just do it your way, I guess, and let nepal's neutered politicians give away the farm to an unchecked Maoist force who can't wait, by their own admission, to send people to corrective "farms" for political reconditioning. At least that brutal RNA would be out of the picture, right?


At 11:53 AM, July 17, 2006, Blogger blogdai said...

And guess what? Sujata will never be elected because she's a Koirala. Koirala's don't need to be elected. She'll be automatically nominated.

In fact, Koirala's, Deubas, Oli's, and Nepal's wouldn't know how to conduct and election even if it conducted itself; they haven't had one in, what, 8 years now? Some democracy. One wonders how they claim to represent the will of the people when they haven't bothered to sample it in such a long time. Wait, Madhav kumam Nepal gave us the answer a few months ago when he said: "..we will tell the people of Nepal what to think.." Now it's clear, right?

I'm also not sure that the RNA "burns whole villages" as you embellish; but i am quite sure that Maoists Kill school teachers; abduct young children and forcibly conscript them; blow up a bus full of 53 unarmed civilians; kill a respected journalist; drill holes into pregnant women; cut off the hands of pregnant women; force people to attend rallies; force people to feed them; threaten to kill those who oppose their views;kill those who oppose their views; kill duly elected representatives of the government in rural VDC's; forcibly commandeer public transport for their rallies; blow up shopping and retail facilities in kathmandu; rob banks throughout Nepal; extort money from businesses tourists and citizens;

I don't know, but do we see a pattern here?


At 11:55 AM, July 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We also don't see vigilante groups forming to take on the RNA to my knowledge.

At 12:18 PM, July 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harey mero Blogdai, see you are into circular logic again. A constitutional body (R)NA is accountable under the consitiution. "We did it because they started it" is not an excuse. Mao outfit is not my darling, as you seem to equate any critisism of the (R)NA to love of Mao outfit. That's a giant leap to say the least. I am not saying that Mao or Sujata or Girija should be given free reign, I'm saying that everyone must function within the law, INCLUDING your precious king G and his cohorts and (R)NA and the police and whomever else that you can think of.

Were the Mao being marginalized? Maybe, maybe not. But one has to look at the cost too. In the name of marginalizing the Mao, king G's government was also marginalizing a large segment of the population (minus the rich and powerful of course). It had become impossible for anyone to move about the country and conduct their business. My argument is that suspension of civil liberties and general freedom to protect the very civil liberties and general liberty just does not make sense. Well if the (R)NA was so successful on defeating the insurgency, well, it should have started to bring the "petty criminals" into court and prosecuting them. Do not forget the atocities commiteed in Bhairavnath Battalion (?) barracks.

And further, it is my right as a citizen to hold a constitutional body responsible to their actions, and question them if they break the law. The Mao outfit is criminal anyway, I do not expect anything from them. But from a consitituitonal body like (R)NA I have every right to ask for better behaviour. The (R)NA has acted brutally at times, and you should accept that.

King G's intentions may have been "honorable", but remember that the road to hell is usually paved with good intentions. It is not enough to have good intentions. Who does not have that, King G does, and so does Herr. Doktor BBR, Dear Leader Prachanda, South Asian Leader Girija and maybe Sujata too.

The king did step out of his contitutional bounds (so did everyone else, but he is (was) the head of the state.

And what further maddens me is when people argue that the visciousness, lawlessness, atrocities, crime, terrorism of the Mao outfit can be combated with more visciosness, lawlessness, atrocities, crime and terrorism on the part of the state. That simply does not make sense and has failed everywhere.

- twaaks

You accuse me of being duped by media concoction but it seems you got duped by Rashtriya Samachar Samity and so on.

Maybe Sujata will become the leader of the Nepali Congress, Maybe she won't. But at least she will have to compete on the national political arena if she wants to become prime minister and it is not enough that someone nominate her.

At 3:17 PM, July 17, 2006, Blogger blogdai said...

Proportionality is the concept you are missing. You seem also to want to hold the RNA accountable yet you make no claims of accountability for the actions of the Maoists?

When, in your view is a national army allowed then to enforce the laws of a land and protect it's citizens from threats, both foreign and domestic as is its charge? Would you not agree that Maoists and their vow to set up a communist state and a parallel government, army and infrastructure are indeed a threat to Nepal's sovereignty? When one group blatantly violates the law, shouldn't those who live "within the law" enforce compliance? i most certainly agree that all must operate withing the law. But do the Maoists? And, those of us withing the law should just let them operate outside of the law? What good is the law then? No one is denying the King and the RNA made mistakes. But they were mistakes made while enforcing the law, not deliberately violating it like our Maoist friends. And excuse me, didn't article 127 expressly give the King the power to do exactly what he did?

I don't know what you are saying with all the "marginalization" language either. From your second paragraph onward there is a clarity problem for which i will give short answers only.

1. What are you talking about with your "impossible to move about the country" language? One can make an argument for the supression of press freedoms sure, but on the whole, businesses operated and busses ran. Any snags in that regard were due to the Maoists, period. What "civil liberty" repression? Can you give an example?

2. If you feel the RNA is a "constitutional body" then you are accepting the King's takeover as constitutional and thus, within the law.

3. Did you not read my last posting? My entire blog? Didn't I just say that the RNA is a brutal bunch? Do I have to spell it out for you?

4. Viciousness, lawlessness, et. al., are not desireable. But you act as if the RNA is just going around committing acts that parallel those of the Maoists. Lawlessness occurs with careless enforcement of the law by an undisciplined army. That's what we have here. It is not "circular logic" to say that there would not be a need for law enforcement--vicious or otherwise--if there were not a growing condition of lawlessness created by the Maoists.

Sujata will never stand for an election. They will not let it happen because they will not hold an election, I guarantee it. She or someone of her ilk will simply substitute for the old man and that will be it. What gives you the idea that ANY Koirala would hold themselves up for a public election?


At 6:20 PM, July 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry my internet connection was down for a while, and it's too hot for an argument anyway. Now to come to specifics.

1. I do not have to comment on this argument. It seems that you've been living in KTM (or outside Nepal for too long).

2. A constitutional body does not mean that it has the right to break and trample the constitution. Article 127 has been flouted many times, but I do not see the monarch defined as a "chairman" of the government, not do I see the RNA lent to have infinite amount of power, nor do I see article 125 increase "general expenditure" of palace, or feeding handouts to journalists to write good articles about the government and so on.
3. No I have not read your "entire" blog, (too long) but have read most of the entries. It's not a knee jerk reaction in my part. I do agree with some of the things that you say (example SPA also needs to clean up it's act and congress in particular needs to become more democratic).

4. "Lawlessness occurs with careless enforcement of the law by an undisciplined army. That's what we have here." - Exactly, so instead of arguing with the current government, maybe better that the Monarch and the Army in particular clean up their act and consider acting as professionals.

Consider you have a tiny scab in your feet. Would you consider maybe having a surgical procedure (limited deployement of the army against selected targets), or maybe taking antibiotics (political and economic approach). You do not go aound smashing your feet with a hammer. Which is similar to what King G, (R)NA, the good Dr. Giri and so on had on mind.

My dear Dai, if you really thought that deploying the Army indefinately would have solved the problem, that the poor people would somply have died out and would again be meek and docile, you need to wake up and smell the coffee, or tea if you prefer.

Saying that the King overstepped his bounds and the (R)NA did commit human right abuses does not make me (or anyone else for that matter) a Mao outfit lover. Incidentally this is the same type of argument used by the neoconservatives on liberals (oh critisize the troops and the terrorists will win, we will lose our way of life, critisize the war in Iraq, and they've already won). Isreal has been bombing the shit out of the Arabs for the past sixty years and the problem simply refuses to "go away". Unless one starts to talk in reconciliatoy terms and starts to "act" instead of simply reacting.

- twaaks

At 7:58 PM, July 17, 2006, Blogger blogdai said...

Well conceived and well argued, I'll accept most of your arguements.

I will say that the "scab" analogy you present seems different than the one you've argued. My view is that you'd rather condemn the surgeon for harming the wound than suffer a bit of pain for better overall health in the future.

Can't go with the Arab/Israeli thing completely. I'm coming to the sad conclusion that hatred and warfare is a cultural imperative for these people. You almost have to physically TRY to maintain such a level of animosity over such a period of time. These people are still pissed-off over 1000-year old issues. What we can apply to Nepal, however, is the idea that the mark of a truly progressive nation is its ability to shoulder indignity and move on. You won't find it in the mid-east, and it looks like we're not finding it with this new Nepali parliament and their incessant punitive actions.

Anyway, nicely done. i look forward to more of your counterpoint in the future.


At 11:24 AM, July 20, 2006, Blogger blogdai said...

Saw the Colbet Report yesterday and it reinforces our point here.

Seems the same pundits and media sipletons who brought us "Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy" have now, apparently, gotten together to proclaim the conflict in Lebanon to be "World War III."

This is a no brainer to blogdai. The media can't sell the fossilized mid-east conflict to a disengaged public, yet again, without placing a little "sizzle" in the story.

Know the pattern, learn the jargon, call it on the carpet when you can. This is irresponsible journalism attempting to fan the flames of public interest.


At 12:38 PM, July 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Much repeated jargon from the logical industry: If media didn't sensationalize it wouldn't be able to feed it's employees.

At 2:13 PM, July 20, 2006, Blogger blogdai said...

True. And what of the costs from this sensationalism?

Objectivity for one. How about the mind-numbing conditioning that makes us all feel that unless every story is an earth-shattering catastrophy, it's not worth our short attention?


At 3:29 PM, July 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

in the same vein, is there such thing as a truly objective news? or can news be truly objective? the same event described by cnn or by al-jazeera wil have different undertone and hence different bia, won't it?

- twaaks

At 4:36 PM, July 20, 2006, Blogger blogdai said...

Which is precisely the point. Most, if not all journalistic outlets are under pressure to stay relevant so they shout for attention, embellish, editorialize and emotionalize the news in order to appeal to the widest, simplest base.

Al-Jazeera, CNN and FOX would not have survived in the old three-sources-verified-Woodward-and-Bernstein era.

News priorities have shifted dramatically from the quest for the unbiased and objective truth to something that prioritizes viewership and readership ratings uber alles.

Perhaps we here at the blogs are getting it right. We have no obligation to be anything. Unlike mainstream outlets, we do't have 60 plus years of public trust to piss away. I like the fact that blogs do not need such trust. Opinions and ideas stand singularly on their merit; with fact-checking, rebuttal and educated dispute arriving instantaneously (along with a lot of crap).

Try that, Bill O'Reilly.



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