Yvonne Ridley comments on the British media’s lopsided coverage of the uprising in Tunisia – devoting airtime to the inconvenience caused to UK tourists and focusing on the role of social media rather than the “revolutionaries who physically took to the streets and faced down live ammunition, baton charges and tear gas”.
The Western media have been somewhat caught out by the rapid demise of one of the most brutal dictators in the world.
But not to worry, the CIA famously missed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 after working around the clock 24/7 for five decades warning us constantly of the dangers of ignoring the Red Peril. Still, we all have our off days.
However, when journalists did finally catch up with events in Tunisia it was the plight of the British holidaymakers that grabbed the headlines, not the scores of locals who had been gunned down by government forces.
So what harrowing tales emerged at the airports as the Britons piled off the planes to freedom?
“The reactions of the traumatized tourists prompted one leading Tunisian blogger to tweet this... ‘A revolution is ongoing; take your drunk ass somewhere else. Return after elections.’"
BBC Five Live reported the trembling words of a Yorkshireman who said: "We can’t believe it. They shut all the bars. Then when we got t'airport duty free were closed!"
Yes, the BBC went right to the heart of the matter showing once again it had its finger on the pulse of popular opinion.
That was on 14 January and then more dramatic stories emerged the next two days as returning tourists talked about roaming street gangs looting and setting fire to property, and what a grand job the police were doing.
The so-called "roaming street gangs" were in fact highly organized thugs in the employ of the Tunisian Ministry of Interior on a black propaganda exercise designed to demonize the ordinary people who had finally snapped after being bludgeoned physically and mentally by President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his police.
Of course, most of the Britons were probably unaware they were holidaying in a police state in the first place – it's not mentioned in the brochures .– funny that!
The reactions of the traumatized tourists prompted one leading Tunisian blogger to Tweet this rather blunt, if not personal piece of advice: "A revolution is ongoing, take your drunk ass somewhere else. Return after elections."
Now that the “human interest” angle of the terrorized tourists has been virtually exhausted, the Western media are trying to explain the ongoing demonstrations and the cause of the revolution…
As far as the media are concerned, the revolution erupted thanks to WikiLeaks, Twitter and Facebook. What nonsense and what an insult to Tunisians, young and old. The revolution was driven by ordinary people who finally snapped because of the soaring cost of food prices, rising unemployment and the brutality of the police state.
Many of the revolutionaries were also protesting against the dictatorship and lack of real democracy and freedom of speech. Throw in the police brutality, corruption of the ruling families and censorship of the social networks (YouTube was blocked and Facebook accounts and bloggers were regularly hacked), and something was bound to snap.
“We Westerners, hooked up to our Blackberries and iPhones, were merely given front row electronic seats from where we could cheer on the real revolutionaries who physically took to the streets and faced down live ammunition, baton charges and tear gas.”
We Westerners, hooked up to our Blackberries and iPhones, were merely given front row electronic seats from where we could cheer on the real revolutionaries who physically took to the streets and faced down live ammunition, baton charges and tear gas.
Now we are told there will be elections in Tunisia in the next 60 days or so, and when the people make their choice of government I hope the Western media, Western governments and the United Nations set aside their usual prejudices and accept the outcome – unlike what happened in Gaza.
Even today the population of Gaza is suffering from a collective punishment at the hands of the West for democratically choosing Hamas. But as Ben Ali has now just learned, you can't impose your will on people because in the end they will rebel.
Without outside interference, I am confident the Tunisian people will make the right choices for them and whoever or whichever party they choose we should respect the outcome.
There is already excited chatter of trade unionists, former opposition parties and a few Islamists forming a coalition government.
Personally, I don't care who takes power as long as those elected are the people’s choice and they put the people first.