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Richson: Is the world burning

BY BRIANNE RICHSON | FEBRUARY 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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Is it just me or is the world burning? That might be a dramatic way to look at it, but it seems as though everywhere I turn (actually, everywhere I click or scroll) people are protesting, and their grievances are being met with increasing violence and political backlash. I am talking in part about Venezuela, a country in a state of wreckage and unrest for the past two weeks.

The coverage on the situation in Venezuela has been surprisingly minimal, in my opinion.

Obviously, there’s a difference between the amount of material a print front page can cover and the amount of content a website can splash onto its various tabs and pull-down menus. The disadvantage of the convenience of technology-based news is that it is often the consumer’s responsibility to catch the story and read it before it’s washed away by the next wave of stories, or to seek out the story if it is not readily tagged and arranged in a way which screams “IMPORTANT.”

The harsh reality is that journalism remains a business. If the situation in Venezuela is being gipped in coverage in favor of other news items such as the similar situation in Ukraine or the arrest of a major Mexican drug lord, that is the decision of news providers, in part because of what they perceive as important for the public to hear but also because of what they think the public wants to hear.

What is interesting about the disparity in coverage between Venezuela and Ukraine is that economic unrest plays a major role in the people’s outrage. Inflation currently runs rampant in both countries. With our country’s own economic crisis not far in our rearview mirrors, we should know how much angst this creates in a population.

But imagine not being able to do or say anything about that angst. The Venezuelan government even tried to shut down Twitter … talk about an infringement on human rights.

I’ll admit that I could (should) be better at keeping up with and educating myself on global happenings. Today more than ever, it’s easy to convince yourself that you are in fact “informed”; scan the New York Times, make CNN your homepage, you’re good. But as a consumer, it is important to be conscious of what you’re consuming and also to demand that which you may not be getting.

More than 10 people have been killed since demonstrations began on Feb. 12, in addition to accounts of demonstrators being abused and threatened when taken into detention. Furthermore, journalists have been attacked and detained for simply trying to document the ensuing chaos.

From the Boston Tea Party to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s weeklong “bed-in” in protest of the Vietnam War to Occupy Wall Street, protests have a long and varied history. There has always been something beautiful and stubbornly hopeful about them; even when it seems impossible and light years in the future, protesters believe in the idea of change.

It might be difficult for present-day Americans to fathom the right to protest being quelled by violence, but we are historically not very far removed from such a time in our own country. It has been nearly 44 years since shots rang out at Kent State University in Ohio, killing four unarmed students. So, if you haven’t heard about Venezuela yet, look into it. As a news consumer, it’s your duty to care.


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