Media urged to desist from ‘violence of words’

The Peninsula Doha
2008-05-15 5/15/2008 3:4:37


War, violence, conflict and problems are the stuff of media. The “clash of civilizations” makes better copy for journalists than the “dialogue of civilizations,” according to a prominent speaker at the sixth Doha Conference of Interfaith Dialogue, which concluded here yesterday.

Addressing a session on “Media and violence,” Richard Dean Love, a scholar and human rights activist from the US, appealed to the media not to limit itself to covering “bad news and the sensational” but “find and print those stories that promote peace and enrich society.”

“Surely it is not an overstatement to say that Western media tends to stir up Islamophobia, while Muslim media tends to stir up anti-Americanism and hatred of the West,” said Love.

He said that the most typical form of violence perpetrated by religious communities is, perhaps, the “violence of words.” What makes the violence of words particularly dangerous is the globalised, interconnected nature of the world.

“In this google-ized world, our words are likely to reach beyond our primary audience and enter the global marketplace of ideas,” said Love. Citing several examples, he said violent words not only stir up hatred, but sometimes lead to death and destruction.

“Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations haunts us. Huntington would not want to say that the clash of civilizations is inevitable. But the way he arranged his evidence and the way he argues leads to these conclusions. Though he writes as a scholar and not as a religious leader, nevertheless his words can be construed as violent,” said Love.

He felt that the “war on terror” is a misnomer. “Rather than describe the struggle against terrorism as “war”, I think it is more appropriate to describe it as an international crime. If we call it a war then civil liberties and human rights can easily be trampled on.”