Key elements to counter the pressure from the political west

There is a huge lack of information about the Ethiopian situation, among the majority of the western population. The wider western taxpayer public is not getting the right facts regarding the prevailing political context in Ethiopia with its complexity. This gap is a consequence of several factors and active players in the past few decades, which have culminated to where it is today. The narrative the western public is being fed on is twisted, ill-willed, and without balance and fairness. In this piece, we try to reflect on why this is created and suggest strategies on how to narrow the gap and turn the pressure from the west once and for all.

Layers in the western societies

There exist social layers in western societies, when it comes to communicating facts. These layers have contributed to an information gap about our home country Ethiopia. First, let us describe the existing layers. The first layer is composed of the political and individual elites or celebrities. The political elites are those who are members of the influential political parties and circles in each respective country of the WEST. The individual elites are those who are known in their respective country (even across countries) due to their high-level success in sports, arts, politics, activism, academia, and so on. Think about the former presidents of the USA (Carter, Obama, Trump, and so on), or the Bob Geldof of Ireland, or Ronaldo of Manchester United football club or the younger elites like Malala from Pakistan and Grete of Sweden who advocate for girls’ education rights and global warming, respectively. People at this level may have detailed or little information about Ethiopia. Most may be without information about what is going on right now in the country and very few have deeper knowledge. Nonetheless, they are considered as qualified country experts in their respective countries while far from having validated in-depth knowledge about the country they are talking or writing about. Some of them have consciously biased politicized stands, which they promote under the cover of intellectual deliberation.

The second level is the media in the western world. These media in the WEST have different interests and they have different forms. Ethiopians are witnessing the powerful truth in the claim of Malcolm X. He once said “The media are the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent”. How true it is! It is common knowledge that CNN and MSNBC are on the left of the political spectrum in Northern America, while FOX NEWS and others are on the right. In Europe, the Media is more center-oriented, if not left inclined center. It is agreeable to claim that these media outlets support political views or parties they are aligned with, at times by manufacturing alternative facts and truths to negate the narratives made by the other side of the divide. The last American election was a showcase to the tooth and nail fierce fight between rivaling media institutions.

Most media institutions in the USA are business-driven, and are controlled by huge financial interests and powerful people as crucial tools to advance their political interests. Money can shape and buy narratives for dissemination through these channels contradicting the true essence of balanced and ethical journalism. Most of the time, those who are at the top of the political system with the right connection, can influence the narrative concerning reporting of a particular incident happening somewhere in any corner of the world. The space-time-based narrative is controlled by their perspective and their preference with complete disregard to facts and the actual truth.

The third level is the majority of the western population, called the public. This is the real source of power in western society. Those who manage to control the media and influence public opinion have a considerably higher chance of assuming political power. Individual elites are ultimately elected by the vote of the public. Hence, anyone who captures the attention of the majority can disseminate its narrative, whatever it is easily. Remember how Bob Geldof via his live aid music influenced the world to do something about the famine in Ethiopia during the reign of the Derg. Reaching out to the public is the key for turning any prejudice, mal (mis or dis) information in a country, or about an event, or even on an organization, like Ethiopian Airlines.

Key Element: Engaging the wider public in the WEST

Now, when it comes to information about Ethiopia and its current situational and contextual analysis, it is the people who are at the first and the second level who are setting the narrative in the western countries. In most cases, the wider western public has no clue about what is going on in Ethiopia. It is understandable. There is no way that you follow up in detail about a country, far away from your daily issues and matters. There are other priorities for the public. Hence, they only get their information from their elites and media about issues that are far away from home. Especially, the Europeans trust their “experts” and media analysis, when it comes to such happenings. There is no way they will spend their valuable time studying deep into the affairs of another country’s complex matters.

Let us give our experience from our conversations, with some members of the public where we live. Most of these people are highly educated and even had some acquaintance with the region, in general. Such conversations happened several times on several occasions. It is this experience that pushed us to reflect on this topic. All of the conversations started with the questions like these: what is going on in Ethiopia? What is this Nobel Prize winner young leader doing? Then, we start to explain how Ethiopia become the place of a proxy war between the soviet union and the western countries 45 years ago, and how the collaboration of the western powers and the previous leaders continued through the past three decades and how that partner of the WEST ended up to be terrorist; And now how the top echelons of the west are trying to cover up their mess and so on. We keep on describing the way the reform leaders in the country are leading with facts and pieces of evidence. The people, who listen to our narratives, are all perplexed. And they all ask why did we not hear this from the media and from our experts? Right, why is the western population not getting the facts right? This is the question that we should ask ourselves and try to fill the gap so that we turn around the pressure from the political elites and media of the western countries. The question is, is it possible?

Our answer is, YES! Remember, when Apartheid was going on in South Africa, it is the normal people who understood the context on the ground and stood in solidarity with South African people and pressured the political elites to change course. But many individuals have worked hard for it. Engaging the wider public in the WEST is the key strategy. One may further ask the question: when the media and elites are working against the truth, how can we reach out to the public? This is a daunting task in a world where money is a driving force of actions. Fake news is churned out and propagated in the blink of an eye. In this digital age, how can one control the stories that pertain to one? We think the following strategies can be helpful to turn the tide.

1) Increase awareness among Ethiopians, even to Africans, about this gap. If the public in Ethiopia, in Africa (with the spirit of pan-Africanism as PLO Lumumba advocates), and diaspora members understand this gap, then most will be motivated by themselves to engage the wider public in the WEST using different avenues. There are many ways to increase awareness among the public. Ask the experts, who are engaged in the promotion business for tips. They may only need some budgeting support.

2) Use social media and ICT to reach the majority. We live in the digital age. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, YouTube, and others reach the world in the blink of an eye. It is not only the media, who are disseminating the information. We are in the age where a single person can reach out to the whole world instantly and set the right narrative across the world. Remember the young girl who exposed the injustice in George Floyd’s murder case. It was not CNN or Fox News, but it was the girl using her mobile phone and Facebook platform. Even in Ethiopia, another young woman, recently, decided to share a similar police brutality on a homeless woman in front of her baby kid. Both stories created swift actions by those who are responsible in the respective systems. These are great examples of how ordinary citizens can engage the wider public using ICT and Social media platforms in a powerful way.

3) Develop digital literacy of the people who can be engaged in promoting the country’s interest. According to Wikipedia, “digital literacy: refers to an individual’s ability to find, evaluate, and clearly communicate information through typing and other media on various digital platforms. It is evaluated by an individual’s grammar, composition, typing skills and ability to produce text, images, audio, and designs using technology.” It means, it demands high competency. How many percent of the population is at that level? Most of the time, it is the younger part of the population that is more of a digital affiliate. Passing through an education system with limited quality, digital competency could be a challenging undertaking for the majority. Hence preparing centers that can boost the population’s use of ICT and social media for reaching out to the rest of the world is a strategy that is worth investing but it can be demanding both in having visionary leadership, finance, and technology savvy people.

4) Educate the public to be constructive and responsible actors. As everyone has the opportunity and power to share the fact with the surrounding world, it is imperative to underscore the importance of understanding the huge responsibility attached to it. We are seeing many being distracted by self-interest and ignorance while they are engaged in sharing the stories they want to share with the rest of the world. For example, in the case of Twiplomacy (using Twitter for diplomacy), we see a lot of distractions among many influencers. They try to tune the message to their own self-interests rather than to the cause which is unhelpful and at times damaging. Many share posts with unfounded and unverified content without any second thought regarding the consequences of their irresponsible actions in the interest of their own country and people. Hence informing the public on the importance of exercising responsibility and accountability can boost the effectiveness in reaching out to the majority of the public, especially the western public, with the right facts and the truth regarding the state of affairs in the country.

Editor’s Note: The views entertained in this article do not necessarily reflect the stance of The



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