In the spring of 1994, after decades of intermarrying and living in relative harmony with each other, Rwandan Hutus, en masse, went on a murderous rampage against their Tutsi neighbors. By the end of just three months, nearly three-quarters of the entire Tutsi population had been exterminated, mostly by ordinary people—farmers, teachers, active churchgoers. This swift, appalling genocide followed a relentless propaganda campaign that demonized Rwandan Tutsis and twisted genocide into a “vital” and “noble” cause.
What role do the media have in creating the conditions for atrocities such as those that occurred in Rwanda? Conversely, can the media be used to preserve democracy and safeguard the human rights of all citizens in a diverse society? How will the media, now global in scope, affect the fate of millions of people and possibly the planet itself?
Political scientist and veteran journalist Maria Armoudian explores these intriguing questions and more in this in-depth examination of the media’s power to both help and harm in her forthcoming book, Kill the Messenger.
Armoudian first documents how media helped spread the contagion of hate in three deadly conflicts: Rwanda, Nazi Germany, and the former Yugoslavia. But fortunately, the destructive depths to which television, publications, radio, and other information sources have sunk is only half the story. She then turns to areas of the world where the media have played a powerful positive role—aiding the peace process in Burundi and Northern Ireland, helping to rebuild the post-coup democracy in Chile, bridging ethnic divides in South Africa, improving the lives of women and girls in Senegal, and boosting transparency and democratization in Mexico and Taiwan. Finally, in an analysis of media’s framing of climate change, Armoudian shows media’s constructive and destructive potential stretches beyond the lot of individual nations to affect the very fate of the world.
As illuminated by developments such as the “Arab Spring” and the WikiLeaks controversy, new communication technologies have both magnified and have both magnified and diffused media’s power while giving rise to a new class of media mavens who are helping to shape the future by proliferating ideas, counter-frames information often neglected by traditional media.
Drawing from a rich scholarly literature in psychology, political science, and sociology, Armoudian demonstrates how media interact with social forces to shape beliefs, provoke emotions, instigate groupthink, and construct heroes and villains.
This wide-ranging, insightful book will make readers keenly aware of media’s power, while underscoring the role that we all play in fostering a media climate that cultivates a greater sense of humanity, cooperation, responsibility, commitment to public welfare, and fulfillment of human potential.