Mike McRoberts: our man in the middle while Haiti rots

Donate to Haiti relief at the grassroots level, not through the pockets of dubious religious charities.

You can make a donation to the Haiti aid effort via:

TUC Aid-Haiti Appeal The British trade Union Council is sending aid to the trade union movement for emergency relief in collaboration with the International Trade Union Confederation.  » www.tuc.org.uk

In Australia: APHEDA-ACTU Haiti appeal Any funds raised in this appeal for Haiti will be directed to the relief efforts being undertaken by the Canadian Auto Workers and other Canadian unions.

Haiti Emergency Relief Fund: organised by Haiti Action, an organisation which directs resources to grassroots organisations in Haiti. Donate at » www.haitiaction.net

It’s interesting that when there’s a gut-wrenching, heart-string tugging, tear-jerking human interest story of tragic proportions that the network’s star reporters can safely own up to having a heart of their own and to becoming emotionally and physically involved in a story.

So it is with TV3’s Mike McRoberts who’s in Haiti covering a real tragedy. He explained his involvement in the story on his Mediaworks/TV3 blog:

Whether or not journalists should be part of a story or not is one of those issues that surface from time to time.

I was reminded of it again today when I “stepped in” to a story. We found a five year old girl at a relief camp who had a badly broken arm and a gaping infected wound in her leg. She hadn’t been treated since the earthquake and medics at the camp were concerned she may lose her leg if she wasn’t operated on that day.

Trouble was neither they or anyone else at the camp had a vehicle. We did and we stepped in.

I carried her around the hospital grounds as we sought the right treatment for her and after the best part of the day waiting she had her operation.

Clearly I have no problem with journalists stepping into a story. The whole “a journalist must stay detached” stuff is just crap.

I’ve always said that I’m a human being first and a journalist second, and if I’m in a position to help someone I will.

In saying that I don’t think a journalist should be the story either. Unfortunately too many reporters these days seem to get the two things confused?

Yes, the question mark is there in the original.

But, Mike’s been upstaged by the BBC’s Matt Price. He and his crew were able to save two lives…

…a pregnant woman and her baby. Thank God for the local fixers, who, for a few dollars, can line up such golden opportunities.

In this type of  situation it is safe for a journalist of McRobert’s stature, or the BBC’s Matt Price, to say they’re involved because saving the life of one 5-year-old girl, or a pregnant woman (two-for-the-price-of-one)  amid the carnage of Haiti makes for great television and thrusts hero status on the reluctant journo, who’s just doing his job, but being “a human being first”.

Our man in the middle

It also leads to a great photo op.

A single life (or even two4) saved in Haiti represents no more than a token effort. It’s hardly worth mentioning. But., it sucks kudos and pulls ratings. It allows the networks to parade their faux humanism and shallow heroism.

But it’s not so good if, as a reporter, you might – for example – take the side of the oppressed in a civil war when there’s a super power and your own so-called “national interest” at stake.

You only have to see how often veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk is rabidly denounced by rightwingers and Zionists. They love to hate Robert Fisk so much, they’ve coined a term for their abuse: fisking.

A journalist can claim to be brave for taking the side of a just but unpopular cause, or for denouncing the rich and powerful. for example, denouncing the genocide against Tamils in Sri Lanka, rather than repeating knee-jerk government spin about the Tamil Tigers being terrorists.

[EM’s previous post on this topic: The moral purpose of journalism]

Meanwhile, I was concerned to see a report from the BBC’s Matt Frei suggesting that only a full-scale military occupation can save Haiti from total disaster.

Seriously that’s a f*cked up idea that displays a totally Western orientation and an underlying racism that the people of Haiti are somehow incapable of solving their own problems. While they need our material support now – food, medical supplies, etc – they do not need more foreign troops.

And guess who‘s on hand to do the occupying?

And you’ve got no idea how relieved I am to know they’ve got God on their side.

Yes, they have previous form on this issue:

On 28 February 2004 the US kidnapped popular and reformist leader President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the middle of the night and flew him into exile.

The US managed to topple one of the most popular governments in Latin America in a manner that wasn’t widely criticised or even recognised as a coup at all.

The democratic government was replaced by a US puppet, Gérard Latortue. US troops were quickly replaced by a massive UN “stabilisation” force. The UN’s main role was to pacify people – and to get them to accept the coup.

This involved a low-level war against Aristide’s supporters, particularly in poor neighbourhoods.

The popular movement has been criminalised. Supporters are essentially portrayed as criminals and gang members – people who threaten property, and law and order – and politics gets written out of the equation.

You get media reports that Haiti is a violent place but that’s really not true. Crime levels are extremely low.

[How US imperialism has devastated Haiti]

For more background and analysis that doesn’t rely on faux-heroism and warmed-over sentiment, visit Socialist Worker online, from there you can donate funds that will go directly to Haitian workers, not self-serving Missionaries.

Haiti is a very cultured place and the cool  Wycliff Jean is not the only musical talent

Perhaps Wycliff can follow in the footsteps of his activist/journalist uncle Raymond Alcide Joseph and make good on his promises in If I was president. (But not the bit about assassination!)

If I was president,
I’d get elected on Friday, assassinated on Saturday,
and buried on Sunday.

If I was president…
If I was president

Instead of spending billions on the war,
I can use that money, to feed the poor.
I know some so poor, when it rains that’s when they shower,
when screaming “fight the power”.
That’s when the vulture devoured

[chorus]
If I was president,
I’d get elected on Friday, assassinated on Saturday,
and buried on Sunday.

2 Responses to Mike McRoberts: our man in the middle while Haiti rots

  1. Audent says:

    Curious, I was going to rebut your definition of “fsking” as being related to Robert Fisk because I’ve heard techs use it for many years now related to the art of taking apart a stupid argument one point at a time (as in “I shall fsk the government’s statements on building more prisons”). Keith Ng over at Public Address has built a [blogger] career out of fsking.

    But searching the interwebs for a definition all I can find is reference to f*cking… a use I rarely see.

    Curious.

  2. […] Mike McRoberts: our man in the middle while Haiti rots […]

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