Under the nuclear shadow
By Arundhati Roy
This week as diplomats’ families and tourists
quickly disappeared from India, journalists from Europe and
America arrived in droves. Most of them stay at the Imperial
Hotel in Delhi. Many of them call me. Why are you still here,
they ask, why haven’t you left the city? Isn’t nuclear war a
real possibility? It is, but where shall I go? If I go away
and everything and every- one, every friend, every tree, every
home, every dog, squirrel and bird that I have known and loved
is incinerated, how shall I live on? Who shall I love, and who
will love me back? Which society will welcome me and allow me
to be the hooligan I am, here, at home?
We’ve decided we’re all staying. We’ve huddled
together, we realize how much we love each other and we think
what a shame it would be to die now. Life’s normal, only because
the macabre has become normal. While we wait for rain, for football,
for justice, on TV the old generals and the eager boy anchors
talk of first strike and second strike capability, as though
they’re discussing a family board game. My friends and I discuss
Prophecy, the film of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
the dead bodies choking the river, the living stripped of their
skin and hair, we remember especially the man who just melted
into the steps of the building and we imagine ourselves like
that, as stains on staircases.
My husband’s writing a book about trees. He has
a section on how figs are pollinated, each fig by its own specialized
fig wasp. There are nearly 1,000 different species of fig wasps.
All the fig wasps will be nuked, and my husband and his book.
A dear friend, who is an activist in the anti-dam
movement in the Narmanda Valley, is on indefinite hunger strike.
Today is the twelfth day of her fast. She and the others fasting
with her are weakening quickly. They are protesting because
the government is bulldozing schools, felling forests, uprooting
handpumps, forcing people from their villages. What an act of
faith and hope. But to a government comfortable with the notion
of a wasted world, what’s a wasted valley?
Terrorists have the power to trigger a nuclear
war. Non-violence is treated with contempt. Displacement, dispossession,
starvation, poverty, disease, these are all just funny comic
strip items now. Meanwhile, emissaries of the coalition against
terror come and go, preaching restraint. Tony Blair arrives
to preach peace — and on the side, to sell weapons to both India
and Pakistan. The last question every visiting journalist always
asks me: “Are you writing another book?”
That question mocks me. Another book? Right now
when it looks as though all the music, the art, the architecture,
the literature, the whole of human civilization means nothing
to the monsters who run the world. What kind of book should
I write? For now, just for now, for just a while pointlessness
is my biggest enemy. That’s what nuclear bombs do, whether they’re
used or not. They violate everything that is humane, they alter
the meaning of life.
Why do we tolerate them? Why do we tolerate the
men who use nuclear weapons to blackmail the entire human race?
Source: Observer (UK)
New York Times: same problem,
On May 7, the New York Times published an editor’s
note about the paper’s coverage of a large pro-Israel demonstration
on May 6. The Times had accompanied the story with a front-page
photo of a small group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators in the
foreground, despite the fact that they were a small minority
of those present. As the Times put it, “the effect was disproportionate.
In fairness the total picture presentation should have better
reflected The Times’ reporting on the scope of the event, including
the disparity in the turnouts.”
This is a commendable principle— or rather it
would be, if the Times used it in every case.
In a similar incident a few months ago, the Times
severely underestimated the crowd size of anti-war demonstrations
in Washington, DC — “a few hundred” was the count in their Sept.
29 article, versus the police estimate of 7,000. The following
day, the only photograph of the second day of protests was of
a lone counter-demonstrator holding a sign that read “Osama
thanks fellow cowards for your support.”
At the time, FAIR and hundreds of media activists
wrote to the Times protesting the photo choice and poor reporting
of the march’s size. The paper’s response was less than positive.
Senior editor Bill Borders sent out emails accusing FAIR of
spreading misinformation, saying, “I don’t know why they did
this; you might want to ask them.”
The Times did upgrade their crowd estimate in
the Final Edition of the Sept. 29 paper, but they never ran
a correction informing the readers of the earlier editions that
it had misinformed them about the crowd size. And the paper
never acknowledged in an editor’s note that it was misleading
to represent a march of thousands with a photograph of a single
After seeing how the Times handled the problem
with the May 6 story on the pro-Israel march, FAIR wrote to
the paper inquiring about the different treatment these two
very similar errors received — one was prominently corrected,
while in the earlier case the paper responded by attacking FAIR
for pointing it out.
The Times’ only response to the letter was an
angry phone call from Borders to FAIR. Complaining that FAIR
chose to dig up such an “old” story, he repeatedly asserted
that FAIR’s claim that the Times had miscounted the protesters
was a “lie,” since the final edition of the paper was changed
to more accurately reflect the actual crowd size. Of course,
the Times often prints corrections to stories that were amended
in later editions, so that readers will be aware of an error
in an edition of the paper they may have read. Borders added
that FAIR’s work “over the years” has been based on lies, but
he declined to elaborate on the charge.
Interestingly, Borders actually agreed that the
photo choice at the anti-war demonstration had been an error:
“We covered it wrong,” said Borders. Nonetheless, Borders was
so hostile to FAIR’s inquiries that he at one point suggested
that the staffer he was speaking with “get a job at Macy’s.”
The New York Times returned to the issue of the
pro-Israel march in a May 23 article by Felicity Barringer about
threats of boycotts by supporters of Israel against several
newspapers, including the Times. “Critics of the Times dispatched
hundreds of e-mail messages and angry commentary earlier this
month when it published a front-page photograph of the Salute
to Israel parade in Manhattan that showed a small group of pro-Palestinian
counter-demonstrators in the foreground and pro-Israeli marchers
and their supporters in the background,” Barringer reported.
Given the disparity in the size of the marches, she reported,
this raised the question of whether the Times was “straining
to create a sense of equivalence.”
There certainly does not seem to be any sense
of equivalence at the Times when the exact same complaint, conveyed
in both cases by hundreds of email messages, is treated so disparately.
Source: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting