One of the most important details of the 1994 genocidal campaign in Rwanda is the one that was, until the last couple of years, overlooked by our mass media. The attacks were not spontaneous, nor were they uncoordinated. Though there were certainly many underlying ethnic tensions between the rival Hutu and Tutsi peoples, the outbreak of violence was cultivated by an intense campaign of propaganda carried out primarily by the right-wing media company RTLM. For roughly a year leading up to the slaughter, the largely Hutu-run RTLM broadcast hateful and murderous slander against Tutsis and other ‘enemies of the state.’ The Tutsi minority heard these same broadcasts, but their most common reaction to them was later reported by then Canadian ambassador Lucie Edwards:

“The question of Radio Mille Collines propaganda is a difficult one. There were so many genuinely silly things being said on the station, so many obvious lies, that it was hard to take it seriously… Nevertheless, everyone listened to it – I was told by Tutsis (sic) – in a spirit of morbid fascination and because it had the best music selection.”

If I were to suggest that a massive genocidal campaign such as the one in Rwanda could occur in the US, would you laugh at me? You would probably shake your head in amusement, at least. However, consider the following statement: “So many obvious lies, that is was hard to take seriously…” Sound like any media outlets you know? In a country brimming with guns, and one that has seen its political discourse become steadily more divided and hostile, how many steps are we away from such as was seen in Rwanda? What would it take to drive, say, disgruntled ‘Red Staters’ to grabbing up their weapons and taking out their frustrations on perceived ‘liberals’ (including African-Americans, brown-skinned immigrants, gays, known Democrats, etc.)? We already know that a majority of the public seemed gullible enough to have been convinced that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks, in spite of all the widely available preponderance of evidence to the contrary. Who’s to say that a significant number of these people couldn’t be convinced that deadly enemies of the state are living in large numbers among their neighbors?

Perhaps it wouldn’t happen as it did in Rwanda; perhaps it would transpire in a fashion more reminiscent of Stalin’s Russia, or Hitler’s Germany, where the people trusted the state to carry out the genocide in an organized manner. In any case, the seeds for this sort of thing have been already been sown here. After 9/11, the cowed Congress almost unanimously approved the Orwellian USA PATRIOT Act. Since then, our media airwaves have become flooded with xenophobic, racist, jingoistic, and hate-filled rhetoric. Bleating demagogues such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Don Imus are paid millions by corporate media conglomerates and given national platforms on radio and television. Hundreds of lesser known hatemongers spread their bile in radio and television markets across the nation, in the employ of massive conglomerates such as Fox, Sinclair, and Clear Channel. There is no lower limit on their discourse, either. For example, one right-wing radio host, Glenn Beck, recently fantasized on-air about killing filmmaker Michael Moore.

The Disney Corporation, which claims to cater to mainstream family values, is also in on the act. Disney, which once forbid its subsidiary Miramax to distribute Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” because it felt the film would offend many of its consumers, apparently feels that questioning the US presidential administration’s culpability in the attacks of 9/11 and the war on Iraq is more offensive than condoning or advocating genocide, slavery, and the triggering of a nuclear holocaust. How do we know this? They pay Paul Harvey $10 million a year to do what I described in the latter clause.

FAIR Action Alert: Paul Harvey’s Tribute to Slavery, Nukes, Genocide

So what are we to make of all this? What are we to do about this? I’ve already told my wife that I don’t want our child to have a home peppered with Disney products; I won’t take her to Disney World, either. Seriously, though, it isn’t a good idea for those of us who consider ourselves progressive or ‘moderate’ to sit quietly while the seeds of genocide are being watered and fertilized. Later today I’m going to send an e-mail to Disney, per FAIR’s suggestion, and let them know what I think. Then I’m going to write my congressmen and ask them if the FCC is as concerned about the cheerleading of genocide as it is about the flashing of naked breasts. What are you going to do?

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