Fiddling While It Burns

The end of the road for the Tamil Tigers? | 24/04/2009

Well, no, probably not.

From the ABC:

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Sri Lanka has ruled out an amnesty for the Tamil Tiger leader as troops press a final offensive against the cornered rebels despite a global outcry over the plight of civilians trapped in the war zone.

President Mahinda Rajapakse said Velupillai Prabhakaran, whose Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are fighting to prevent complete defeat after being pushed into a narrow stretch of coastal jungle in the north-east of the island, would not be pardoned.

“The LTTE leader has spurned the possibility of pardon by us,” the president’s office quoted him as saying. “He must now face the consequences of his acts.”

However, two senior Tiger officials surrendered on Wednesday as the military reported that more than 100,000 civilians had escaped from rebel-held territory and sought shelter with troops since Monday.

The LTTE, or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eeelam, has been around since the ’70s, and is one of the pioneers of terrorism as we know it today. They invented the suicide belt, and are the world’s most prolific suicide bombers. They’re old-school terrorists, based on ethnic nationalist aspirations rather than the militant Islamism we’ve come to associate with terrorism in recent years.

The case of the LTTE is instructive in the way terrorism is covered by the Western media. Although attacks are dutifully reported, they are not accorded the kind of profile Islamic terrorism is. Because of this, terrorism has become associated with Islam, which in itself makes the media feel like Islamic terrorism is more worthy of attention. Combined with the average Westerner’s ignorance of the nationalist origins of Islamic terrorism, a large proportion of the electorate now thinks that terrorism is primarily religious in nature, providing a nice cover for nationalism to go on stirring up trouble.

In the case of the LTTE, in the case of Palestinian terrorist groups (and Israeli recalcitrance), the Kurds, the Basque in Spain and France, of course the IRA, and any number of other cases, it is the idea that a separate identity requires a separate state that causes bloody, fruitless conflicts.

News media consider themselves objective, but this slow reframing over decades demonstrates the perils of just reporting “the facts” based on “news value”: there is no objectivity in such reporting, because journalists report based on their interpretation of news values, and when this is done without the willingness to actively interpret and think about the context of the events they are witnessing, they deceive as much as they inform.

The objective truth is that nationalism must end to prevent these conflicts; how can a doctrine claim to be “objectivity” when it stops reporters from saying this?

As for the Tigers themselves, it’s doubtful whether any purely military defeat can end the tenacious Tamil separatist movement. The tragedy of rebel groups is that they never die, just go on and on destroying lives while never getting closer to their goals.

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