A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, March 4, 2011

Why So Much Attention on Libya, So Little Elsewhere?

Today, Egypt's new Prime Minister went to Tahrir Square and told the demonstrators he would support their goals and resign if he couldn't implement them. There were growing tensions in Iraq between protesters and Nuri al-Maliki's government. In Yemen Salih rejected the proposed deal for him to step down, and security forces reportedly fired on demonstrators. Major protests continued in Bahrain and Algeria. Iran continues to hold Mousavi and Karroubi and their wives, amid continuing protests. The cauldrons continue to bubble in Algeria and Bahrain, with protests in Morocco, Jordan, Oman, and even a few stirrings in Saudi Arabia.

Did you know all that? Well, given the expertise of my readers, many of you probably did. But outside of Al Jazeera, few international news organizations are focusing on anything but Libya. Now, Hillary Clinton just gave Al Jazeera a big boost for just that reason, and they're capitalizing on it.

Of course, being based in the region, Al Jazeera has some advantages. Most Western media have only a few people to deploy to the whole region, and currently need a team in Tripoli, another in Benghazi, another on the Tunisian border, and perhaps one on the Egyptian. Libya is a war zone; the other protests aren't. Some, like Angry Arab, think Iraq is being ignored because revolts against Maliki don't fit the Western narrative, buy then why ignore Algeria?

Personally, I think it's oversaturation. I haven't talked about Iraq either, but not because I have some personal investment in Nuri al-Maliki. Nobody can be everywhere at once. I would not be surprised if — but also wouldn't be surprised if the opposite happens — Salih in Yemen goes before Qadhafi. At this point, the situation continues to defy any predictions based on past experience.

As the Libyan war draws all the attention, just remember things are happening in the other rings of this circus, not just the center ring.


Anonymous said...

Why Libya? Probably for the same reason as less-serious parts of the media have been preoccupied with Carlos Estevez this past week: Gaddafi has a much greater entertainment value than Saleh or Maliki or any of a thousand other stories they could be covering.

David Mack said...

US TV aphorism: "If it bleeds, it leads." That's infotainment!

Nell said...

The circus metaphor isn't particularly apt, or sensitive.

Michael Collins Dunn said...


Perhaps not apt, and I certainly didn't mean to imply these event are for our entertainment, but I was seeking a metaphor for something that draw attention away from what was going on nearby. Suggestions?

Michael Collins Dunn said...


It took me a while to decipher Carlos Estevez (I'm not a celebrity type), but as I'm sure you know the Sheen/Qadhafi comparisons are abundant.