"I am not at war, are you?"

There is more to the world than Western countries, declares the regional daily newspaper Aamulehti (21 September 2001) in an article written by Maila-Katriina Tuominen and carrying the headline quoted above.

She tells readers that the American news giant CNN declares every day to millions of people that the United States is at war. At the bottom of the television screen there is a strip which reads "America's new war".

For four days Tuominen watched both CNN and Italian news channels' reports. She found this channel-hopping educational and embarrassing.

"CNN concentrated only on what happened in the heart of the United States on the 11th of September and showed the country's President George W. Bush's first reactions after the terrorist strike and broadcast repeatedly the video where he declares that the Americans are at war.

"One can understand the pain, sorrow and rage of human beings. But it is difficult to understand that with the collapse of the WTC towers the rest of the world seemed to have completely disappeared from the CNN newsroom.

"Italian TV channels' news reports had analyses and background information about the event which shocked the whole world.

"CNN's international news channel is being watched all over the world. When it is repeated often enough that we are at war, the message starts to have an effect and sinks into human consciousness.

"It doesn't mean that one accepts terror strikes if one looks for explanations and analyses them. But to have a declaration of war as the first strategy for action, obliges everyone to think whether he or she is at war ot not.

"We have to choose our side. I am not at war against anything or anybody."

Tuominen examines some findings on war propaganda. In the cases of the Gulf War and the Bosnian conflict, an academic analysis came to the conclusion that the media has an effect on how the international community reacts and what kind of reactions it demands. The media can help to reduce cruelties and illegalities but it can also provoke them.

"How much is the media now contributing to an amazingly quickly established image of 'good West, bad East' or 'us Christians, them Muslims'"? Tuominen asks.

"The task of the media is to report what is happening but the old truth about putting events into context is still unbeatable."


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