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Cheap Sensationalism

Published: May 30, 2008, Author: MHirch

This is not their story. Nor is it good news to the people the media reports concern.
The coverage of a recent fly-over of a remote part of the Amazon rainforest during which members of one of the world’s last uncontacted tribes were spotted is all about chasing ratings by European media.

What about the key principles of good reports such as sensitivity and accuracy? Not a lot of these can be discerned in the articles on the newly “discovered” tribe.
Certainly the pictures of and reports about the tribe could be a great chance to highten the awareness of the world to the plight of indigenous tribes. However, there is little to thoroughly inform and educate the civilized world about the true situation of indigenous peoples. Quite the contrary, the common notion of the soon to be extinct indigenous tribes is promoted as, even though very sad, simply inevitable.

In Germany people were sending around pictures of the Amazonian tribe today like trophies of the exotic. The need was expressed that anthropologists should immedialtely research and study the tribe to satisfy the readers’ curiosity. No question was raised about whether the tribe maybe might not want this to happen. The common understanding being one of the tribes as the primitives „we“ cannot put in control of their own lives.
Strangely enough the so-called “primitives” appear so much more healthy and strong than their obese and diseased counterparts in the western world.

What is clear in this is that to uncontacted tribes reports about their existence often equals sure destruction and death, seeing friends and families die at the hands of outsiders, in genocidal massacres or epidemics, as well as long-term annihilation of their cultures through self-destructive coping methods such as substance abuse and suicide.

It is high time we get the real news and true reasons for and interests in specific developmental efforts and what they mean for regional tribes. If we want to go beyond sensationalism we need to fight for the survival of every single indigenous culture ensuring that indigenous territory is protected in accordance with international law.

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