Unit 3, Assignment 3, Virginia Adams

Upon discussing how the end of the Rwandan genocide came about and the implications therein, Gourevitch asks the question “who the hell cared about Rwanda?” (Gourevitch 168). This question not only points to weak international responses to this genocide but also asks about the nature of international response to potential future genocides. According to Sontag, the distinction falls on whether those responding perceive a connection to the victims. She posits that “those whom war spares are callously indifferent to the sufferings beyond their purview (Sontag 66) and this dichotomy explores how the western powers, who could not experience empathy for the victims due to a more limited nature of their shared human experience, as such made less than minimal efforts to help these victims. Both authors highlight the effects of difference on the absence of help within this crisis. For Gourevitch, aid would only come if those helping perceived a clear incentive for themselves in doing so and, as such, it did come to the refugee camps of the Hutu power: “an array of more than a hundred relief agencies frantic to get in on the astonishingly dramatic-and yes, lucrative-action” (Gourevitch 165). The returns the media would provide on investing money in these camps, presented as a humanitarian crisis after a war, proved far greater than deploying troops to try to defend the victims in this “war”. Helping the Tutsis in the genocide created a high risk opportunity with minimally beneficial media coverage, whereas sending money to unsanitary camps with starving occupants creates a visual portraying the helping force incredibly well. This complex, nonetheless, demonstrates the value of a positive self-image over truth. Sontag discusses how war images tell a biased narrative, in the use of “images that illustrated America’s absolute military superiority over its enemy (Sontag 66). The inherent manipulation of reality within a photographic depiction inevitably does not give its viewers a full account of what they see, and varying levels of truth exist within every photograph. Whenever trying to distill the entirety of an event into one image, this placement will by nature leave gaps in the narrative. However, this marks a substantial difference from propaganda, which uses photos to defend a singular point at all cost and instead of trying to draw a new conclusion based on new photos. The usage of many western powers of the refugee camps as a media initiative falls somewhere in between these extremes on this spectrum. Nonetheless, the distance these sources have enables them to construct their narratives as such and to emphasize their own interests over the interests of those dying and a consequently blatant disregard for truth.

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