Tune to peace frequency
Almost all civil war situations point towards the complicity of international actors in fueling and sustaining these conflicts, sometimes for political and strategic reasons, and times for pure economic interests. Be it the transnational arms dealers or the multinational business corporations or for that matter even the various nation-states — and the extensions of all of these in the media — civil wars are in smaller or bigger measure sustained by some kind of symbiotic relationship between these actors. For instance, a rebel carrying an automatic rifle and fighting in some remote area in some third world country may no doubt pride himself in believing that he is fighting for his religious or national cause, but for those who sold or supplied this rebel with the Russian made Klashnikov or the Czech or Chinese automatic assault rifle and those who are maintaining a constant stream of ammunition to keep these rifles spewing fire, the aims and incentives are certainly different.
If the international actors from nearby and far-off places could thus fuel and sustain conflicts, it is only logical to think that same actors can play a vital role in controlling the incidence and intensity of such conflicts. International community already has many institutions and levers in place, which if employed strategically, can make this world certainly a better place by ending the menace of civil wars. But the question is will they, who have their economic interests rooted in war, be ready to do it? The answer indeed leaves little room for hope and happiness. Be it the countries producing and selling the weapons or the multinational corporations which work as commission agents for both legal as well as in the illicit trade of arms and ammunition, the financial incentives are too overwhelming for them to give up this business. And understandably as long as the economic stakes of these people remain rooted in the conflict, it will be only too naïve to think there can be any marked decrease in the incidence of conflicts and civil wars in the world.
Therefore, instead of counting on those who make and sell and trade weapons, it will be worthwhile to focus on those who consume them. For instance, we have not been successful in convincing tobacco companies that they should stop manufacturing cigarettes, however, the campaigns aimed at educating people about the harms of smoking have yielded encouraging results. We are living in “third wave” era where knowledge and information are the most potent and effective levers of power. If employed effectively, knowledge and information can play a vital role in controlling and curbing the incidence of civil wars.
Like international wars, civil wars too start as propaganda wars wherein enemy is demonized and consent is manufactured for violent action. We have seen this happening in Rwanda where Hutu radio broadcasts demonized Tutsis and paved the way for their genocide. We have seen it happening in former Yugoslavia where media was used to propagate the hyper-emotional rhetoric of ethnic and religious superiority to fuel ethnic and religious hatreds, which led to the civil war. However, both in Rwanda as well as in Balkans, international community failed terribly in harnessing the power of media to counter the hate propaganda. These failures must serve both as eye-opener and a challenge for the international community so that effective ways and means of employing media for anti-war purposes are devised and employed.
Today when social media has outplayed the traditional media in terms of both reach and appeal, this channel of communication if employed effectively together with tuning the traditional radio and TV channels to peace frequency, one could sufficiently alter the contours of war and peace. The trick of course lies in truth – for a story truthfully told with academic neutrality and dispassionate objectivity is capable of working wonders which no amount of false and disjointed propaganda and name-calling could do.