This chapter focuses on how television coverage of major disasters in the global South shaped the historical and political trajectory of humanitarian aid in Britain, through a case study of British television coverage of the deadly famine in Ethiopia in 1973. ITV’s The Unknown Famine shaped the trajectory of British humanitarianism in three important ways: it provided an empathic demonstration of the power of televised images of human suffering to mobilise the public; it was an important signpost for wider critiques of media representation and disaster fundraising imagery emerging within the aid community; and it contributed towards significant changes in the British government’s approach to disaster relief policy.
Juvenile actors and humanitarian sentiment in the 1940s
This chapter examines specific ideological and aesthetic dimensions of the representation of children in American films produced during and directly after the Second World War in relation to the promotion and operations of the United Nations. It analyses how vulnerable children from the world’s war zones appeared and functioned in four Hollywood studio pictures. These films presented groups of children to harness humanitarian sentiment in support of the ideology and activities of the UN. While the figure of the child acquired new cultural and political significance in the era of the United Nations’ wartime and post-war endeavours in humanitarianism, the presentation and performances of Hollywood’s juvenile actors simultaneously became subject to new modes of moral apprehension and aesthetic evaluation.
The United States Peace Corps in the early 1960s
This chapter focuses on the United States Peace Corp and explores the nature and effects of the Peace Corps’ publicity, media and popular culture portrayals during the 1960s. It shows how the Peace Corps rendered international development into a topic for mainstream discussion and public engagement, and traces some of the political outcomes of this publicity. By focusing on volunteers’ altruistic intentions Peace Corps publicity portrayed international development as a humanitarian project. Presenting US intervention as a positive expression of American altruism, the Peace Corps helped popularise the view that America had a responsibility to modernise the ‘underdeveloped’ nations of the world. This chapter argues that, by privileging American viewpoints and eliding competing visions, Peace Corps publicity helped normalise the logic of intervention.
Cinema, news media and perception management of the Gaza conflicts
This chapter examines media coverage of the Gaza conflicts and considers what occurs when humanitarian images of Palestinian casualties take centre stage. The chapter argues that a media outcome that appears to be favourable to the Palestinians, in that it focuses on their suffering, can actually have the opposite effect. Addressing UK, US and Israeli news media, as well as popular television and the documentary films Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008) and Where Should the Birds Fly (Fida Qishta, 2013), the chapter addresses the ways ‘perception management’ can serve to divorce the public from realities of state violence through a kind of cinematic derealisation that enables states to reduce perceptions of blame for their atrocities and act with impunity.
Journalism practice, risk and humanitarian communication
Jairo Lugo-Ocando and Gabriel Andrade
The news media creates regimes of pity in order to mobilise the public towards humanitarian causes. Such regimes of pity tend to obviate the power relations between those who suffer and the spectators. This chapter proposes a type of news coverage that creates a specific type of political solidarity and which does not reproduce the power relations that have been prevalent until now in most news narratives and humanitarian campaigns. It argues that journalism practice must adopt a view of ‘shared risk’ in which people embrace equally concerns about a common future. The notion of societal risk tends to create the type of collective uncertainty that brings about political action in ways that pity regimes do not.
This chapter looks at the portrayal of Syrian children in media coverage of the Za’atari refugee camp. It analyses how reporting on children’s issues evolved over a three-year period and the role of aid agencies in the newsgathering process. Media coverage of the camp moved from a hard news approach, where children were framed in what could be perceived a negative manner, to a features-led approach with deeper context and nuance to articles, presenting children as more actively and positively involved in camp life. The chapter argues that the relationship between humanitarian organisations and journalists can be mutually beneficial and result in reporting with deeper context and nuance, whilst better protecting children along the way.
Grassroots exceptionalism in humanitarian memoir
Memoir has for some time played a significant role in the expansion and interpretation of the humanitarian industry. For both the relief and development industries memoir is admirably suited as an ambassador from the field to the larger public, oriented as it is to personal experience and testimony. This chapter explores how humanitarian memoir generates an aura of authenticity much-needed by an industry reliant on public donations and on the perception of its status as a player outside the systems of state sovereignty and global capital. Analysing two founder narratives, this chapter considers the ‘humanitarian naive’ at work: the role of the ‘fool’ proves both revelatory and empowering, asserting the value of sui generis intelligence to produce humanitarian knowledge and even participate in global governance.
From starving children to satirical saviours
This chapter examines how the development of social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, has changed humanitarian NGOs’ media practices and subsequently altered the ways that supporters and publics are engaged. The chapter contributes an understanding of how people participate in these differing narratives on Facebook, and considers ‘everyday’ humanitarian actions so as to address the engagement that is often excluded in political discourses that focus on institutional politics. Facebook algorithms, along with the architects of Facebook, have now become the new ‘gatekeepers’ of humanitarian communication and NGOs have started to adapt their visual depictions of humanitarianism. In particular, this chapter proposes that the Facebook ‘like’, and users’ interaction online, changes the visual communication used by contributing to the governance of visibility.
Michael Lawrence and Rachel Tavernor
This collection interrogates the representation of humanitarian crisis and catastrophe, and the refraction of humanitarian intervention and action, from the mid-twentieth century to the present, across a diverse range of media forms: traditional and contemporary screen media (film, television and online video) as well as newspapers, memoirs, music festivals and social media platforms (such as Facebook, YouTube and Flickr). The book thus explores the historical, cultural and political contexts that have shaped the mediation of humanitarian relationships since the middle of the twentieth century. Together, the chapters illustrate the continuities and connections, as well as the differences, which have characterised the mediatisation of both states of emergency and acts of amelioration. The authors reveal and explore the significant synergies between the humanitarian enterprise, the endeavour to alleviate the suffering of particular groups, and media representations, and their modes of addressing and appealing to specific publics. The chapters consider the ways in which media texts, technologies and practices reflect and shape the shifting moral, political, ethical, rhetorical, ideological and material dimensions of international humanitarian emergency and intervention, and have become integral to the changing relationships between organisations, institutions, governments, individual actors and entire sectors.