FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Hashtag activism has failed Afghanistan
Posted:Jan 7, 2016
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Carlo Munoz
 
This week another American name was added to the list of the over 2,300 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have fought and died in Afghanistan.
 
Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock, 30, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was killed and two others were wounded during an attempt to evacuate wounded U.S. special operations forces during a firefight with Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province.
 
 
Nearly a week earlier, six U.S. soldiers lost their lives in a suicide bombing attack in a central Afghanistan province just 45 minutes northwest of the country's capital of Kabul.
 
Seven Americans dead in the last two months, fighting a war the White House and Pentagon declared essentially over last December.
 
During the ensuing news cycle, reporters dutifully filed stories and news broadcasts, attempting to put into context why American troops continue to die carrying out what the Pentagon has dubbed a "non-combat mission."
 
Professional talking heads and armchair pundits took to the airwaves and social media to debate Washington's continuing involvement in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Defense Department spokesman Peter Cook characterized the loss of yet another American life in Afghanistan "a painful reminder" of what has now become the longest armed conflict in U.S. history.
 
But for all the breaking news coverage these latest casualties caused little more than a ripple online.
 
A day after the helicopter crash in Helmand, the hottest trending issues on Twitter and Facebook included #WeedMovies, #ZoeEverAfter and pictures of Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway wearing a bikini while pregnant.
 
In the post-9/11 world, the power of social media can act as a conduit to trigger widespread political upheaval, as seen during the Arab Spring. A simple hashtag, like #BringBackOurGirls, #Kony2012 or #JeSuisCharlie can ignite and unite the passions of millions across the globe behind a single cause.
 
Social media also has the power to take the virulent message of what was once the ragtag remnants of al Qaeda terror cells in Iraq and Syria and help transform them into the predominant existential terror threat facing the world today.
 
But amid all this, Afghanistan continues to bubble below the surface—a war that is entering its 14th year that has claimed thousands of U.S., NATO and Afghan lives has yet to garner a trending hashtag.
 
The simple question is why? And the answer, simply put, is Americans are simply tired of this war.
 
War weariness over Afghanistan and Iraq helped, in part, then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama take the White House in 2008 and again in 2012 on the promise he would end both conflicts during his presidency.
 
Even during the surge years of 2009 through 2011, arguably the bloodiest years of the conflict in which 1,200 U.S. died in Afghanistan, reporting on the war only made up four percent of total news coverage by U.S. outlets, according to a 2010 study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
 
 
Afghan war coverage only made up five percent of U.S. all news coverage the previous year, according to the report. In 2015, U.S. casualty rates hit the lowest mark in Afghanistan since 2002, with 22 Americans dying in the conflict that year.
 
As a result, as of September 2015, only the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Al Jazeera and Stars and Stripes had reporters based in Kabul reporting on the war full time.
 
All the major U.S. network news outlets along with international news organizations such as the BBC, Guardian and Los Angeles Times have pulled out of Afghanistan, depending on a network of freelancers and local stringers to cover the war.
 
With the war shifting from a conventional conflict to the "grey war" fought by American and NATO "advisers" alongside Afghan troops, the shrinking press pool in Kabul is finding it increasingly harder to report from the front lines.
 
Officials from Operation Resolute Support, the moniker handed down by the Pentagon for America's "non-combat mission" in the country, say access to U.S. and NATO troops is limited since they are simply not in the midst of the fight anymore.
 
But to the American and NATO troops and their Afghan counterparts that still go outside the wire day in and day out, the war is not defined in the abstract terms favored by those in Kabul or Washington.
 
“Nothing has changed, really. Except for the rules of engagement,” Czech 1st Sgt. Mike Baka told me during a nighttime reconnaissance mission in July. Based at Bagram Airfield in central Afghanistan, Baka's unit patrolled the same area where a suicide bomber killed six American soldiers in December.
 
In the 2008 spy thriller Body of Lies, grizzled CIA division chief Ed Hoffman—played by Russell Crowe—succinctly characterized America's fortitude when it comes to prolonged war. In the film, Hoffman lays plain the country's attitude to the protracted nature of the Global War on Terror.
 
"Here at home with every death reported we have to deal with a public-opinion trajectory that slides rapidly from supportive to negative to downright hostile," he tells a duo of unbelieving State Department bureaucrats during the movie's opening monologue.
 
"People just get sick and tired of a moment's silence at a ball game. They just wanna be told that it's over."
 
After 14 years, Americans just want to be told that it is over. And online and on social media—for better or worse—it pretty much is.
 
The Daily Dot, January 8, 2016
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has confirmed his presence for the occasion. In an exclusive interview with INDIA REVIEW & ANALYSIS, Indonesia’s Ambassador to India, Sidharto R.Suryodipuro, reminded Nilova Roy Chaudhury that the first Chief Guest for India’s Republic Day celebrations, in 1950, w
 
read-more
The words of Ho Chi Minh  “Nothing is more precious than independence and liberty” rang true for the people of the erstwhile East Pakistan when, with increasing brutality, the West Pakistani oppression spread across the land, writes Anwar A Khan from Dhaka
 
read-more
In a significant boost to New Delhi's Act East Policy, India and Japan set up the Act East Forum on Tuesday as agreed during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to India this year for the annual bilateral meeting that would help to focus and catalyse development in India's Northeast.
 
read-more
  United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated on Friday Washington's warning that “all options are on the table” to meet North Korea's nuclear threat while offering to keep the lines of communication with Pyongyang open.
 
read-more
The 15th trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China concluded in New Delhi on Monday with many nuanced takeaways embedded in the joint statement of 46 paragraphs. Reiterating that the forum “is not directed against any other country”, the statement underlined the importance of the establishment o
 
read-more
The first thing that one sees when a flight approaches New Delhi is thick smog that envelopes the city and its lack of greenery.  In almost all other major cities of India lack of greenery is the most obvious sight that one sees when approaching it by air.
 
read-more

Pakistan has agreed to allow the rupee to depreciate after holding talks with the International Mone­tary Fund (IMF) on the country's economy.

 
read-more

Two major global changes in the past year; the ‘Brexit’ referendum and the advent of Donald Trump, writes Sandeep Kaur Bhatia

 
read-more

It is also imperative for India to explore other regions for markets. Its trade deficit with Latin America has been narrowing. Also, its trade with Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala has increased, ...

 
read-more
Column-image

Over the last 25 years, India's explosive economic growth has vaulted it into the ranks of the world's emerging major powers. Long plagued by endemic poverty, until the 1990s the Indian economy was also hamstrung by a burdensome regulat...

 
Column-image

Title: A Ticket to Syria; Author: Shirish Thorat; Publisher: Bloomsbury India: Pages: 254; Price: Rs 399

 
Column-image

Gorichen, a majestic peak in the Eastern Himalayas at an altitude of 22,500 feet, is the highest in Arunachal Pradesh. Beautiful to look at and providing a fantastic view from the top, it is extremely tough climb for mountaineers.

 
Column-image

It is often conjectured if the reason for long-standing conflicts and insurgencies, in the developing world, especially South Asia, is not only other powers fishing in troubled waters but also the keenness of arms industries, mostly Western, to...

 
Column-image

Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699