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It should come as no surprise that the wall-to-wall U.S. coverage of the turmoil provoked by the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, was echoed in the global media. And a quick survey of international coverage of the ongoing protests suggests that it often reflects pre-existing views of the United States.
Russian and Iranian media have, perhaps unsurprisingly, printed scathing judgments about the police response to protests in Missouri. One Russian site, Svobodnaya Pressa, coined the term “Afromaidan,” implying that the U.S. is getting a dose of its own medicine for backing anti-Russian Euromaidan rallies in Kiev, Ukraine. The article poked fun at the notion of a land of opportunity, signaling that America’s “race war” proves Washington’s hypocrisy.
The article quotes Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech: “African-Americans living in the United States today are enjoying elevated political and social status. Notably, the country is having its first African-American president in history,” read an excerpt from the story. But the article goes on to describe the persistent, underlying tension in U.S. society as “a deeply rooted chronic disease that keeps tearing U.S. society apart, just as manifested by the latest racial riot in Missouri.”
The story underlines how prejudice is entrenched in the U.S., with conflict inevitable in a multicultural melting pot. The author rips into the U.S. for aggressively advocating human rights abroad while failing to address simmering issues at home. Mentioning American accusations towards “almost 200 countries across the world for their so-called poor human rights records,” the commentary concluded that the U.S. should focus more on its own problems rather than pointing fingers overseas.
The Chinese version of the article made repeated reference to “chronic” racism and alluded to possible embarrassment and schadenfreude on the part of the U.S. and China, respectively. It also referred to the Trayvon Martin tragedy by calling Ferguson just the “tip of the iceberg.” Another Chinese-language article from Xinhua highlighted the dangers of ethnic turmoil, painting a picture of Michael Brown in what can be construed as a disparaging tone.
‘New hero of America’
In France, center-left French newspaper Le Monde ran a headline on Monday calling attention to new developments: “National guard mobilized in Ferguson after night of tension.” The article addressed President Barack Obama’s planned two-day break from his August family vacation, saying that the White House was set to examine the “Mike Brown Law” petition to place a camera on every police officer. The article noted that 113,000 people have signed the online petition. It also cited statistics on how such a policy reduced complaints against the police in one California town.
"In the current U.S. media coverage of Michael Brown’s death, his photo is almost nowhere to be seen. Media reports are dominated by the images of burning suburban streets and a militarized police force – a visual language that suggests war rather than the tragic death of an unarmed young man shot by a police officer."
One Indian citizen journalist, Leroy Leo D’Souza, summarized the scant attention that the story has generated, writing, “Not more than a small 100 word article in the corner of a newspaper or a two-minute television coverage in about 2 hours.” But he argued that Indian readers should pay attention because of similarities with oppressed groups in India, suggesting the Michael Brown shooting provides lessons about government discrimination and police accountability.