What is “Orientalism” ? How does it impact the manner in which scholars and the media interpret events in the Middle East and Muslim world according to Edward Said?
Orientalism is the integration of Eastern Culture by the media and artists into their craft which would include news, articles and literature. Basically, the perception of the population regarding the east through the information presented to the by media The Eastern culture is presented in a very unbiased and truthful way to promote open mindedness and unity. Thus the term “Oriental” is given fairness and a chance to be viewed in a respective way.
Edward Said is a Palestinian-American who served many roles including a writer, an activist and a philosopher. He was most famous for writing his book Orientalism in 1978. In the book, he argued that Orientalism was perceived under the wrong ideals due to western bias. What he called as Eurocentric ideals has been established in the American and European culture which misled to have the wrong perception regarding the Middle Eastern culture and the Islamic religion. His sentiments are also the same with the Arabic and Middle Eastern people who have viewed the west as an evil and capitalist nation. Basically, the representation of each nation to the other has been manipulated by wrongful media output which is sometimes manipulated by political and social forces that tend to amplify the things that would benefit their purpose (Tibawi 24).
Orientalism made a significant change on the literary products of society including historical, cultural and social studies in which the some of the wrong ideas could have been embedded in history as fact when in fact it is falsely implying negative things. European domination of the east served which would include political and social oppression is a factor that has negatively changed views on the present eastern nations. Naturally, European views on the social trend would be perceived as the norms by which society should adhere to maintain appropriateness and values. Thus, the Eastern being considered outsiders would be viewed with unconformity. It is wrong to compare the Eastern culture based on personal views since their identity is compromised without proper evaluation (Tibawi 26).
Media representation of Oriental culture has been a feminized and unreasonable nation. This is a product of a one sided view in which the proper authorities are not given the chance to explain and shed light on their heritage that would appear incomprehensible to another nationality with a different set of beliefs and religion.
The Orientalism which has been set up has been corrupted by a history of political conflicts that has reached a point where misinterpretation of culture became the reason of misunderstanding.
The current condition by which each nation depicts each other would perpetuate a cycle of misunderstanding that would lead to many uncontrollable and unpredictable factors. Proper guidelines should be set in order to have a fair view on one camp and avoid the unnecessary misunderstanding. It is important to have a source that reflects the truth and the reasons by which the truth are established. In that way alone would be the real reflection of one’s society could be achieved.
The point of contention is the political issue involved in the view of the other. This should be eliminated to prevent misinformation and deception caused by hidden motives for one’s purpose disregarding national consciousness.
Read Ibrahim Kalin’s article on the history of Western views of Islam. How has the evolution of images of Islam impacted current discussions of Islam in the West?
One of the traumatic experience of the west due to terrorism is the September 11 attacks on United States soil which killed thousands of people and crippled business in New York. This started the discriminatory views on Islamic culture which became dominated by fear and hatred.
The view on Islamic nation that has been perpetrated by media in response to the attack is a terrorist nation seeking to destroy the west. The media has been undoubtedly bias since the social consciousness at that time fostered hate and anger against Muslims. It led to many significant actions such as the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The terrorist having used the term Jihad or holy war, has significantly and negatively changed the views of the American people on Islamic culture. Due to hatred, they have ignored the essence of the term Jihad and have viewed it as an act of violence instead.
The issues of the negativity against Islamic people has then continually perpetrated as a real threat to the people of the free world. But the basis would be subconsciously historical due to the fact that a war between the east and the west has been around for centuries. The term confrontation has been established as a major factor in the relationship of the American-European nations to the Middle Eastern nations. The ancient view on Islam has been negative due to the old wars that have occurred during the medieval age. These have been embedded in historical literature and at the same time, the culture of discrimination only worsened it.
The younger population who has viewed media coverage of the September 11 attacks are manipulated in a way, to have a negative view on the Islamic nations due to the mischievous act of a group of people which are isolated and only share ethnicity and heritage.
The effects of this discrimination would generate a national attitude of hostility and hate. Although it is natural to feel bad on the lost of lives of one’s countrymen, the act of revengeful war is as wrong as that of terrorism. The act of fighting for freedom and fighting to return the despair and hostility are two different things.
The view on Islam has become greatly negative due to a miscommunication that has occurred on both sides of the camp. A culture of hatred has been established on the misconception of Islamic culture. Its effects would shape history to a point that the cycle of wrongful vengeance would be generated as a way to satisfy the negative part of the people.
What is the role of the media in the social and political transformation of the modern Middle East? Consider the evolution from reliance on print media (newspapers, periodicals, journals), and the introduction of radio, television (broadcast, cable, satellite), and the Internet.
The media is one of the proponent to shape the social trend on the different aspects of the country may it be political or national issues. It is important to consider that the power of the media is wide and effective. The population as a whole relies on the media to be updated of the current events in the country.
The media’s continual process relies on an integrated network of gatherers and reporters that shape the outcome by which it would be presented in society. Latest technology such as the Internet greatly enhances their capability to transmit all over the world. It would permit the authorities to directly address issues without the burden of distance and time as a deterrent factor. It would give accessibility to the people of other nations and give light to cultural and political differences. It could serve as a tool to help unite the world by presenting the real view on things as it can be used by everyone.
As much as gathering and distribution of information concerned, political and social bias is the main root of wrongful presentation of the events. Political groups who have established their own television network, newspaper company and website could easily misrepresent groups of people, establishing them as factual culprits. It is important to have an open mind with regards to the input of information coming from different resources.
The role of the media in the political and social transformation is to maintain transparency and fairness in broadcasting so that the proper resolution needed to be done by the society occur. Objectivity should be maintained without outside interference which could result to manipulation and the shaping of the wrong social consciousness. The power of the media is so great that it could change the course of action of a nation towards the other. Media output on war and terrorisms both in the east and west has incited negative things which promoted violence and death in many countries. Iraq and Afghanistan for example, have been victims of continual fighting due to media neglect on showing the death of the people caught in the crossfire.
The main responsibility of the media is to promote truth with exaggeration and sensationalism. The truth is as powerful as deception in changing the views and actions of the population. Basically, the people’s reaction is the direct effect of the input fed by media. If the truth is given to them, the right response would be generated and in turn, would lead to a better consequence. The eyes of the people would open without political and social bias that is inappropriate and manipulating.
The social and political trend should not affect media coverage. It is necessary that connection form politicians should be severed by media elements to maintain objectivity and reality. Powerful political leaders tend to shaped media output based on the course of their action. Social pressure on the other hand, is another powerful tool that pushes media personnel to show the things that would benefit their company ratings. In some cases, economic viability has been the driving force of large media companies. What is shown is the things that is wanted to here by the majority to increase sales and accommodation. This leads to deterioration of the views of the people which would later destroy societal norm.
Tibawi, Alan. “English-speaking Orientalists: A Critique of Their Approach to Islam and Arab Nationalism”, Islamic Quarterly 8 (1964): 25-45
Young, Robert. White Mythologies: Writing History and the West (New York ; London: Routledge, 1990.
Bhaba, Homi. Nation and Narration (New York ; London: Routledge, Chapman ; Hall, 1990.