FRANCE 5 DOCUMENTARY On Algerian Hirak: All you need to know.
Journalist Mustapha Kessous released a documentary on the 5th official state channel France 5 on May 25 called “Algeria, Mon Amour.” Although the title is vague enough to encompass anything throughout the history of Algeria. The production marketed itself to be about the Algerian “Hirak”. During the making of the documentary, Kessous told the witnesses that the documentary was about the “Life of Algerian Youth in the protests”. The production team deliberately portrayed leftist definitions of freedom, alternative symbolisms, and taboo discussions that ought to challenge some fundamental conservative values in the majority of Algerians. This ranges from freedom to wear necklaces of the cross and female masturbation to visuals of alcohol and weed.
Let’s divide reactions amongst people into 2: The first being a hatred of liberal beliefs portrayed in the documentary. The 2nd is a feeling of clickbait and misrepresentation because the documentary took advantage of the Hirak buzz. Other reactions are a mixture of both.
Let’s make one thing straight: These “Edgy” people in the documentary do represent a part of the Algerian Hirak, they represent themselves and the principles they fight for. And that’s all we need to know to prove it.
State television responded by stating that France is attacking Algeria and undermining both the 1954 revolution from 66 years ago and the December 2019 elections. One can imagine the percentage of Algerians who still aren’t satisfied with Tebboune to be confused about which side to stand with.
The Ministry of external affairs convoked the French ambassador in Algiers. The French ministry of foreign affairs filed a response that says media in France has full independence in production and is protected by French law. (which is also ridiculous.)
Why did we end up with misrepresentation: the theories
A P.R. campapign to undermine El Hirak
Are the French leading a P.R. campaign against the confused North African Arabo-Maghrebian Amazigh Muslim culture? That’s too much power to give the journalist for his own right. In some sense, you might even go out and say that he doesn’t deserve this much credit. For some people, something other than this theory would be inconsiderable, because that would mean it was all pure chance for him to attack fundamental values of Algerian culture and cause this much chaos. This brings us to our next point, have we built systems globalized systems around media that make ideological imperialism inevitable?
The political economy of media
The capitalist system of operation has a special impact when it comes to media because media reflects and shapes society at large and represents ideologies. In the capitalist economy, it is threatened by its own necessity to make money to lose its credibility: Misrepresentation and ideological reinforcement.
In capitalist media, audiences are a commodity to be sold for advertisers, the main concern of media is to gather as many audiences as possible. This is the case with Mustapha Kessous who decided to shed light on youth in liberal and counter-cultural belonging. Because this is the angel that attracts France 5 audiences, even though it is not a full representation of the Algerian Hirak.
The dominant-dominee relationship
Many would agree that the dominant is bound to follow the dominee. In this case, the ideology of individual freedom and materialist interests beats the collectivity and belief in religion. Could it be that the systems we built around media are the things that reinforce dominant ideologies to the weak? Is there a way around this system where ideology can live harmoniously without the poking and hurting that comes with globalization? The continuous clash between ideologies? Philosopher Hegel argues that history is shaped when an antithesis is created to counteract an already existent thesis, and then create a synthesis that becomes a thesis after an anti-thesis is introduced and the cycle continues. Are we doomed to be in constant clash? Hegel points out that there will be a time when we have realized full harmony with the “whole spirit”, where all our demands are met and we live happily amongst nature.
If these people are part of the Hirak and the documentary shed light on them, why did we get frustrated by them being shown on French Television? There is no rule in journalism that forces you to proportionally correlate the number of minutes on a point of view in a documentary to their actual percentage of representations in real life. Say for example: If we have some miraculous data that proves that around 1% of the Algerian population are consumers of alcohol, you don’t have to restrict around 1% of the documentary to be alcohol-related visuals or points of views expressing pro-alcohol consumption, right? But the fact that people got mad means that there has to be something wrong with the system.
Oftentimes, misrepresentation is not that obvious. If you check an article on an environmental issue, chances are you will find 2 scientific views commentating on the issue inside the article: 1) That believes the causes of the issue to be manmade and 2) saying it’s natural. This is logical; In journalism, you have to show 2 opposing sides, right? Sure, but this “2 sides of the story should be highlighted to be objective” rule in journalism is not representative of reality in this case. In the scientific community, 99% of scientists think climate change is manmade, yet we still allocate the same amount of time in media to 99% of the scientists to the 1%. This might be why people are still uncertain about the reality of climate change. It’s easy to critique objectivity and point limits to any kind of writing or research.
Language is essentially like that. And in a capitalist society where everyone is busy all the time, people like to drill down complex issues into convenient little blobs for faster reach and understanding. The effects of this, as witnessed in the documentary and the climate change reporting, are misrepresenting whole complex issues.
Think about the last time you talked about depression and misrepresented the different kinds it manifests itself and how other people might feel it. That’s the difficulty in summarizing and writing. The only way around that is by writing a lot, which may not be very convenient for some people if they end up having to read full Wikipedia articles on every page of the New York Times.