Content warning: This article mentions institutional transphobia.
Whenever there are times of mass tragedy, a wealth of information and news is buried and hidden, simply because no one is paying attention.
In the past two weeks alone, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, headlines about the invasion have taken over every major site and news network — and for good reason. This is a major current event, and its coverage should be as thorough as possible. But other governments and corporations have taken advantage of this coverage by releasing news that would usually be incredibly controversial if not for the more prominent headlines.
This has been a pattern throughout the information era. When a major tragedy strikes and takes over global and local headlines, what better time is there to make a controversial governmental decision or company policy? Everyone is looking the other way, and there is no better cover to do something that would be considered massively controversial at any other time. This ‘burial journalism’ is filled with decisions that would make headlines everywhere and be considered horrifying under usual circumstances, but they are dwarfed by the major conflict going on.
That isn’t to say that the conflict isn’t important to report on. Journalism and media are always some of the most essential parts of global conflicts. Prior major conflicts of the twenty-first century, like the American invasion of Afghanistan and the Syrian civil war, have proved the immeasurable necessity of journalists.
Journalism reports on war crimes and atrocities and, in doing so, keeps the public informed and helps people in war-torn regions ask for aid. Without reporters from a variety of networks risking their lives in the war zones and continuing their work, we would have a far narrower and more filtered idea of the current state of global affairs. Journalism on these issues are paramount.
But while we focus on this conflict, we must not let others get away with their harmful decisions and controversies.
This isn’t just prophesying; this is happening as you read this right now. Despite US President Biden starting work on policies that would limit US airstrikes on foreign soil, US forces still recently carried out their first airstrikes on Somalia since August, killing an unknown number of militants and civilians.
While the timing may just be convenient and planned in advance, it becomes far less of a coincidence when you notice that Myanmar also recently launched airstrikes and attacks on a city that its government claims is filled with rebels. At the same time, Saudi Arabia launched numerous airstrikes on Yemen, and Israel-claimed bombings have erupted in Syria. At any other point, these would have all been considered big news that sparked debate, but under the smoke screen of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, they go unnoticed.
Many of these conflicts that don’t make headlines aren’t Eurocentric, whereas the Ukrainian conflict is. War is atrocious and should be condemned, wherever in the world it is. War should also be reported on and paid attention to, wherever it is. The cost of human life is just as important everywhere, regardless of geographic location.
During these massive conflicts, politicians also try to push policies that would usually face major backlash, and it isn’t until after the conflicts are over that we realize what has happened. Oftentimes, these policies are incredibly difficult to reverse.
For example, the privatization of education in the United States occurred after the devastating impacts of Hurricane Katrina. Following the hurricane, schools in New Orleans were entirely destroyed, leaving students scattered all over the country waiting for their schools to be rebuilt. Free-market fanatic Milton Friedman suggested that instead of having a public school system be rebuilt, governments should instead subsidize private schools and provide residents of the area with vouchers to use at those schools.
As a result of this catastrophe, the teachers’ unions were disbanded, causing most teachers to lose their jobs and significantly decreasing the number of public schools in the state. Such incidents, and more, are explored in Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine, and it is harrowing to see how many examples of this there have been in recent history.
As for what’s happening right now, Vladimir Putin’s main political rival, Alexi Navalny, who was in the news last year for being imprisoned and poisoned by Putin’s government, has been given a nine-year prison sentence in a private trial with very limited access to reporters and even lawyers.
Navalny has condemned Putin’s actions and the invasion of Ukraine, claiming that it was “unleashed to cover up the theft from Russian citizens and divert their attention from problems that exist inside the country.” And, indeed, that is what this war seems to be trying to do. Russia has been facing problems for decades in every area, from infrastructure to economy to military, and this has finally come to a crux.
In other news that has been affected by burial journalism, the former head of Texas’ power grid said he was following the governor’s orders when the companies and governments increased prices and amassed billions in profits during the state’s freeze last year. Meanwhile, some American state governments are considering mandating that any gender-affirming care for transgender children be considered child abuse. Caretakers could be investigated and fined for simply having and supporting a transgender child. And, just a few days ago in Paris, another associate of Jeffrey Epstein who was part of his sex trafficking ring was found dead in a cell, in similar circumstances to Epstein’s death.
Journalism is a vital and key part of the conflict in Ukraine and should be treated as such. It is the responsibility of news outlets to report on the current invasion of Ukraine and help as many people as they can, but it is also their responsibility to reveal the truth, especially the truths that people try to hide.
To keep tabs on such news, independent news organizations such as the Associated Press and Reuters are always good sources, but local government websites are also useful for looking at what your governments are up to. Burial journalism is something that companies, individuals, and governments are trying to partake in, but it is our responsibility to ensure that does not happen.
Sahir Dhalla is a second-year neuroscience and philosophy student at New College.