When misinformation and manipulation hold sway

Durban- South Africa (PANA) -- Given the stakes, the record attendance and the controversies surrounding its topics, it was little wonder the World Conference against Racism turned the host city, Durban, into a stage par excellence for misinformation and manipulation.
Despite numerous briefing sessions and press conferences, the wildest of rumours continued to make their rounds of the press centre hosting 700 journalists.
The much-publicised withdrawal of the US delegation and Israeli delegations whipped up rumours about further withdrawals in the pipeline.
First, Australia was rumoured to have protested against abusive language used in reference to its indigenous populations.
Next came rumours that the European Union was threatening to pull out if the conference took the twist of a trial against colonialism and the Slave Trade.
On Thursday Africa was rumoured on the verge of a walk-out on grounds that western representatives tended to view the sufferings of Black communities as less important than those of Jews and other peoples to whom solemn apologies had been made.
Another type of rumour focusing on Afro-American relations was fuelled by a distortion of a statement in which President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal.
He was reported as indicating that Africa was ready to drop its call for apology and reparations - hence turning its back on its brothers of the Diaspora - in exchange for western support to the New African Initiative.
This rumour was so calculatedly sustained that the African group, chaired by Rwanda, had to issue an unequivocal disclaimer, restating its negotiating positions as spelt out in the Dakar Declaration.
Finally, one last form of manipulation consisted in some delegations doing all they could to give the impression that the withdrawal of a given country deprived the conference of its substance.
With this, they reckoned the conference would fail - an outcome that would please racists and extremists for whom any divisions within the international community could only reinforce their exclusionist ideologies and doctrines.
However, those undermining the Durban meeting somehow lose sight of the decisive contribution its predecessors (equally spurned by the US) made to the dismantling, for instance, of the apartheid system in South Africa.
One only needs to take a look at the other side of the coin to see that the obstinate refusal of one country to discuss racism and discrimination with the rest of the world can only suggest that it has skeletons hidden in its cupboard.

07 september 2001 22:50:00

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