Aletho News


From Bana to Neda to Genevieve: The Iconography of Turmoil

Genevieve Legay (L) and Neda Agha-Soltan (R)
By Hafsa Kara-Mustapha | American Herald Tribune | April 2, 2019

In the digital age, conflicts are sold to public opinion via powerful imagery, one that would be ingrained in the national consciousness and make for a solid casus belli.

More often than not they are of women or young girls who are presented as the victims of a brutal regime that only Western benevolence can save.

In Syria, a young girl called Bana Al Abed rapidly turned into the iconic figure of the Syrian crisis when she tweeted about the horrors of the conflict and the perils of life in a war zone.

She soon became the favorite of the celebrity Twitterati and was eventually hosted by Turkish leader Recip Tayep Erdogan, touring Western capitals and doing the talk show rounds before signing, with the help of her more eloquent mother, a lucrative book deal.

Her story precipitated Western intervention in Syria.

Before her, we’d been treated to Malaala Youzoufai, a young girl desperate to educate herself and fearlessly challenging Taliban brutality until they eventually shot her in the head but was saved by British doctors. Her face, now familiar to millions around the world thanks to her consequent fame, made Western presence in Afghanistan appear worthwhile despite its absolute failure in defeating the far less equipped Taliban.

After the talk show rounds, the book deals and the presentations at the UN she was eventually awarded half a Nobel peace prize for what appeared to be good services.

She has now entered adulthood and since she spoke out in defense of the children of Gaza has disappeared from public view.

In 2009, when the drum rolls were once again beating for war against Iran, it was the face of Neda Agha-Soltan that became the ‘poster victim’ of what was then dubbed the Green revolution.

Claims that this young woman had been shot by government forces turned her picture into the face of the rebellion.

Since it was claimed she’d been killed, it was no longer possible to invite her on the talk show circuit, instead, her face became the iconic imagery of the Middle Eastern turmoil of summer 2009.

Which brings us to Genevieve Legay.

Who? I hear you ask.

Legay is a 74-year-old French woman who was brutally pushed to the ground by French police forces during the weekly ‘Gilets Jaunes’ protests in France.

She fractured her skull and was left bleeding on the ground.

Though the disturbing images were broadcast in France, unlike those of brutalized people in other geographies, Legay’s was not transformed into the ‘iconic’ image of France’s protests.

She wasn’t invited on talk shows and the picture of her ashen face lying in a puddle of blood was not broadcast across the front pages of international media.

It’s been almost two weeks and her name is all but forgotten. No foreign head of state has invited her to discuss the brutality of the French regime.

No memes have been circulating on various social media with her face and an emotionally charged caption inviting viewers to sympathize with victims of French brutality.

There have been no twitter storms and George Clooney hasn’t waded into the controversy by condemning such violence.

It’s fair to say there will be no book deals or international prizes for Mizz Legay who is a victim but in the wrong context.

For victims of brutality to be accepted as such, they would have to be brutalized by a regime Western nations have decided was evil or at the very least evil enough.

Icons of ‘foreign’ brutality have to convey a message that aligns with the political agendas of Western powers.

It has to re-affirm in their public opinion’s mindset that state brutality is an alien, backward concept and that it only occurs far away.

For it to be considered relevant and newsworthy it has to serve a purpose, one of regime change or war or usually both.

When, however, such powerful imagery occurs in a Western setting, opinion shapers are destabilized.

What should they do? Can they avoid broadcasting the information when camera phones capture everything and everywhere?

The key is to report it but just not dwell on it.

The victim of whichever ‘tyrannical’ country is in the West’s bad books will become a household name, the one of Western tyranny will become a footnote in the news agenda.

For every war, unrest, protest in the third world we’ve had the accompanying ‘iconic image.’

For every protest, police brutality, unlawful arrest we’ve seen in the west we’ve witnessed organized mass amnesia.

Move along, there is nothing to see when Western crimes are committed.

April 2, 2019 - Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular |

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