AUSTIN SZABO WRITES – Media darling or not, the Western press has largely ignored Malala Yousafzai’s stance against U.S. drone strikes — and capitalism.
Malala has been praised for her efforts to raise awareness of the importance of education in Pakistan, particularly for girls, but her voice against drone strikes has failed to get traction.
The youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominee told President Obama on a recent visit that the strikes were harmful. “I […] expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people,” Malala said in a statement following the meeting. While articles have been written about the statement on Gawker and CNN, her quote is buried under generic headlines on NBC, FOX, and the Washington Post.
Worse, the Western media has all but ignored Malala’s work with the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), a Pakistani anti-capitalist organization. Her now famous work against the Taliban in favor of educating young women in Pakistan was with the IMT. “I am convinced Socialism is the only answer and I urge all comrades to take this struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation,” she said in a statement to the 32nd Congress of Pakistani Marxists.
The American media does not want to re-kindle controversy involving drone strikes. Instead, it would rather report on the positive impact of western intervention in the region, using Malala as an example. Without mentioning the 168 to 200 children killed in Pakistan by U.S. drones, Malala’s story sounds like validation of U.S. intervention in the Middle East. Her status as a target for Taliban attacks and her wish to reform education in Pakistan align with the preferred narrative. The fact that we have targeted schools in drone strikes and have kept children from attending schools due to the threat of drone strikes does not.
According to a Stanford/NYU report on life in rural Pakistan, “some families reported taking their children out of school due to fear that they would be killed in a drone strike.” The report emphasized that children are sometimes pulled from school to work in place of their family members who have been killed in strikes. The dual threat of drone strikes and the Taliban are emptying schools of students who simply wanted to learn. Interestingly, while the IMT states that the media “foster[s] a culture of acceptance of capitalism,” the truth is that the media has ignored poverty in Pakistan.
The media’s handling of Yousafzai’s story has made an impact on the only country ambivalent of her fame: Pakistan. Many in her homeland have branded her a Western Puppet, someone whose role is to distract the world from the drone strikes (some have even implied that she works for the CIA). According to the New York Times, students in her area do not want to affiliate with Malala or consider her a role model. One opinion from Tanqeed magazine summarizes her role in the eyes of Pakistanis: ” We […] have little control over the American media’s instrumentation of Malala to represent all Muslim women as passive victims on whose behalf the ‘West’ should intervene”.
Of course, none of this is Yousafzai’s fault. Like any other famous person, she has to deal with a media intent on promoting its own interests.