Friday, August 10, 2012

Bread & Olympic Games

Today the Washington Post posts the AP piece 'Rwandan genocide survivor and mountain biker Adrien Niyonshuti ready to make debut at Olympic' which makes the pompous clame:
'Adrien Niyonshuti doesn’t need an Olympic medal to turn these games into a victory for himself or his country.'
Great publicity for Rwanda, right.

Roman Satirist Juvenal coined the phrase panem et circenses which summarized his contempt for the declining heroism of the Romans.

It's also the definition of cynical manufactured  consent based not on thorough understanding  and approval by citizens of public policy but through diversion and distraction. Give them 'something to eat' instead of 'civil and political rights' claimed the Dutch Ambassador in the run up to the 2010 elections in Rwanda.

We should however give Philip Gourevitch credit for repackaging the old diversion tactic 'give them games' in his article 'Climbers'. This 2011 article about a group of Rwandan cyclists is built around the short quote 'Rwanda needs heroes'. The proposed solution to divisions of the past: a group of cyclists.

July 27th, the day the Olympic Games started, which also was the day the UK blocked aid to Rwanda, Gourevitch posted the article 'From Rwanda to London, with a Bicycle' on the New Yorker's website. An article that built on his 'Climbers' piece and which hammers in the same message:
“He’s here in London thinking about what he represents to the kids of Rwanda—as that figure, that image, that they can see and say, Yeah, if he can do that I do it, too, whatever it is. It’s not about getting a medal, it’s about being that person.”
Good groundwork for Rwanda's public relations campaign surrounding the Olympic Games and summarized by genocide survivor and mountainbiker Niyonshuti who carried the Rwandan flag in the opening ceremonie:
"Above all, I would like – as a result of these Olympic Games – that people think of my country in terms of sport and cycling in particular, even as simply a great nation. The first thing people think of at the moment is the genocide, but that was 18 years ago. I want people to concentrate on the positive aspects of my country"
In the fiction trilogy Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins the live-broadcasted games were used to distract the general populace of the capital city from becoming aware of the impoverished existence of the surrounding districts.

Rwanda's pr campaign surrounding the Olympic Games today aims to divert attention away from it's effort to destablize the Democratic Republic of Congo. An effort resulting in immense suffering for hundreds of thousands of Congolese citizens.

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