Critique of Going to Where the Silence Is Essay
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It was a well-known fact that following World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union (now Russia), were the remaining two superpowers in the world. Each virtually represented a political belief or ideology— the U. S. represented democracy while the Soviet Union represented communism. However, while the U. S. enjoyed their freedom, it also committed actions that contradicted its main ideology of democracy. As the U. S. fortified its alliances around the world in its quest to outdo the Soviet Union, it also augmented its military resources and foreign ties by sending aid to its allies.
One of the country’s well-known allies during that time is in Indonesia, which launched a U. S. -backed invasion of East Timor in 1975. Thousands of Timorese died during the occupation which spanned five U. S. presidencies— Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Basically, while East Timor remains is a freedom, the Indonesian invasion that was heavily supported by the United States was widely considered as one of the most brutal acts of genocide and was also viewed as conflicting with America’s foreign policies and main ideology which is democracy.
In this regard, this paper will aim to closely scrutinize the Indonesian occupation of East Timor through the article “Going to Where the Silence Is” which was a highly-detailed account of the said occupation. It also aims to prove, based on Goodman’s article, the power and impact of the media on society and the unfaltering desire of dominant nations to hold on to its supremacy. Summary The article, “Going to where the Silence is,” written by Amy Goodman, generally chronicles the experiences of the author when she journeyed to Indonesia-occupied East Timor in the early 90s.
She first went to the country in 1990 with journalist and activist Allan Nairn. There they saw before their own eyes the carnage that the Indonesian invasion caused. She emphasized that during that time, the media, particularly those that are based in the United States, turned a blind eye to the atrocities in East Timor because it could compromise the profitable relationship of America and Indonesia. Goodman also revealed that in 1991, they returned to East Timor to cover a UN-backed Portuguese delegation that would investigate the human rights violations in East-Timor.
However, the United States and Australia blocked the UN’s move and as a result no the delegation did not come. In November 21 of the same year, she recounted how she and Nairn witnessed a massacre of Timorese people that occurred in Santa Cruz, from which they also sustained major injuries. The turning point eventually came when Max Stahl was able to film the bloody massacre and was able to smuggle the video out of the country.
As a result, for the first time in sixteen years, the world was able see the real situation in East Timor, which the United States and its allies have kept under wraps, as major networks such as NBC, ABC, and CBS suddenly expressed interest in covering it. Goodman also pointed out that the U. S. maintained close ties with Indonesia due to the cheap labor that the latter provides to American companies. She concluded by recounting how his companion Nairn boldly implored Indonesia-based American companies to call on the U. S.
government to stop providing the weapons that Indonesia uses in its occupation of East Timor, during his acceptance speech of the Reebok Human Rights Award in behalf of a Timorese student activist. Finally, she narrated how Nairn issued a similar statement during subsequent assignment in East Timor in which he urged the Indonesian government to cease its inhuman acts once and for all. Analysis In general, Goodman’s article is a straightforward account of her personal and, possibly life-changing experiences in war-torn East Timor.
She basically goes straight to the point while using vivid descriptions that would enable one to see and even associate with the Timorese who were suffering from Indonesian dictatorship. Her information and facts were fairly accurate, particularly in her depiction of a U. S. government that blindly supported a human genocide by providing arms to its ally, Indonesia. However, it is notable that even though the article’s accounts were accurate and her arguments were logical, it was hard not to notice its bias against the U. S. and Indonesia, which were the two countries it was more or less criticizing.
For example, the author claimed outright that it was President Gerald Ford and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who gave Indonesia’s dictator, Suharto, the go signal to invade East Timor during a meeting within the three. While it is widely believed that this was true, it remains pure speculation. In short, since the article is a personal account, it also contains the author’s own emotions, and in effect makes her article subjective at times. Nevertheless, she supported her claim by quoting the notes by L. Paul Premer, who was the note-taker in the aforementioned meeting between the world leaders.
In addition, while the article criticized the atrocities committed by governments, it somehow patronizes persons as shown in its full account of Allan Nairn’s speech when he was detained at East Timor. Although it was meant to honor and dignify Nairn, it can also be misconstrued as self-serving, since the said journalist is the author’s friend. In this aspect, the article slightly loses its objectivity. Moreover, since the article is told in first-person perspective, it had a more human interest side to it which is why most readers can connect with what the author is trying to illustrate.
The article’s detailed accounts of names, ages, dates and statements of Timorese who were massacred largely contributed to its depth and reputability. Furthermore, the article successfully depicted how superpower countries during that time would do everything to maintain its foothold on power, even at the expense of human lives. This was illustrated by the fact that the U. S. continuously supplied weapons to Indonesia despite knowing these arms were used to commit murder in East Timor while also keeping media coverage at bay.
In short, it effectively showed a ruthless side of the U. S. that somehow put its ideologies in question. In general, another major point that was evident in Goodman’s article is that the media, even in the past, has an enormous influence and impact on society. This was highlighted by the fact that when a video showing Timorese people being killed was aired to the world, it caught the attention of a lot of governments and started sympathy movements in certain countries. However, the article also showed, in a way, how the media can easily be influenced by the government at the time.
While the article made no direct reference to this claim, it clearly stressed that no major networks bothered to investigate or even showed the slight interest in the Indonesian occupation of East Timor for 16 years, which more or less indicated the susceptibility of the media back then. Response Generally, I agree with most of the author’s claims and arguments and I believe that the invasion of East Timor was one of the most explicit violations of human rights in history, which was ironically supported by the U. S. However, what caught my interest the most was the author’s description of American companies that were based in Indonesia.
In the article, Goodman indicated that U. S. companies that were Indonesia-based outsourced their labor in other countries as it was cheaper to do so. But this also means that the laborers are paid less than what an American worker, who has the same job, earns. For me, this is a clearly violation of human rights and curtailment of development. Although the U. S. is widely touted as the world’s most powerful nation, I agree with Goodman in her belief that the country should not use its dominance to curtail the rights of other people and exploit poorer countries.
These companies bear the responsibility of ensuring that fair treatment is given to their employees and that they were well compensated for their hard work. I also believe that the author was right in pointing out that U. S. government and the media should not turn a blind-eye on situations that need immediate attention, such as the one in East Timor. The 16 years of silence about genocide in East Timor proved that the media is susceptible to influence and can sometimes act in favor of a certain party, which in this case is the U. S. government.
The media must remember its role as an impartial sector that does not simply deliver news, but also help save and impact other people’s lives. Based on the article it can be surmised that both the media and the government basically had the wrong perspective in their handling of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor because they only acted out when thousands of lives were already lost. Conclusion Over-all, it can be said that Goodman’s article sent a clear message that the media plays a crucial role in any country and should therefore not be bullied into silence by the government or by any person.
The media’s inability, failure, or refusal to act as the East Timor massacres took place in a span of 16 years led to the loss of human lives, which could have been prevented or minimized. The article also implied that it is the media’s role to keep in check the questionable activities of power-hungry governments and also serve as the entity to which people would run to times of need. Works Cited Goodman, Amy. “Going to Where the Silence Is. ”