What is going on in the world?

What is going on in the world?

For two years Americans have been lost in an obsessive fixation on their lying president, the investigations into his crimes, and his brilliantly disruptive war on the truth, reason, and what Steve Brannon called “the administrative state”.

Many others in many countries have followed this obsession, or succumbed to their own obsessions with authoritarian leaders and factions and the disruptive policies and actions unleashed by the latter.

In the United States, Trump’s war on the truth, reason, and policies based on discernible facts has led to great confusion and a politics of spectacle, largely aided and abetted by the mass media.  Even notable exceptions, like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other media outlets have not remained unaffected by the fascination and obsession with Trump and his enablers.

In all of this constant turmoil, amid constant lies by the president and his enablers, it has become increasingly difficult for the average citizen to learn what is actually going on in the world, this world of some seven billion people who live outside the United States.

There are hardly any foreign correspondents from the United States stationed out in the world.

News about Trump and his enablers and his critics seems to push important news about the world not only from the front pages, but from all pages.

The enormous pressures to report on events happening at this very moment has led to less investigative journalism, and even less journalism by reporters with an understanding of history and the context in which events take place.

An important determinant of what news gets covered is the array of subjects readers (or viewers) are interested in, and unfortunately in the age of Trump they don’t seem to be interested in what is going on outside the U.S., or even outside Washington, New York, national politics, or personalities in the sports and celebrity worlds.

We know things are happening, but the assaults of Trump and his enablers on American society and institutions have been too numerous and on too many fronts to keep track of.

This leads to a certain kind of resignation, a certain kind of feeling of impotence, and a further lack of interest in what is going on in the world. This decrease of interest on the part of readers and listeners leads to a further decline in reporting on what is going on abroad.

We are in a situation where CNN and MSNBC have hit upon a great money-making formula, piggybacking on the print news of the day with panels comprised of journalists and commentators, who just sit around and talk about the (mostly Trump-related) news of the day.

Panels are cheap, and it is cheap to rely on print journalists rather than your own news organization, your own reporters, and even your own foreign correspondents.

Both on CNN and MSNBC there is almost a total absence of news about what is going on in the world.  The only exception seems to be occasionally when such news may be tied to some Washington policy debate.

One striking aspect of this phenomena is the near total absence of news about the country where some meeting of leaders is taking place. When Trump and Kim Jung Un met in Vietnam recently, for example, there was very little reporting on what is going on in Vietnam.

Perhaps we are merely entering a new period like the Dark Ages.

So, what is going on in the world?

What is going on with global warming?  How are different countries responding to the challenge?  What is the Trump Administration doing?  Why don’t people care?  Maybe if they could read a little more about what people in other countries are doing, they would care—and act—more.

What is going on in Africa?  Who has heard of the recent formation under the auspices of the African Union of an African common market?  This is probably one of the most momentous developments on the planet in the last few years. In America, who has heard of it?

What is going on in Europe, beyond the Brexit spectacle?  Has anyone heard of Emmanuel Macron’s call for a refounding of the European project?  What is going on in the Balkans?

Indeed, what is going on with Russia, and inside of Russia?  Does anyone remember the Russian naval attack on Ukrainian warships in the Kerch Strait and its seizure of the three ships and 24 Ukrainian sailors? They remain under detention in Moscow.  Have any significant sanctions been imposed on Russia for this act of aggression and continuation of its conflict with the Ukraine?  How is the 2015 Minsk II agreement being implemented, and who is at fault for the lack of progress?

What is going on in the South China Sea? Are the U.S. and other nations actively resisting Chinese militarization of the area  and asserting rights of freedom of navigation protected by international law?

What is going on in the Philippines?  How many people have been killed in Duterte’s war on drugs and his campaign of extrajudicial executions? In other areas, what has happened to the rule of law?

What is going on in Mexico and Central America? To read the State Department’s travel warnings on Mexico and the region, one can be forgiven for thinking the situation sounds like Afghanistan.

By the way, what is going on in Afghanistan? Do Trump’s attempts to negotiate peace with the Taliban, over the heads of the government in Kabul, amount to anything other than an effort to withdraw from the country by selling out the people—particularly the women—and the elected democratic government which, however flawed, we have supported for over 17 years?

We could go on and on. The point is, that with few exceptions, the media in the United States are not covering these developments.

By failing to do so, the media are failing to make efforts to educate the American people about the world they live in.

The media, in the U.S. and elsewhere, need to redouble their efforts to educate the citizenry, with an unrelenting focus on the facts, the science, and the fact-based analyses of experts which offer the only true path toward successfully navigating our future.

The alternative is a world of government lies and distortions of the truth, where malevolent actors have free reign.

The Trenchant Observer



About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.