The BBC reports on the global media response to the Ferguson protests and their cause.
There has been enormous headline reaction in the world’s media to the Ferguson protests, and many commentators have taken the opportunity to question America’s credentials as a human rights champion.
European papers highlight inequalities in American society, and a South African commentator sees echoes of his country’s own grim racial history.
Well yes. Of course they do, of course they have – because it’s true. As I’ve pointed out before, the US is an outlier among developed democracies in a whole shocking slew of ways. We suck on universal provision of health care, we imprison a shamefully huge fraction of our population, we have a huge racial disparity in prosecutions and convictions, we allow capital punishment, we’re up to our knees in guns, we have a sky-high murder rate, we have high maternal and infant mortality rates, we have grotesque levels of income and wealth inequality, we saddle college students with crippling debt, we do almost nothing to ensure that even poor people can have decent housing – and on and on. This country is just a bad place in a great many ways.
The death of Michael Brown, whose killing sparked the unrest, is “a stark reminder for Uncle Sam that there are a lot of human rights violations on its own soil,” says China’s official news agency Xinhua.
“It should first fix its own problems before criticizing other countries.”
Xinhua adds that few other countries are “as self-righteous and complacent as the United States when it comes to human rights issues, but the Ferguson tragedy is apparently a slap in the face”.
True. On the other hand China has little to brag of. Uighurs, anyone?
Iran’s State TV said the grand jury decision “indicates the existence of racial discrimination in the USA”.
The protests in Ferguson are also one of the top stories in the Iranian press.
The conservative newspaper Kayhan carried a collage of pictures from Ferguson, including a US flag being set on fire. Its headline said: “A rebellion in 90 American cities as a result of the non-indictment of the murderer policeman.”
They’re not wrong.
Ferguson is also a front-page story in the German press.
Uwe Schmitt, the former Washington correspondent for Germany’s centre-right daily Die Welt, writes it is a “predictable explosion” given the juxtaposition of a “grotesquely over-armed police force” with a black community “untouched by economic recovery”.
He accuses many Americans of “self-delusion” when they ask how such violence can recur again and again, while abroad “people shake their heads unsurprised, either in mourning or glee”.
One more thing – it’s also the juxtaposition of a “grotesquely over-armed police force” with a grotesquely over-armed population. The police might not be so over-armed if the population were not so over-armed. Thanks a lot, NRA.
An editorial in France’s Liberation newspaper says: “Ferguson is a long way from being the post-racial America dreamed of by Barack Obama.”
In Spain, Pere Vilanova writes in El Periodico that “perhaps the symbolic value of the election of a black man as president in 2008 has been overestimated and inter-communal wounds will never be healed”.
In Italy, La Stampa‘s New York correspondent Paolo Mastrolilli says the discussion has become one about the race problem “connected to inequality and economic disparity”. He notes that some of the white demonstrators in New York and Los Angeles wanted to broaden the debate in that direction.
Indeed. The debate should be about all of it.