What’s Black and White and “Red” All Over?


March 8, 2011

One would have had to be living under the proverbial rock to have somehow missed what’s been happening in the Middle East as of late.  But just in case that rock is your home, let’s get caught up to speed: 1) Protests in Egypt finally ousted President Mubarak from his 30 year reign, 2) Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi (and his regime) have met their protesters with rank military violence, 3) Moreover, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, et plus, have all been experiencing their own upheavals.  And for what?  Answer…democracy.1

Ahhh yes, democracy.  That age old political structure that vests the power of the state, and it’s affairs, in the people.  The move to cast down dictatorial, tyrannical, totalitarian, autocratic leadership has been the driving force behind the spirit of liberation in the above mentioned Arab nations.  This, however, is not what’s ultimately interesting; rather, the media’s coverage is what stands to be observed.

One need read/watch/hear the news for only a vapor’s breath of time to see how the media has painted the situation.  Democracy is lifted up as a “beacon of hope” (according to one article), while the regimes of Gaddafi, Mubarak, Al-Khalifa, et plus are seen in the most unflattering of lights.  It is apparent that we, in the West, see democracy as the light of redemption in the ever-progressing narrative being constructed by the media concerning Middle Eastern/North African affairs.

This all reminds me of a riddle my father once told: “What’s black and white and read all over?” Once finally realizing that the riddle plays off the homophones “read” and “red,” it is clear that the answer is the newspaper.  However, in this case, black, white, and red are notable symbols to describe the media’s coverage of the recent liberation movements.  The black and white soundly represent the rigidity and static nature of truth, fact, and principle, which is what the media should (to some extent) offer its audience.  Then you have red, which has many biblical allusions to salvation and life (afforded through sacrificial acts).

This red is what courses through nearly every story.  It so tellingly portrays what’s embedded in our culture’s values, namely, freedom and victory.  We root for the underdog to rise up above the “enemy” and stand triumphantly on the war-bereaved soil of freedom and salvation from the forces of injustice.  This is the narrative that the media is constructing.  It sounds dangerously similar to the gospel.  Who knows, maybe our postmodern climate in the West is not so hostile to the “meta-narrative”2 after all.


1Democracy is not the sole reason behind the recent protests.  There are many secondary factors that come into play.  Liberty and democracy, however, seem to be the principle issues.

2Notable French philosopher, Jean-Francois Lyotard defined postmodernism as incredulity toward the meta-narrative (see The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984, xxiv.)