‘Postcards from Hell’ – single image, stereotyped nonsense?

Obviously, some countries are more attractive than others as places to live, though much will depend on where you are from and what you like. However, some are not predisposed to peaceful, easy living. But even in the most economically destitute places on the planet the picture is far more nuanced than is often represented in the media. Case in point, Foreign Policy’sPostcards from Hell.’ The piece takes an ever so fleeting look at 60 of the world’s top ‘failed states’ (they even get a numerical rating ranking how fucked they are). For each we get one photo and a paragraph describing the country’s wows. Mainly focussed on African and South Asia in includes some places that currently have or have had in the recent past some troubled times. But rather than shed light on under-reported conflicts and poverty it just slaps a huge ‘FUCKED’ label on a host of vastly different countries and situations (sometimes even whilst admitting things are on the up).

But the problems don’t end there. Some of the countries included on the list are highly questionable – Bhutan? Exactly how is this a ‘failed state’? If you are going to list it then at least mention the 100,000 people who were forced to leave and have now lived in Nepal as refugees for 15 years. Or Bangladesh, admittedly not without problems but has made good progress in recent years. And Nepal, experiencing post-conflict political difficulties, but at least they are ‘post-conflict (and FP, no serious analyst on Nepal at the moment thinks the Maoists will go back to war). I could list more – the point being, what is this list trying to achieve? Show people in wealthy countries that despite the ‘Great Recession’ that things could be a lot worse?

In this piece FP have demonstrated exactly how NOT to do a foreign correspondent photo piece. It provides just enough info to add to the over simplified images perpetuated by much of the media on these parts of our world, but not enough to show the complex, and often positive, side of things. Certainly, individuals who feature are characters, composites of poverty and violence. No lives are explored and revealed. I am surprised there wasn’t an accompanying map with big red crosses just to show us where not to go. Nonsense.

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