Monday, March 12, 2012

The relevance of rurality

Journalists are in the business of telling stories, of course, and I sometimes find it interesting to note what bits of context they choose to include or exclude as part of their narratives. The New York Times coverage yesterday and today of the devastating events in Afghanistan intrigued me in this regard. The lede on reads:
Stalking from home to home, a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children, in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan on Sunday, igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility, Afghan and American officials said.
I suppose the authors use "rural" here to answer the "where" question journalists are supposed to cover (along with the who, what, and when questions). Why not name the place? No one would recognize the name, I suppose, because it is too obscure.

P.S. I note that subsequent coverage of these events has continued to refer to the rural locale, also referring to the places where the shootings occurred as "hamlets." Afghan President Hamid Karzai has now called for American troops to be pulled out of "rural Afghanistan," but not out of the country altogether. I wonder what this suggests about the rural-urban divide--perhaps a lack of oversight in the rural places, meaning that catastrophes like this one are more likely to happen there. Certainly, both Afghan and U.S. oversight of these small outposts in and near villages is likely more challenging than is oversight of bases, where Karzai suggests the U.S. military should be confined.

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