Merchants of Morality

Foreign Policy, Vol. 129, pp. 36-45, March/April 2002

10 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2006


How do a few Third World conflicts become international causes célèbres, while most remain isolated and unknown? Why, for instance, has there been so much recent attention to the Darfur crisis - but so little to ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite vastly more casualties in the latter than in the former? This article, a brief, popularized version of my new book, "The Marketing of Rebellion: Insurgents, Media, and International Activism," rejects the view that those who gain such support are simply the lucky winners in a "global humanitarian lottery." It also rejects the idea that there is a "meritocracy of suffering" in which the worst-off groups gain the most support. Instead, I argue that conflicts and the insurgent groups involved in them, face a Darwinian struggle for scarce media attention, NGO activism, and international concern. In this competition, the lion's share of resources go to the savviest, not the neediest.

Keywords: globalization, human rights, social movements, Darfur, Tibet, Uighurs, media, NGO, nongovernmental organization, activism, marketing, Zapatistas, EZLN, Ogoni, Nigeria, Mexico, China, indigenous, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch, Sierra Club, leadership, Shell Oil, social justice

JEL Classification: D78, F02, F29, I39, K34, L30, L39, M30, N 41, O19

Suggested Citation

Bob, Clifford, Merchants of Morality. Foreign Policy, Vol. 129, pp. 36-45, March/April 2002, Available at SSRN:

Clifford Bob (Contact Author)

Duquesne University ( email )

600 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15282
United States

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