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: Suggested Citation