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Allison Kilkenny Headshot

Patiently Awaiting the U.S. Media's Honduran Solidarity Movement

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The contested election in Iran received widespread attention from both the traditional U.S. media and new media sources including blogs and micro-blogs such as Twitter. Americans wishing to show solidarity with the Iranian people tinted their Twitter avatars green and also wore the trademark color of resistance. The media told us this was all part of a new digital form of solidarity.

And yet this solidarity movement starts and stops with this specific Iranian election. There was no such media-led solidarity movement during the 2003 contested election in Azerbaijan or Egypt's contested 2006 election.

Likewise, there is no solidarity movement in the U.S. media for the people of Honduras where President Manuel Zelaya has just been ousted during a military coup. The media has not aggressively pursued this story despite the fact that the US is highly influential in Honduras, and the coup was led by General Romeo Vasquez, who is himself a graduate of the US Army School of the Americas. Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill reports that the School of America graduates "maintain ties to the U.S. military as they climb the military career ladders in their respective countries."

There is little media interest in the Honduras story even though it seems the US government had advance knowledge of the coup. The New York Times reports that "[U.S. government] officials began in the last few days to talk with Honduran government and military officials in an effort to head off a possible coup," but stopped short of closing the US-funded Joint Task Force-Bravo base where Honduran military forces are trained.

There is little media interest in the Honduras story even though it seems Zelaya fell out of favor because he failed to dance to the United State's favorite tune: Free Trade, Counterpunch's Nikolas Kozloff writes

Officially, the military removed Zelaya from power on the grounds that the Honduran President had abused his authority. On Sunday Zelaya hoped to hold a constitutional referendum which could have allowed him to run for reelection for another four year term, a move which Honduras' Supreme Court and Congress declared illegal. But while the controversy over Zelaya's constitutional referendum certainly provided the excuse for military intervention, it's no secret that the President was at odds politically with the Honduran elite for the past few years and had become one of Washington's fiercest critics in the region.

Zelaya committed his first sin when he began to criticize the media and owners of sweatshops which "produced goods for export in industrial free zones." Kozloff reports that Zelaya began to adopt some socially progressive policies that included a minimum wage, drug legalization, and bilateral relations with Cuba. Zelaya sealed his fate when he joined the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, an alliance of leftist Latin American and Caribbean nations headed by Venezuela's Hugo Chávez.

The Hondurans have reacted to this coup with as much gusto as the Iranians did during their supposed election fraud. The military has shut down public transportation and put up roadblocks to prevent protesters from reaching the capital. ¡Presente!'s Kristin Bricker writes that unknown numbers of citizens have taken to the streets, and she even includes photos in her report that are available for the taking by any network (CNN, MSNBC, FOX).

Somehow, the U.S. media isn't picking up on these details. A democratically elected president has been ousted by a military strongly supported and trained by the US government as apparent punishment for his adoption of progressive ideals. Where is the outrage, or at the least, the intrigue? Where are the solidarity movements?

The hashtag #Honduras quickly disappeared from Twitter's Trending Topics. It was replaced by Wimbledon, Michael Jackson, and Iran. Since Twitter siphons news from traditional media sources, it's only logical to assume that the focus on Honduras has diminished in the micro-blogging world because it has vanished from the U.S. media.

The media is highly selective in its pursuit of solidarity movements. Iran: good, Honduras: bad. Surely, the media can take five minutes off from obsessively reporting every macabre detail of Michael Jackson's death to cover a military coup.

Cross-posted from Allison Kilkenny's blog. Also available on Facebook and Twitter.