‘SWAZILAND: Desperate HIV-positive people eat cow dung to sustain treatment‘. So reads the headline. This ‘story’ was run on many mainstream media websites, as well as by specialist development and HIV websites. Incredibly, they all seem to believe the story. I’ve come across a few comments casting doubt on it, or questioning it, but I’ve yet to come across a condemnation of it that comes anywhere close to the prominence of the story itself.
It’s a few years old, but it certainly fits into the ‘Planting the Seeds of Certainty‘ that I noted in a blog post yesterday. What I haven’t come across is some discussion about why so many media outlets ran the ‘story’ and how few seem to dismiss it as hearsay, or outright racism, which is what it is.
I’m not claiming no one has ever eaten cow dung, just as I’m not claiming that no one has ever reused a condom (although I really do doubt that anyone has ever rented a condom already used by someone else). But what is behind the running of a story like this, the editorial decision making process that allows it to appear, just as it has, in so many outlets?
How can this kind of racist literature be published, sometimes over and over, in mainstream media, outlets that would not consider themselves to be racist? Examples: the English Guardian, the BBC, the UN’s IRIN, the UK Metro, Poz.com, the UK Daily Mail (OK, many would consider that to be racist), the South African Mail and Guardian, the South African Times, and countless more). Or am I missing something? Am I just being over sensitive?