Monthly Archives: December 2011

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Salam Shabab

In light of the readings on development communications and both presentations this week (one on reality TV in the Middle East and one participatory theater), I wanted to take an opportunity to write a blog about Salam Shabab, reality TV show featuring youth from all over Iraq competing to become ambassadors of peace. According to the website, “They can express who they are and say what they think about building peace in Iraq. Salam Shabab is a way for the next generation of Iraqi leaders to have their voices heard. The mission of Salam Shabab is to build the foundations for peace by empowering Iraqi youth to be confident, responsible and participatory citizens of their society.” Additionally, Salam Shabab uses social media to serve as an online community for Iraqi youth to discuss conflict issues. Salam Shabab is a U.S. Institute of Peace endorsed program. Here is a video about Salam Shabab.

The reality series serves an entertainment purpose, but helps to address serious issues at the same time. It combines aspects of reality TV in the region addressed in the presentation in class with aspects of participatory conflict resolution through a platform similar to theater. I think that it incorporates positives of reality TV such as imagined community building and is effective in addressing gender issues and ethnic and religious divides.

Affirm me, don’t enlighten me.

It’s true. Media, namely news, affirms, it doesn’t necessarily enlighten. You watch the stations that resonate with your views. In fact, I bet most non right-winged college students just watch the current presidential debates so they can play drinking games drinking each time Bachmann talks about her 23 kids.

If you’re French, you don’t want to read about freedom fries, but if you have your American flag waving and your guns on your wall, you may just get a chuckle out of this. I understand that this isn’t good. It may even be more important to educate yourself on the views that don’t resonate with you – but where’s the fun there?

I joke, but in reality, media is at fault here – not people. This is psychological, we can’t help it. The media, on the other hand, can. I must bring it to my group project here since it has been the focus for me. Search for Common Ground does just this – it takes stories that resonate with people and turn it into entertainment.

Why does Search for Common Ground do this? Well many of the same reasons other media sources do it. To increase audience and to make money. It doesn’t create false stories or “trash” tv. Search for Common Ground comes up with stories from real people’s lives of conflict situations solved peacefully and turns it into entertainment.

Instead of kicking the butt of the local gangster for making fun of your Muslim faith, an actor may respond with a witty retort or a meaningful conversation. The love stories are inter-faith or inter-racial, there are gays not accepted in the society. There are friendships between different classes and overbearing parents.

Why do people watch these? Because they resonate. You’re gay, and scared to come out. You’re black and your girlfriend’s white. Your best friend is rich and you aren’t. You like the humor. You think the main actress is hot. It doesn’t matter what you resonate with, you just do.

But Search for Common Ground is different from other media sources , it has different motives. Teach peaceful conflict resolution. Media which affirms, resonates – and this is not what needs to be changed. It is making this affirmation closer to something that can also be enlightening that needs to be worked on.

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