Will the US Media Cover Nadine and Kinda?

Worthy and unworthy victims in the US media.

Middle East Eye posted a haunting video on Twitter today with this description:

“I don’t know what to do.”

A 10-year-old Palestinian girl breaks down while talking to MEE after Israeli air strikes destroyed her neighbour’s house, killing 8 children and 2 women

I urge you to watch the video, since it’s haunting.

In the video, a 10-year-old Gazan girl named Nadine Abdel-Taif talks about the horrors that she and other Gazans—and Gazan children—are experiencing. She gestures to the rubble behind her and says:

I’m always sick. I’m always—I don’t know. I can’t do anything. You see all of this. What do you expect me to do? Fix it? I’m only 10. I can’t even deal with this anymore. I just want to be a doctor or anything to help my people, but I can’t. I’m just a kid. I don’t even know what to do. I get scared, but not really that much. I’d do anything for my people, but I don’t know what to do. I’m just 10. I’m just 10.

All of this when I see it, I literally cry every day, saying to myself: “Why do we deserve this? What did we do for this?” My family said they just hate us. They just don’t like us because we are Muslims. Why [do you act that way toward Muslims]? You see all of the kids around me? They’re just kids. Why would you just send a missile to them and kill them?

It’s not fair. It’s not fair.

I don’t know how much traction this video will get in the US media, or how many US reporters will interview Nadine.

Nadine’s words are haunting. But they’re even more haunting because they echo so strikingly the words of another little girl named Kinda, who lost her sister and also her friend when the US bombed Tripoli in April 1986. Charles Glass wrote about Kinda in his 1986 piece “The Libyan Sideshow”:

THE seven-year-old girl lay half-asleep, her head resting on the lap of an older woman, a friend of her mother’s. The woman sat impassively, stroking the child’s forehead and listening to the conversation around her in the drawing room. The girl’s mother asked, ‘Do you think the planes will come again?’

Wrongly assuming the child to be asleep, I foolishly answered, ‘I don’t know. I suspect that if another bomb goes off in Europe, killing Americans, the US will bomb again.’

The girl suddenly sat up, her dark hair half hiding the terror in her eyes. She reached out to her mother and cried, ‘No, Mama, no, please, no....’

Her mother put her arms around the girl and began to soothe her. Her father, his hand still bandaged from cuts received while digging her out of the rubble of their house on the night of 15 April, watched in silence. This was the daughter who lived. His mind seemed to be somewhere else, with the daughter who died. She was 18. 

The family and I continued to talk, while the little girl resumed her calm in the comforting embrace of her mother. When I got up to leave, the little girl walked over to me and handed me a piece of paper. She asked me to deliver it. In a child’s handwritten English, the letter said:

Dear Mr Reagan 

Why did you kill my only sister Rafa and my friend Racha, she is only nine, and my baby doll Strawberry. Is it true you want to kill us all because my father is Palestinian and you want to kill Kadafi because he wants to help us go back to my father’s home and land.

My name is Kinda

Did Kinda’s letter ever reach Ronald Reagan? I did some sleuthing and tried to find out.

Glass interviewed Kinda’s family on video for a piece, so the ABC cameraman (who was with Glass in Tripoli) would’ve captured Kinda’s letter on video. ABC never ran the piece.

But Glass gave the original letter to Sam Donaldson (then ABC’s White House correspondent), and asked Donaldson to give it to Reagan. Only Donaldson knows what actually happened to the letter, or whether Reagan actually saw the letter. I reached out to Donaldson, but got no response.

Noam Chomsky commented about Kinda as follows:

I was in Beirut a couple of months ago giving talks at the American university in the city. After a talk, people come up and they want to talk privately or have books signed.

Here I was giving a talk in a downtown theatre, a large group of people were around and a young woman came up to me, in her mid-’20s, and just said this sentence: “I am Kinda” and practically collapsed. You wouldn’t know who Kinda is but that’s because we live in societies where the truth is kept hidden. I knew who she was. She had a book of mine open to a page on which I had quoted a letter of hers that she wrote when she was seven years old.

It was right after the U.S. bombing of Libya, her family was then living in Libya, and she wrote a letter which was found by a journalist friend of mine who tried to get it published in the United States but couldn’t because no one would publish it. He then gave it to me, I published it. The letter said something like this:

“Dear Mr Reagan, I am seven years old. I want to know why you killed my little sister and my friend and my rag doll. Is it because we are Palestinians? Kinda”. That’s one of the most moving letters I have ever seen and when she walked up to me and said I am Kinda, and, like I say, actually fell over, not only because of the event but because of what it means.

Here’s the United States with no pretext at all, bombing another country, killing and destroying, and nobody wants to know what a little seven-year-old girl wrote about the atrocities. That’s the kind of thing that keeps me motivated and ought to keep everybody motivated. And you can multiply that by 10,000.

Maybe the US media just doesn’t cover stuff like this, no matter who the perpetrators are. That’s a question for media-analysts to investigate. Look at how Natasha Simpson’s death was covered, for example. The question is whether little girls are always ignored or only selectively ignored.

In their 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky made a prediction about how the US media would operate based on the way that the US media are set up:

Using a propaganda model, we would not only anticipate definitions of worth based on utility, and dichotomous attention based on the same criterion, we would also expect the news stories about worthy and unworthy victims (or enemy and friendly states) to differ in quality. That is, we would expect official sources of the United States and its client regimes to be used heavily—and uncritically—in connection with one’s own abuses and those of friendly governments, while refugees and other dissident sources will be used in dealing with enemies. We would anticipate the uncritical acceptance of certain premises in dealing with self and friends—such as that one’s own state and leaders seek peace and democracy, oppose terrorism, and tell the truth—premises which will not be applied in treating enemy states. We would expect different criteria of evaluation to be employed, so that what is villainy in enemy states will be presented as an incidental background fact in the case of oneself and friends. What is on the agenda in treating one case will be off the agenda in discussing the other. We would also expect great investigatory zeal in the search for enemy villainy and the responsibility of high officials for abuses in enemy states, but diminished enterprise in examining such matters in connection with one’s own and friendly states.

The quality of coverage should also be displayed more directly and crudely in placement, headlining, word usage, and other modes of mobilizing interest and outrage. In the opinion columns, we would anticipate sharp restraints on the range of opinion allowed expression. Our hypothesis is that worthy victims will be featured prominently and dramatically, that they will be humanized, and that their victimization will receive the detail and context in story construction that will generate reader interest and sympathetic emotion. In contrast, unworthy victims will merit only slight detail, minimal humanization, and little context that will excite and enrage.

Will reporters interview Nadine? Will there be any great “investigatory zeal” in telling this little girl’s story?

Will reporters interview Kinda? And what happened to Kinda’s letter?

Will the US media cover Nadine and Kinda?