Area Man Points to Civil Rights Abuses Fueled by Media Coverage



By John Sokolich, Reformer Staff

Brattleboro Reformer

February 11, 2000





PUTNEY, VERMONT  ¾  Giving up his job at a major corporation 11 years ago, Putney resident Keith Snow now writes about human rights violations in countries dominated by a corporate America he was once part of.


Traveling through more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia and Central America, Snow said he has seen human rights violations he believes surpass the massacre in Tiananmen Square, but the media has not covered it due to political influence by the U.S. Government.


“My feeling is that there has been intentional, malicious propaganda by the media in America to play on stereotypes of people in these countries,” he said. “And working together with the CIA and big businesses, the cycle of misinformation continues.”


Snow will be hosting a free slide lecture about his experiences as a freelance journalist and photographer in the developing nations of the world at Marlboro College on Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m. and said his presentation will compare and contrast the media reportage on Africa to actual situations he’s seen arise on the continent. The examples he gave included censorship, and the bias that perpetuates racist discourse and political stagnation.


Working for General Electric for several years as a manager in its aerospace production, Snow, 40, said he gave up his $48,000 salary once he began touring the world and seeing the harsh treatment of citizens who are controlled by a government in league with American oil companies.

“I’ve seen the use of oil company helicopters to silence citizens who are speaking out against the bigger corporations,” he said. “And these people should have the right to speak out because the only thing their countries see is environmental devastation.”


(Note by keith harmon snow: the quote above is inaccurate. These things have happened, and I have investigated them, and spoken to eyewitnesses about them, but I have not seen them myself, and did not say that I had.)


Big business, the media and CIA all have a part to play in the violations because, Snow said, each has a vested interest in keeping the situation quiet.


“These countries are run by ‘American friendly’ dictatorships, because they provide needed natural resources to the United States,” he said. “But instead of having media coverage in those countries, we hear a lot about China because it’s Communist and is the number one enemy to this country. The whole situation gets very skewed.”


Setting his feelings aside on the issues, Snow said his work tries to show average citizens, who mean no harm in their conduct, the consequences of their everyday actions.


“It’s impossible to drive a car without causing human rights violations to the companies where the gas comes from,” he said. “I think if people know more of what’s going on, they can make a conscious decision in their actions.”


(Note by keith harmon snow: I never set my feelings aside when it comes to people suffering. Also, the human rights violations are not caused to the companies, but to the people in the countries where the gas comes from.)


To tell the story of the hardships in the countries he’s traveled to, Snow said he started with only photographs and short captions. But as he delved deeper into the issues, his captions became longer and longer and became stories in themselves. This led to writing, as well as photographing, needless human rights violations, he said.


Carrie Weikel, director of student activities at Marlboro College, said Snow’s presentation is the ideal type of subject mater for students at the school, because of the interest that many students have in international affairs.


“I think that the students at the college have an inherent dislike of the media because, like in Snow’s lecture, there are many contrasts to what is going on in the world and what the true story really is,” she said.


However, Snow said it is not just the media’s fault for the injustices in emerging nations, but rather the collective ideals of influential parties in the United States which are “more concerned about money than people’s lives.”


“And the people who are being hurt are the citizens in those countries [e.g. USA, Canada, Europe] who are made to stay uninformed,” he said. “They [citizens from developing countries] don’t want to be refugees in the United States, because they want to stay at their homes. And the sad part about it, is that their homes should not have to be a place where they are not safe.”