Chandrala – The new news thing



America needs to know what happened to Chandra Levy. Where is the young intern who was last seen heading home to her family in Modesto, California? Sooner or later, we will find out. Hopefully she will turn up alive and well. More likely, her fate will break America’s heart.

The media has created another Chandrala, a space in history when only one event takes over the imagination of the world. As usual, CNN can take credit for initiating this latest obsession about another crime of passion. No one knows how to manufacture low-cost journalism like Ted Turner’s Time/Warner/CNN/AOL and their assorted affiliates. The other networks, also under pressure from lower advertising revenues, are jumping in line to scoop up this nearly cost free bit of tabloid journalism.

In a ‘Global Minute’, CNN will cover all you need to know about the other six billion people on the planet. Sixty Seconds. Then its back to exploring every peak and every valley in Chandrala.

Not that anyone is complaining. AOL shareholders must be laughing all the way to the bank. And the rest of America is living in the ignorant bliss of Chandrala. This is not just opium for the masses; this is mass ansthesia.

Our media lords can’t imagine why any of their consumers would want to step outside Chandrala. Why would any one venture out into the world beyond the mind numbing crap the mass media doles out as the ‘new news thing’. Does anyone want to know about the three young Albanian-American brothers who disappeared two years ago and just turned up in a mass grave recently unearthed in Petrovo Selo, in eastern Serbia? Yili Bytyqi was 24. His brother Agron was 23 and the youngest, Mehmet was 21. Before their execution, they had been blindfolded and their hands were bound with wire.

The New York Times reported that they were last seen in the custody of Serbian special police on July 8,1999. They were murdered after the war had ended and after completing a 15 day detention for illegally crossing the border. The mass grave where their bodies were discovered also contained the bodies of a dozen Kosovars who had met a similar fate. Lest there be any doubt as to the identity of the executioners, the graves were located on the grounds of a training camp of the Special Operations Units of the Serbian Secret Police.

Although these three Americans were arrested after the war ended, they were members of an Albanian-American Atlantic Brigade that joined the struggle against Milosovic’s murderous thugs in Kosovo. In the tradition of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, they left the safe shores of America to do battle with a foreign tyrant and his goons. They fought the good fight, much like the Americans who volunteered in the British Royal Air Force before America’s official entry into World War II and helped win the Battle of Britain. In Chandrala, the murder of these three young American freedom fighters went unnoticed.

Way beyond the borders of Chandrala, there is a place called Chechnya, where innocent civilians disappear every day. The Russians have been conducting a campaign of Stalinist brutality against the whole population of the rebel republic. Putin, The KGB man who is now paramount leader in the Kremlin, was quoted as saying “we will rub them out, even in the toilet.”

The thing about KGB men is they favor torture as a tool of war. Thousands of Chechens have experienced the electric shock treatment of telephone wires attached to the nose, ears and groin. A survivor of a torture session described the process to Elizabeth Rubin of The New York Times. “They give you the shocks, little by little, and then whoosh, up, 200 volts. So much your teeth crack, and you feel like you’re the screen of a broken television, and, oh, I can feel it right now. I dreamed to die, just not to feel it. I would have signed anything, even that I was an assassin.” “This is how they crack you” he continued “Now I’m on the stukach (informant) list.”

Elizabeth Rubin’s article (Only You Can Save Your Sons, 7/6/2001) appeared in the New York Times Magazine. For ten days, I have tried to get it out of my mind. But, there was no hope of escaping to Chandrala. I went back and read Rubin’s article again and again. “Putin’s war has razed all hope. Grozny today is ruins, charred tree stumps and a maze of Russian block posts _ the small fortresses built of cinder blocks and sandbags where Interior Ministry troops check documents, take bribes and arbitrarily pummel those they don’t like”. “All over Chechnya, Boys and Men are being “disappeared” in zachistkas. As ethnic cleansing was in the Balkan wars, so the zachistka is the distinguishing feature of an unwinnable war.”.

“If you are a young Chechen man swept up in a zachistka, the chances are good you will land in an isolation center, where your family can then buy you back. But there is also a chance that you will end up in a deep fetid pit dug into the ground, the kind of pit where countless suspected Chechen fighters are tortured and imprisoned under planks of wood or tree branches, listening to the groans of their fellow prisoners rising from the dank soil. “

The situation in Chechnya is so out of control that the Russian commander, Lt. Gen. Vladimir Moltenskoi, has accused his own troops of widespread crimes. In a single incident on July 3 and 4, 1500 residents of two villages were arrested, subjected to beatings and electric shocks and saw their homes looted. This is one of the rare outrages that have been reported in the American press.

Chandrala is cheap media real estate. It is a risk free story that costs hardly a dime to produce. The tabloid subject matter is perfect for the moronic pundits who can gossip, 24/7, about Representative Gary Condit’s escapades till something new develops on the OJ Simpson story or Monica Lewinsky comes out with a new line of designer hand held purses for the fall season. The ‘new news thing’ is all about entertaining the public. If you continue to harbor expectations that CNN or MSNBC will provide you with serious and accurate news, consider yourself a permanent resident of Chandrala. Once they finish with the Chandra Levy case, they will no doubt book you for travel to another stupefying location.

Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)