The New York Times' Peter Baker reports today (3/18/09) that Obama has tapped "a Swahili-speaking retired Air Force officer who grew up in Africa as the son of missionaries" to be his special envoy to Sudan. Does Baker or his Times editors realize that they don't speak Swahili in Sudan? It's like reporting that Obama appointed a French-speaking envoy to Germany, and meaning it in a flattering way. Sure, they don't speak French in Germany, but they're both in Europe, right? Baker also writes: The latest crisis began March 4, when the International Criminal Court in the Hague charged Mr. […]
Just last week (2/26/09), Nicholas Kristof, who has written often about the situation in Darfur, was rooting for the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Sudan's president, as a step towards "help[ing] end the long slaughter and instability in Sudan": Next Wednesday, the International Criminal Court is expected to issue an arrest warrant for Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, for crimes against humanity in Darfur. That would be historic–the first time the court has called for the arrest of a sitting head of state. It would be the clearest assertion that in the 21st century, mass murder […]
Harper's Ken Silverstein is again bucking the media that condemned him for actually investigating U.S. lobbyists for foreign dictatorships–this time contrasting (1/8/09) how, "if the U.S. government deems a country to be a hostile state, the American media will devote significant time and energy reporting on that country's political and economic problems" with the fact that "if you're on our side, and especially if you're providing us with oil, you can get away with murder (literally)": Today's Washington Post has yet another op-ed piece about the terrible human rights situation in Zimbabwe ("A Cancer Called Mugabe"). That follows up on […]
Editor & Publisher reports that the musings of Bono will begin appearing on the New York Times opinion pages this Sunday–the latest episode in a long media tradition of choosing Western celebrities to address issues concerning Africa, one of Bono's pet projects. Given Bono's record of cozying up to Western leaders on issues like debt relief and trade rather than confronting and challenging them, the Times will not just get Bono's star power, it'll also get to increased the real estate given to highlighting the downtrodden of the world without actually rocking the boat too much.
There are two major conflicts in Africa that receive U.S. media attention. In Congo, it is estimated that 5 million people have died in a conflict that has raged for about 12 years. In the Darfur region of Sudan, estimates can range from 200,000 to 400,000. The Darfur conflict, though, has received much more press attention than Congo–which serves to explain why Newsweek magazine would run a (short) article about Congo under the headline "Africa's Other Holocaust."
As well as being infused with a modern-day "white man's burden" mythology not exactly unheard of in media reporting on Somalia, Time magazine's article "The Suffering of Somalia" (11/13/08) follows the well-documented pattern of misreporting on recent U.S. intervention on Somalia (see Extra!, 3-4/08)–downplaying the disastrous role of recent U.S. policy in that country: Somalia is not so much a failed-state as a didn't-even-try one. It hasn't had a government since 1991, when warlords took over and embarked on a series of intractable clan wars that have produced one of the world's worst humanitarian crises: hundreds of thousands dead and […]
In the upcoming December 1 issue of the Nation, Fatin Abbas extensively quotes Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina on "The Traps of Safari Journalism": In his eloquent diatribe "How to Write About Africa," published several years ago in Granta… Wainaina offers the following advice: "Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: Use these." He continues, "In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country…. Don't get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: 54 […]
In yesterday's New York Times (10/1/08), Steven Erlanger had a piece looking at the French reaction to the U.S. presidential election. He quoted French writer Bernard-Henri Levy: Obama is, certainly, black…. But not black like Jesse Jackson; not black like Al Sharpton; not black like the blacks born in Alabama or in Tennessee and who, when they appear, bring out in Americans the memories of slavery, lynchings and the Ku Klux Klan – no; a black from Africa; a black descending not from a slave but from a Kenyan; a black who, consequently, has the incomparable merit of not reminding […]