Oh Noes

Thanks to Rob Crilly, I am no longer living in blissful ignorance of the existence of the Save Darfur thong (pictured below).

It was a happy life, one untroubled by questions like: “Really? This is how we signal our support for the victims of mass atrocities? By pasting their forlorn children’s faces on our crotches?” But that’s all over now. My only comfort is that now you’re all suffering along with me.

Kate Cronin-Furman


  1. A whole new level of confusion would be crossed if this thong was discovered in a moment of intimacy.

  2. A whole new level of confusion has been crossed when I saw this thumbnail on one of my blogs. Imagine what my readers/viewers will think. Shriek.

    I just let loose with a surprisingly creative string of words…& confused people nearby. Thankfully, it's my own apt. & I'll bleeping bleep if I want to.

    Please tell me that this is not sanctioned by um, the 'brand.' (I'll look tomorrow.) See you tomorrow in gmail.

  3. Hmm, I don't know if confusion would result…hopefully the other person in that "moment" already knew of your activist ways (though I guess it's possible genocide might not come up in normal bar conversation). But it would really kill the mood. (And hang in there, Rob – it's for a good cause.)

  4. Is it a note of consolation to say that panties for a cause were fashionable before the Save Darfur trend took this (and other) dives? When I was writing about some Darfur activists in summer 2007, Panties for Peace were all the rage, and the money was going to Save Darfur (as I recall). These are a bit more, er, explicit.

  5. Nah, it's no consolation at all (above), though it's sweet to try. Seriously, colleagues & friends who, you know, are actually from Darfur are so effing upset.

    We're having a fundraiser in NYC tonight at a gallery & fashion is most certainly involved. It's a whole different animal than this genocide-porn.

  6. "We're having a fundraiser in NYC tonight at a gallery & fashion is most certainly involved. It's a whole different animal than this genocide-porn."

    really? I would say it's all the same thing…if anything the darfur thong (meant to be taken seriously? i think not!) is in my mind, at least, upfront and honest in its awfulness and not trying to come across as high-minded (I mean really fashion/gallery?? as a preferred route re activism? You're kidding right?)

  7. Avam–I don't think I explained it very well. Will get back to you privately. But no, not like you're thinking.

  8. SDAP – Honestly, we should probably adopt a "sex sells" mentality for this blog, too. Our most heavily trafficked post (by a huge margin) was the one about "charity porn" a while back, and it's looking like the Save Darfur thong is almost as popular…

  9. Kate,

    Yep, SDAP has had similar experiences. Our most popular post is that old thong post from April, and something tells me my new “popsicle fellatio” post will be popular too. Oh, kids these days!

    To be clear, seeing as how every other joke I write has to do with molestation or S&M, I’m not saying that I have a problem with sexual references per se. I only take issue when people who’ve established themselves as some kind of moral authority use sex to sell African misery to overprivileged Westerners. They don’t even seem to do it with much humor or irony, which is what offends me most.


  10. Giulia, fair enough.

    SDAP – I just read your blog for the first time, and couldn't get over the youtube video with the popsicles….but that paled into comparison after reading that Nicole Richie said “[Congolese women] are being told to eat their children” and “[young people] are not as ignorant as people think we are, we simply don’t know and it’s not our fault.”

    WTF? I so agree with your post – What is this fascination with celebrities…I just don't get it. Everyone I know in the development/aid field either ignores them/thinks they are laughable and/or irrelevant or is sick to the back teeth of them…and yet somehow you cannot move without having to watch/read/hear about yet another actress/singer who has 'found' their true calling of activism and feels that their simplified black and white view of the world/said situation was all that was lacking, and once they are allowed to verbalize said crap (and in the more media outlets the better) the world will once again turn properly on its axis.

    Not sure if this post will be read – but does anyone know of any studies that have been done on the actual impact that celebrity involvement has had in real terms? I think Kofi Annan (star worshiper that he was) started a real (bad) trend with this in the UN (the speeches he gave that went – and still do? – along with each new lot of UN celebrity spokespeople beggar belief (you can read them on the UN website or to give you an idea think…. "and here we have before us such greatness of unimaginable magnitude that I, kofi Annan, can barely begin to express my undying heartfelt pleasure at having [fill in blank of said actor/actress/sports personality/singer] take the time from their breathtakingly important schedule to spend time with our humble work….(ad nauseaum)."

    I often think of Angelina Jolie (natch, given you cannot escape her if you wanted to) and most recently her fly-in one day trip to Bangkok, or her meeting with Musharraf (some years back) or Di Capripo meeting with Israeli leaders two years ago re the middle east conflict. I mean really WTF?????? I have a PhD in int dev and years of working (slogging) through multiple degrees and various positions in the ascent up the ladder, in many different countries. And what that has shown me (among other things 😉 is that I am hugely aware of how complex even straightforward issues are and I would a thousand-fold rather hear from someone practicing/working in said field than some hollywood actress whose views are irrelevant. If the UNHCR has the opportunity to talk to a member of a refugee camp then, hell, why not the nurse dealing with kwashiorkor, or the conflict specialist or the programme manager..anyone but some actor Please!!!!! I know I’m not alone, by a large margin, in thinking this, so why is it assumed only actors can get the information across….it makes me turn off instantly (sure, it might grab the attention of People magazine readers but I wouldn’t count on such transient gossip mongers who really take an interest – beyond reading People mag – on overseas issues). (cont…)

  11. As I have small kids, I am currently unable to do much work overseas and work in Europe….while family and friends working in Sudan and Afghanistan have had to sacrifice relationships and any sort of stable existence (e.g cars, houses) as the pay and working conditions in the UN and WHO do not = family station and big bucks…..and yet when the media wants an opinion on issues they go to Angelina Jolie? Ben Affleck? Matt Damon? Bono? and now….Nicole Richie? Who last I noted was on a reality show and, what in the space of a few years has somehow managed to get the actual education behind her and the work experience to understand the vast array of complexities that exist (before any issue is even deconstructed) within the broad field known as "development" (conflict/poverty/vulnerability/aid etc……..)

    Interestingly close friends who work for UNHCR say the money supposedly raised by high-profile celebrities (read Jolie) is still unclear. Where money is raised there is not a lot of proof to show it is due to celebrity involvement and not just charitable individuals who would donate regardless of who is 'fronting' the campaign. Adding into the mix the complexities of giving aid and there seems, to me anyway, some tough questions that need to be asked. Not the least, because, as Wronging Rights so succinctly put it re a different post on the Congo, “choosing to simplistically define [issues] constrains our ability to think creatively about the problems [people] face, and work with them to combat these problems. Second, treating their problems as one-dimensional issues that can be solved by a handful of plucky college students armed only with the strength of their convictions and a video camera doesn't help anyone.”

    I wonder sometimes how much Angelina Jolie (again using her as she is inescapable!) being accepted in the Council for Foreign Relations was down to her incredible understanding of children/refugees (given her fly-in visits…in her hat and t-shirt) and how much it was a political move by Gene Sperling. Along the lines of ‘power corrupts’ I think it should be “absolute proximity to celebrity corrupts absolutely” (or if you read the opening of Sachs book by Bono…..same thing).

    What bothers me is that when you question celebrity involvement you are branded as 'hating them' and are pushed to answer 'what do YOU do'???…There seems to be no room for those who do Not "hate" these people as individuals (nor are "jealous of them"…although I must say a million dollar paycheck would be nice 😉 and, moreover, are not totally immune to the fact that they want to use their profile for "good" and recognise that when people show interest in the world that can only be a good thing.

    So, no I don't "hate" these celebrities but wonder when is all this going to stop and get some perspective (at this rate the actors can move into govt, field and research positions and Easterly can direct the next movie…..

    So…..does anyone know of any real work that has been done on the celebrity-activism-world saviours phenomenon?

    (please excuse the abysmal writing and poor sentence construction….have a killer earache! Also the huge posts….not trying to spam!)

  12. Avam,

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I know of no research investigating how helpful celebrity activism is, but I imagine you'd find that celebrities are often associated with advocacy movements that tend to distort the facts on the ground. The root cause may not be celebrities, but rather celebrities may be attracted to the biggest and most popular movements, and the most popular movements tend to have the best PR teams and catchiest ads, which tend to distort the facts in the interest of keeping the message concise.

    Attributing the effectiveness of "real work" to celebrity endorsements is difficult because it's hard to measure how much momentum a movement gained due to celebrity involvement. For example, in the Darfur advocacy community, the most active celeb-seeker seems to be the ENOUGH Project. And while you see George Clooney, Don Cheadle, etc. talking about Darfur because of ENOUGH, the ENOUGH Project itself doesn't seem to have that far of a reach in terms of advocacy, judging by the size of its email list and its site traffic. That may provide some insight into how celebrity endorsement doesn't always translate even into popularity, much less effective advocacy. However, Clooney and Cheadle's involvement could have still recruited people into the movement, only not to ENOUGH's activist base per se. It's very hard to find a causal link between celebrity involvement and the beneficial or hurtful effects of activism is all I'm saying.

  13. Thanks for the response SDAP.

    Yes – I agree – it's what I've been thinking but was hoping someone had managed to look further into it.

    Re: the old confounding factor problem…….

    "It's very hard to find a causal link between celebrity involvement and the beneficial or hurtful effects"

    It seems to be the problem of most development/aid issues – how do you distinguish between all the various, but often interlinked variables to come up with an objective view of "what's really happening"

    in the words of mulder and scully…the 'truth is out there'….(though sorting it out seems to be the holy grail..)

    The data you have on the Enough project re it's email list/advocacy reach is interesting though.

    (confounding is at the centre of the whole breastfeeding controversy raging at the moment, re is it better for baby or not.)

  14. Not to burst the bubble on a great story, but I think the whole Save Darfur thong might just be result of a lazy marketing program. Cafepress has created a website that takes images and then tries to sell them on t-shirts, hats, mugs, stickers, buttons, whatever. This doesn't mean that a Save Darfur thong actually exists, just that they took the very marketable "Save Darfur" logo and then carelessly attached it to every accessory they are capable of printing it on. Check it out:
    It was either a careless mistake, or one of the programers thought it was funny and let it slip through. Either way, there's no social commentary here.

  15. Not sure about that Chris Waluk – "Either way, there's no social commentary here" – kind of assumptive to be so definitive on behalf of everyone else. Yeah – knew about the cafe press thing, as quite likely many others did as well – it was mentioned months back on Easterly, or Blattman or some other blog. However, the very fact that the save darfur thong even became an issue is part of social constructions on what is/isn't seen as acceptable, so even as a joke it is still valid social commentary. Moreover, 'silly' debates like this one usually (as evidenced) bring up other issues, other thoughts on current topics – not necessarily anything to do with Darfur/thongs or anything else related – and that can only ever be a good thing. Good/relevant social commentary doesn't stem from a singular debate or one individual's (e.g. you) idea of what should be discussed and if it is relevant or not.

  16. For Bangkok, I strongly recemmend to visiting the floating marking. In fact, there are many floating markets in thailand but Dam nern sa duak is the original one. The market is actually a canal full of boats selling everything: noodles, fruits, souvenirs, handicrafts, and many more. If you don't wish to pay 1000 Baht for the long tail boat tour , you may just take a non-motor boat instead, it cost only 200 Baht.

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