WTF Friday, 9/12/2014

Here are some things that apparently happened this week while I was buried in research statements and cover letters. (The academic job market is super fun, you guys.*)

  • Supporters of Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election debuted a new campaign slogan: #BringBackGoodluck2015. Because nothing makes people more likely to vote for an incumbent than a reminder of his failure to take seriously the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls.
  • The Pentagon announced a plan to build a spiffy new field hospital in Liberia to treat healthcare workers responding to the ebola epidemic, then clarified that they only meant * foreign * healthcare workers. USAID has since tweeted that the hospital will in fact treat “health workers of all nationalities”. Here’s hoping everyone’s now on the same page about that.

*No it isn’t.

WTF Friday, 10/12/2012

There were a lot ways this one could have gone: The EU (motto: Genocide Free Since 1945) winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Paul Ryan attempting to singlehandedly set back our bilateral relations with Russia back about three decades, that weird “First World Problems” water NGO video that everyone and their brother sent to us.

But ultimately, none of them could beat the following ad appearing at the bottom of a Guardian article on Guatemala:

Because nothing says style and class like articles of clothing named for brutal Liberian warlords. Yeesh.

WTF Friday, 3/23/2012

Tell me this fool did not study marine navigation just so he could do this.

You know us folks at WR always get excited for a coup. Jk this is no good.

“Sirleaf came under fire after the Guardian published a video interview in which she is asked about decriminalising homosexuality and replies: ‘We like ourselves the way we are.'” I assume I’m not the only one who sees the irony of this statement.

WTF Friday 3/9/2012

After years of American rappers doing it or resisting it metaphorically, Swazilanders are literally throwing rocks at the throne.

“The Taylor aide believes that his boss is not on trial for crimes in Liberia but rather in Sierra Leone and, therefore, he deserves his pension benefits as former head of state here.” Honestly I think it’s messed up that he had to export his war crimes just so he could get his pension. The game is rigged.

This is just about the antithesis of Kate and Amanda’s article at The Atlantic (shameless plug). Giving “why not” as a justification? Check. Hyperbole about the power of social media and “awareness?” Check. Totally predictable opinion (from a teenager) about whether Kony is chill or unchill? Check. (Spoiler: hes goes with “terrible”). Baselessly optimistic prediction? I think we have a winner.


WTF Friday, 1/27/12

In which I may have gotten tricked into believing something ridiculous. Thanks a lot, Globe. (via FP Passport)

Kutch just ridin the wave. Unlike earlier this month, I guess this one’s a “fun flood.”

The tournament more notorious for poor goalkeeping, administrative nightmares and tragedy rather than high quality football.” This is just not true. You gotta pick your burdens more carefully.


WTF Friday, 10/14/11

“The third place winner is the retired General Prince Yormie Johnson with 13.5 per cent.” Biggest campaign mistake: not marrying someone named “Sirleaf.”

“Suddenly, Paloma finds herself involved in human trafficking and art theft in a thrilling new novel.” Boy, that does sound thrilling.

Props for highlighting the plight of Nigeriens and other black Africans in Libya at the moment in relation to detention, deportation, abuse, and execution. Further props for mentioning the remittance income lost to families of migrant workers. That said, let’s not pretend life under Gaddafi was/is rosy for migrants.

It’s Ten O’Clock. Do You Know Where Liberia Is?

We realize that New York Magazine isn’t really known for their foreign policy coverage, but this is still a spectacular fail:

“fighting continues to rage in Libya, thousands of Libyans have crossed the border into neighboring Liberia, a country fraught with its own troubles as it continues to recover from a decades-long civil war. Around 100,000 Libyan refugees have fled to the poor Western African nation. “It’s a serious threat to the stability of Liberia and, I might say, to the stability of all neighboring countries,” said Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in an interview. “There’s been a lot of investment for peace in this sub-region; we’re beginning to see the result of that investment,” she added. “If nothing is done to resolve the crisis, all of these efforts will be undermined.”

Adding to the troubles is the flow of Liberian mercenaries into the Ivory Coast. The mercenaries are fighting on behalf of the Ivory Coast’s entrenched leader Laurent Gbagbo— not recognized by the United Nations—as rebels in the north of the country battle for control. “According to what we hear, both sides are recruiting Liberian mercenaries,” said Harrison S. Karnwea Sr., Liberia’s interior minister. “When people have been used to living on violence, they have got no profession to earn their living on.” On Thursday, fighting had escalated in the Ivory Coast capital city of Abidjan where forces loyal to Gbagbo clashed with U.N. recognized president Alassane Quattara.”

We figure the article will have been pulled by the time you guys read this tomorrow morning, but here’s a screenshot:

Yeah, that border between Libya and Liberia has been an endless source of trouble…

(Oh, and just between us? It’s “Ouattara.” Not “Quattara.”)

Update, 4/1/11 9:30am: A corrected (sort of) version was posted late last night. Oddly, rather than just replacing the erroneous Libya references with Côte d’Ivoire, they’ve reorganized the article, which means it now begins with a confusing reference to “Liberia’s already mounting problems.”  Oh, and apparently no one got the memo that Abidjan is not the capital of Côte d’Ivoire and Ouattara is not named Quattara.

WTF Friday, 9/24/2010

This is the original version of an NYT article that they later tried to edit. Part conflict journalism, part travel guide: “Another witness, Fartun Abdi, reported recognizing the body of a civilian boy she knew as well as those of three government soldiers lying in alleys of Mogadishu’s Ceel Hindi neighborhood, famous for its cactus trees.”

Looks like a raucous time down at the Chavez rallies. Sounds like the crowd must have got super juiced when the Prez “started bouncing up and down while swinging his arms like a boxer and said: ‘We’re going to give them a beating.'” At least I know silly sports metaphors are not exclusive to American politics.

“Former Liberian warlord Prince Johnson has told the BBC there is no reason he cannot stand in the country’s presidential elections next year.” Really? No reason? Look I’m not pretending all politicians are saints, but when you film yourself cutting off a dude’s ear, haven’t you kind of made your bed? Then again, he is currently an elected senator…

Vice Guide to Liberia: Most Awesomest Response

Many of you have emailed us about the Vice Guide to Liberia, recently linked on CNN’s home page. We haven’t posted about it, because they referred to Myles Estey (who participated in the project and comments on it here) as a “Kurtz-like character” in the first 5 min and that weirded Kate out too much to watch any further. (Amanda watched the whole thing, became physically ill, and took to her bed immediately. She is still not quite recovered.)

Fortunately, others have had far more detailed and coherent responses. As one concerned reader summed it up:

“I can’t help but walk away from viewing these videos with the sense that a) this is how badvocacy starts and b) it is harmful to feed the global public ghettotainment, laced with a summary of the Wikipedia entry on “Liberia“, under the guise of journalism. The “reporting” is uninformed, misleading, sophomoric (“boy this is some heavy shit! oooo lots of people, we’re totally in danger!”), sensationalistic and offensive.”

Chris Blattman certainly agrees. However, prize for best response goes to the can of apocalyptic whoop-ass that Sean at Journey Without Maps opened on the Vice Guide this weekend:

“First, right on with picking General Butt-Naked as the centerpiece of your opus. No one talks to him. People usually opt to talk to Commander Anorak or Sergeant Two-Shoes because it’s so easy to sensationalize them based on their names, you know? But you guys dug deep. My only complaint is that when I met your crew at the Mamba Point casino while you were taking General Butt-Naked out on the town the cameras weren’t rolling! Imagine the triage narrative of ex-war lord, evangelist, and man-who-enjoys-relaxing-at-casino! But, I’m probably wrong. After all, I’m not a genius documentarian….you guys were probably just worried about people back home not being able to relate to the story of ‘man-who-enjoys-relaxing-at-casino’ – or maybe it would overcomplicate the already nuanced story you were presenting.

Second, let me just say, secondly, that I’m with you and auteur Shane Smith who felt that everyone in Liberia would have jumped you. It’s a dangerous place. It takes a special kind of person, like Shane Smith, to throw caution to the wind and let a local journalist show him around. No one believes me when I tell them that there is strong undertow at the beach, or that if you order the spicy tuna salad at the Royal Hotel on a Friday night, you will have to wait fooooorever. Walking to the grocery store to stock up on cereals, French cheeses, and prosciutto is a deadly gauntlet. For example, once I had someone stop me to ask me how I was doing. Hellish. I mean, sometimes you hear about documentarians or imbedded journalists who play up the danger of the scenarios they face, because it sells or might get them laid. Not you guys. You walked through shin high swamp! Bad. Ass. The scene inside the Liberian National Police station where you guys manned it up and greased some palms had me greasing my own palms so that I could knock one out to the sight of auteur Shane Smith working his magic in that sweet, man-boob-enhancing vintage tee.

Thirdly, I was riveted by the way that you extrapolated broad themes from things that a particular person would say. Some people hesitate to do this, because they don’t want to cut against reality or common perception or statistical data, but we all know that they are just skirting the truth with Age of Reason bullshit. When an ex-warlord (who has no interest at all in impressing auteur Shane Smith) tells you at his former headquarters outside of Monrovia (which looks kind of like the Ducor hotel in downtown Monrovia…) that he could overthrow the government in three hours, that’s just how it is. I believe him. I mean, he said it right?”

Sean gets awarded a whole box of Lucky Charms for that one. (The rest is here. Hat tip to Blattman.)

If you’ve recently watched the Vice Guide and are looking for a more nuanced view of Liberian life to use as a chaser, we highly recommend Glenna Gordon’s Liberian Girls project, as well as Estey’s “Gettin By” series about the country’s informal economy.

This and That, from Here and There

Sorry for the light posting lately, folks. I’ve been on medical leave the last couple of weeks, (nothing serious, don’t worry), and when I finally clambered out of the haze of pain, sedation, and other more different sedation, I discovered that my internet was out.

I am now the most pitiful sight in New York, a pathetic waif covered in post-op bruising who wanders the streets trying desperately to catch a signal here, a few minutes on a power outlet there…

Okay, not really. I’m in a Starbucks, a block from my apartment. I have an iced coffee, and free wifi. It’s fine. Though the music is getting to me a little. Whoever picked the playlist has chosen a heavy rotation of “lame road-trip tunes that Amanda pretended to like in college but never did because SING, DAMMIT, no one is impressed by your lame indie-boy whispering and we can ALL TELL that you have no vocal talent but demanded to be made band frontman because of (1) ego and (2) your mom will totally pay for the new amp and a van for when we tour.”

Hopefully my battle with Time Warner will be successful, and I’ll be back online quickly. Until then, a few links that hopefully will be blogged more fully soon: