Yes, I’ve found a connection between the Serengeti and right-wing propaganda. Didn’t expect it would be so easy, but the take-home is that somebody out there – governments or dictators or god incarnate – needs to control social media. The wild west of information dissemination is destroying truth and I worry it may never be restored. Read more ›
Today marks the extended “Labor Day” weekend holiday in the United States, Thursday-Monday. America’s ‘May Day’ is officially Monday but everyone takes the whole long weekend off.
Vacations end, schools reopen, the fall sports season begins, the culture season with operas and symphonies begin in the great cities… Well, not now. Covid continues to wreck havoc on America; only about half the country is fully vaccinated. Some vaccine is going to waste. How could this be? Read more ›
Many of you have sent me a copy of last weekend’s NYTimes article, “Who Needs a Whirlwind Trip When You Can Take It Slow?” Thanks. But no thanks.
A lot of people need, enjoy and prosper with a whirlwind trip, including me. Among the others: those who aren’t super rich, those who don’t get unlimited time off, those who are exceptionally curious, those who are savvy enough to know that four days is usually no better than two and those who recognize that at the current moment “slow travel” is about the biggest come-on I’ve seen in my half century in this industry.
I can think of two reasons this might make any sense. Read more ›
So which would you choose as the best protection against Covid? (1) Surrounding yourself with a portable plexiglass outfit; or (2) getting the shot? The quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings proposes the former.
Vaccine hesitancy is worldwide and you might be surprised that the U.S.’ vaccine hesitancy rate is actually relatively low worldwide. African hesitancy is relatively low too, Mideast (excluding Israel) is the highest, Asian hesitancy (excluding China) is moderate, South American hesitancy (excluding Ecuador) is on the high side and European hesitancy is just a little bit greater than America’s.
Abiy Ahmed Ali is a good person. Barack Obama reversed years of foreign policy to support Abiy in his bid to head Ethiopia, flew to Addis, delivered a rousing speech and increased American aid to a billion dollars annually. When Abiy became head of state in 2018 congratulations flew around the democratic world. When Abiy made peace with long-time enemy and neighbor, Eritrea, the Nobel committee awarded him the Peace Prize. How fooled the world was.
Does anybody in America realize that an elephant trampling to death a child on her way to school might be more tragic than a coyote eating a schnauzer or a bobcat taking a goldfish from the deck pond?
Bobcats are being widely hunted in America and I’d characterize it as outright slaughter with 10-15% of the population harvested annually. In Africa a global scandal develops every time an elephant is shot. How do you explain this to the parent of that African child?
Is “unemployment” an important metric? Very similar controversies in the United States and South Africa throw this goldmark standard for economic planning into question.
Both countries currently suffer from chronic waves of refugees exacerbated by a wry mixture of politics with pandemic. Both countries’ fairly liberal policies towards refugees are at contentious odds with large parts of their citizenry. Both deal with growing social unrest that many argue impedes difficult struggles with institutionalized racism.
We may be witnessing one of the most successful attempts at social control by mass brainwashing in human history. Tanzania’s President John Magufuli may, in fact, be pulling a ‘Donald Trump’ recovering from covid, but his government is using this to brain control its citizens.
The 61-year old may, in fact, be getting better in an undisclosed hospital in India. But the myth that he has never been sick and has not left the country is being embraced and disseminated by millions of Tanzanians. This is more than a “Trump.” It’s social control the likes of which the world has rarely seen.
What do Africans think about the Harry and Meghan interview? Watch South Africa’s Josh Pieters’ You Tube with four prominent media experts on the royal family who critiqued the interview, as if it happened, before it happened. Click here to enjoy then…
Realize that comedic relief from really horrible situations is an underprivileged people’s art form. Laughing is common when there’s no confusion about the situation, no equivocation on its wrongness.
Is anybody but Trump, the Proud Boys and me following South African politics?
Reporting today from Pretoria, three years and one day since the former South African head-of-state left office: “Former president Jacob Zuma dodged his appearance on Monday before the State Capture inquiry, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Judge Raymond Zondo, and took refuge at his Nkandla homestead protected by the MK Military Veterans Association dressed in fake camo.”
Let me translate across the ocean into the future, January 21, 2024:
“Former president Donald Trump dodged his appearance on Monday before the January 6th Commission, headed by Former FBI Director Christopher Wray, and took refuge at his Mar A Lago homestead protected by the Proud Boys dressed in fake camo.”
“Katie bar the door,” Sen. John Tester told NPR this morning. It set the host back a half-minute. She didn’t understand what he meant. It terrified me. A flood of horrible memories just before Kenya’s civil war waved through me.
“Ruto n’mbungu!” my most senior driver, quiet James, retorted after I’d scolded all of them to just cool it, “nothing bad will happen” that December, 2007. The two expressions, one in English one in Swahili sound awfully similar to me. And I was wrong in 2007. Really wrong. Thank god James made me heed him.
The January 6th insurgency was a wake-up call. It effected us in a variety of different ways but in all cases powerfully. For those of us who use social media a lot it was a gut-punch.
America’s unchanged, 230-year old 1st Amendment is the source of much misery. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act are two of the more obvious cancers it fostered. There’s little can be done with Citizen’s United until the country gets its act together and actually amends the constitution to stipulate clearly that business entities can’t be treated as breathing individuals.
But Section 230 is another matter. No other democracy allows such unfettered control of social media by its owners as Section 230.
The repeated gargantuan fines levied against companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter are evidence enough of Europe’s dislike of these companies. But short of China’s threat to close them down entirely less they abide by censorship rules (which they did), only America has the ability to actually control them. They are American companies, American creations.
And they are out of control.
The notion that 1st Amendment free speech cannot be out of control was long ago proved wrong: yelling “fire” in a closed theater is against the law. Hate speech laws remain in their infancy in America, rarely enforced. But both these evils, propagating knowingly false emergencies and hate, have now been superseded by something worse: disreality.
At its most generous disreality is lying, because lying often spreads innocently enough by persons of legitimate concern. But it’s more often intentional, and always when it starts. But whether intentional or not disreality has become the manifest core of social media like Facebook.
We all knew this was true, but Zignal Labs’ careful study that showed following Trump’s removal from social media disreality on all the platforms decreased by 73%, is all the evidence we need. It’s critical that at this particular moment as we try to make a sharp turn in our troubled society that we do everything conceivable that we can to assist the effort.
If there had not been Facebook and Twitter there would not have been an insurgency. There would not have been a lot of horrible things, and I’ll leave it to poets and rap stars to string them out palpably. In sum there would be three-quarters fewer lies and a lot less people living in horrid, dangerous fantasies, if there weren’t Facebook and Twitter.
If you have any doubt about this, or harbor some suspicion that the “good might outweigh the bad,” listen to the most recent podcast of OnTheMedia. Facebook and Twitter were the yet-to-be-known instruments of 1984.
Until America has the guts to regulate social media those of us who have used it for so long so successfully have to abandon it, now. It’s the most powerful act we have. Not doing so affirms the increasingly immoral and dangerous paths that led America into this unforgivable nightmare.
Facebook and Twitter have been exceptionally useful to AfricaAnswerMan and EWT, and I know that many of my colleagues and competitors will disparage my intentions by referring to my imminent retirement and old age. Can’t do anything about that: they’re both true. But I certainly couldn’t pursue either proudly if I didn’t do this, first.
See you at africaanswerman.com and ewtravel.com.
[For the many important links in this post see the original blog at africaanswerman.com.]
The phone woke me around four or a little before. “Jimmy! Jimmy! Why Trump still president?!”
It was English but I was half asleep and the intonation was distinctly Swahili.
‘Winston, ni wewe?’ I muttered into an old remote phone that was 20 years old and very closed to being crushed in my hand.
“Ye-ah-ss! It IS me! Why Trump still your president Jimmy?!”
‘Saa Kumi bwana,’ I pleaded but he rebuked me that on safari I often wake at 4 a.m. to get ready for the early morning game drive. Which isn’t true. I get up at five. I hung up and had about four hours to figure out why Trump was still our president.
Whether good friends or African newspapers I’m being asked, “How could this be America?” I can’t answer all individually. Below is one reply.
Yesterday was not surprising and I am concerned with your personal perception (and that of so many of my other friends) that this “is not the America I know.” It is precisely the America I know.
I was beaten in the streets of Madison WI as a college demonstrator, chased by police in Chicago, had my phones tapped and my identification ripped from me by U.S. government agents… and all that happened before I was jailed in Conakry, kidnapped in Kano and stared at the wheels of a Sherman tank that were taller than me in Goma. My affinity for Africa I’m sure comes in part from a maturing personality that grasped soul matches in the turbulence of Africa.
But why all this? is the question. I’ve spent my life wondering and there’s no simple answer, but there are broad understandings.
Your split from Brexit is a good start. I know that you supported it. It’s the opposite of “all for one, and one for all.” It’s when sports bifurcate between teams and super stars, when pay for the CEO grows exponentially beyond his floor worker, when walls to keep out different looking people turn into barricades dividing mothers and their babes into separate cages, when “tax refunds” double the wealth of a billionaire but leave a quarter of our children in poverty. It’s all about division rather than unity.
Divide and conquer. Divide off and prosper (Brexit). Divide so far that compromise is antithetical to the positions that remain.
It’s hyper-individualism, which might have been useful when the vacant prairie was dusted by drought a hundred years ago, but today it’s absurd. The world is in too much of a crisis for any part of it to pretend they can go it alone. It’s delusional – truly clinically psychopathic for any person today to think they can live without the help of strangers half way round the world.
Critical to this analysis is that any governing document that is two and half centuries old can’t possibly work except to inhibit solutions.
Most of us use phones and computers and dozens of other gizmos about which we don’t have a clue as to how they work. All we know is that every few years they grow obsolete and we’ve got to get a new one. Recently we’ve even begun to give up our visible gizmos to trust “the cloud.” If we do this automatically in our daily lives, what is stopping us from doing it with the governance of our society?
America’s constitution is like my first laptop, a 1980’s Zenith box. It’s neither equipped nor was it intended to last more than a few years. The American constitution is an incredibly beautiful document, a foundational document that liberated the subject from its sovereign. But it’s too old, now, and it’s remaining functional capability is to stop change. Good minds have tried to work with it by piling on tomes of interpretation but therein is lost any governing core. We need a governing core, and not one no more valuable than Homo erectus.
This is the morning after a single battle. Perhaps, now, we’ll begin to remember the others: Baltimore, Orlando, Portland, etc., etc. The skies are momentarily clear of smoke and screams. The few people killed and busloads of injured last night are thousands less than those killed and tens of thousands less than those hospitalized yesterday by Covid. This is no anomaly. It was called for, predicted, wholly anticipated. This is nothing unique. Terrifying insurgencies happen all over America, all the time.
The crazy instigators including our President’s advisors and the weak, shameful politicians who enabled his wanton destruction have begun to divide themselves into enervated losers and delusional religious fanatics. But left standing is the megalomaniac himself and half the society he has brainwashed. Every instant until he leaves has a potential for some yet unimagined historical explosion. The story continues.
Particularly for my African friends, suddenly bombarded with their media exhalations of joy with the Georgia race, puncturing with nuclear force the silences that I had attributed to a sagacious long-view of history. Regain the patience you are so notable for. This tiny moment in history does not an epoch make. Trump is alive and well.
Recognize a stark and striking difference between America and all the rest of the “free world.” Our democracy is not. Our aged system is designed to inhibit change, because the change that gave us our revolution from Britain was so fragile that once secured it had to be stopped for fear of reversing itself.