Streets of Anarchy

Streets of Anarchy

In a scene that could well be that of Donald Trump in a few years, Jacob Zuma was put in jail Wednesday, and the days and weekend that followed exploded in violence. The South African military has now taken to the streets to contain the fighting especially in Johannesburg and Durban. Six protestors are confirmed dead and many more assumed hurt.
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No Good Man

No Good Man

No good person can change the world.

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.

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Nagging Memories

Nagging Memories

Despite the relief felt by progressives in the U.S., Africa and elsewhere over the last half-year, the truth is that the world is more insecure than ever. Whether Hong Kong, Myanmar, Ethiopia or the U.S., worried polities are reacting in drastic, dangerous ways.

This happened before in the late 1960s and early 1970s. History should be our guide if we wish to avoid the wars, repressions and military dictatorships which followed that era.

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Mbungu

Mbungu

“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.

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Mutant Tax

Mutant Tax

Only one country in all of Africa can join Elizabeth Warren’s debate about a wealth tax: South Africa.

And in earnest. In just the last few years America’s fiscal situation has grown surprisingly aligned with South Africa’s. Probably because of the pandemic, but certainly because of globalization. Since South Africa’s politics have presaged ours for the last decade, it’s worth looking at what’s going on there.

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Face Back

Face Back

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.]

1-6-21

1-6-21

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.

Dear Brian,

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.

Fondly,
JIM

African Aspect

African Aspect

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.

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Ass Song

Ass Song

Original undoctored sketch by the AP’s Elizabeth Cook

A prematurely old man limped onto on his bench in a cold, damp courtroom this weekend listening to an equally enervated prosecutor behind him whose grotesque mole finally shown as his pandemic mask slid too far down his cheek.

The social and cultural debauchery of the last four years in America has revealed all its moles. The UK judge rejected the old prosecutors’ appeal to extradite Julian Assange to the United States, because America’s prison system is “oppressive.”

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Feds vs US

Feds vs US

Most of the group was asleep. It was a full moon and a still, warm night and everything we did was watched by our minders who were watched by the militia.

I was leading a group of journalists and experts, the first Americans allowed back into Ethiopia since the Dirge broke with the West and allied with the Soviet Union. It was hard, tense work reminding the dilettantes that we could all be killed if they didn’t behave.

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State of Pity

State of Pity

A primer for my African friends:
The 2020 election, its comparison with 2016, and what it tells you about Americans.

Trumpists are seriously trying to disrupt the results, but my life in Africa is too raw for me to be able to fairly assess this, so for the purpose of this blog I’m presuming they won’t prevail… It could be months before the results are widely accepted by the American politic, but I’m basing this blog on the assumption that the Democrats achieve full governance on January 20.

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Ussil Udnut

Ussil Udnut

Ussil Udnut is not the opposition candidate trying today to unseat one of Africa’s most autocratic Heads of State. His real name dare not be spelled correctly, because the government he hopes to run blocks all social media that carries his actual name.

Worse, some message writers are then harassed by police even as WHO estimates 40% of the population is sick with Covid. This is Tanzania Today.

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COLLAPSE

COLLAPSE

“The clearest loser from the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was America.” – London Times. “American Democracy on a Shaky ground.” – Kenyan TV. “This dark, horrifying, unwatchable fever dream will surely be the first line of America’s obituary.” – London’s Guardian

Or as China’s news agency put it, “Americans watched a drama of hurting each other.”

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Election Instructions

Election Instructions

Kathleen and I inserted ourselves when we were 24 years old into the most autocratic, terrifying society that I believe has ever existed: Idi Amin’s Uganda.

We traveled the country in 18 days. There was hardly a night without gunfire. Dead bodies might be found anywhere. We had to hide our vehicle in jungle before stopping it in order to eat our sandwiches or dying children with inflated bellies would surround us.

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