Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone:
Thanks to Jonathan Schwarz of TinyRevolution.com for passing along this hilarious exchange between Time reporter Alex Wilson and Julie Hollar of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting). It’s one of the best case studies in the dangers of Google that I’ve ever seen.
The thing about Googling yourself — look, everyone’s done it. In the most literal sense, it’s like jacking off, and find me the grown man who’ll deny that he does that. But part of the growing up process is learning that playing with oneself, if not shameful and sordid exactly, it’s certainly something to be done at all times in private. Not even your average eight year-old will go charging bug-eyed into a room full of grownups frantically pulling on his Johnson. Time reporter Alex Wilson turns out to be a different story, however.
Background: last week, the press watchdogs at FAIR did a review of Wilson’s scare piece about how the Chinese are taking over Africa (China’s New Focus on Africa, June 24). The Wilson piece used the standard Western-correspondent formula for covering the third world, a formula I’m very familiar with from my Russia days. In it, the moral of every story you write has to be that the backward subject country cannot survive without the indulgence, political protection, and gigantic brain-power of the superior Western societies. At the eXile we used to call this “White God” reporting.
As my friend Schwarz amusingly dug up, Wilson is such a master of the White-God template that he even wrote a piece once (Come Back Colonialism, All is Forgiven, Feb. 14 2008) based on the musings of a Congolese riverboat captain who missed Belgian rule. The money quote from that piece:
“On this river, all that you see — the buildings, the boats — only whites did that. After the whites left, the Congolese did not work. We did not know how to. For the past 50 years, we’ve just declined.” He pauses. “They took this country by force,” he says, with more than a touch of admiration. “If they came back, this time we’d give them the country for free.”
Anyway, in his latest thing, Wilson was up to something similar, seeming to blame everything that’s wrong with modern Africa, including AIDS and malaria, on Independent Congo. He drew FAIR into the action when he added that “Independent Congo gave the world Mobutu Sese Seko, who for 32 years impoverished his people while traveling the world in a chartered Concorde.” This comment provoked FAIR’s Hollar to note…
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