OPINION: How To Report America
"One of the great crimes of the industrialized world is never to think in terms of what is appropriate for the Third world. And one of the great crimes of some of the Third world is not to think through their problems, but to slowly copy the United States"
Sometime in July, Ghanaian Journalist of International repute, Elizabeth Ohene authored an intriguing article which touched on the western media's narrative of the African continent, a narrative which ultimately informs their reportage of issues on the continent. that piece caught my attention. the headline of my article is culled from her article's headline, which read, 'how to report Africa'. I have only taken out Africa and replaced it with America.
According to madam Ohene, she chanced upon an advertisement put out by the New York times sometime last year to find someone to occupy the position of their Nairobi Bureau chief. the criteria for the Job and relevant part of the advertisement as far as this article is concerned reads "... it (Africa), Is an enormous patch of vibrant, intense and strategically important territory with many vital storylines, including terrorism, the scramble for resources, the global contest with China and the constant push-and-pull of democracy versus authoritarianism. the ideal candidate should enjoy jumping on news, be willing to cover conflict, and also be drawn to investigative stories.
There is also the chance to delight our readers with unexpected stories of hope and the changing rhythms of life in a rapidly evolving region ". Oh really? So incredulous was the advertisement so much so that according to the respected Journalist she had to double-check to ascertain its authenticity. She posed the question, 'was this really what the New York times, in 2019 though of Africa? From deserts of Sudan to the pirate seas of the horn of Africa, down through the forests of the Congo to the shores of Tanzania ". Oh yes! that is how low western media houses perceive us!
As the world watches with utter incredulity and bewilderment the happenings playing out in the United States in the wake of the now disputed elections in that country. One begins to appreciate how unfair the west has been to Africa when it comes to the practice of democracy. Spectacles like the one we are witnessing in America presently were until recently only reserved for us in the so-called third world. and that spiteful advert put out by the New York times gives sufficient expression to that mindset.
For much of the twentieth century, the West led by America made a fetish of democracy, and in a one size fits approach sought to sell it wholesale to the larger world. Turning itself into something of a headmaster, with the right to punish countries that in its estimation fell short of the tenets of democracy.
So convinced was the west of the potency of Liberal democracy that one of it's leading ideological lights, Francis Fukuyama famously wrote a book titled "The End of history and the last man standing", which extolled the virtues of Liberal democracy, with its an attendant feature of free enterprise. Fukuyama audaciously proclaimed that liberal democracy had triumphed over all others and that the quest for a viable ideology to guide humanity had ended.
emboldened by such treatise, America virtually arrogated to itself the power to impose liberal democracy on the rest of the world without inhibition In complete disregard for the unique circumstances of especially African countries, multi-party democracy with its divisive tendencies became a precondition for advancing aid to third world countries. Countries that refused to play ball paid a heavy price, as evidenced in little Grenada where the Reagan administration sent in special forces into the country to impose democracy on the island nation, in complete violation of the country's territorial integrity.
The west made it a point to constantly send in election observers whenever elections came up in Africa.the verdict of these observers as far as these elections were concerned virtually gave or deprived the polls of their legitimacy. African governments craved the endorsement of these observers.
The first signs that America's invincibility as far as the organization of credible elections were concerned, had been broken were firmly registered during the 2000 elections between then Vice-president Al gore and President Bush, with the courts handing the presidency to Bush in a decision that still generates controversy.
With the coming into office of Donald John Trump in 2016, America's mythic image as far as democratic tenets are concerned to have been completely broken. from the use of state institutions to further the personal interests of the Head of state to the unleashing of state security operatives onto protesters by the president, the 2020 elections in America represents the latest chapter in a treat in anti-democratic tenets American style.
As I write this article Donald Trump surges forward with his attempt to annul Joe Biden's victory in the courts to the utter chagrin of most U.S. politicians who believe he has done sufficient damage to America's invincibility as far as the practice of democracy were concerned. But for we in Africa the spectacle only betrays the unfair standards to which America has held the rest of us as far as the practice of democracy is concerned.
No matter what happens the myth surrounding America as the world's best example of democracy has been completely shattered by the Trump presidency and going forward America would be less audacious in venturing into the third world and attempting to push down our throat a perfectionist brand of democracy. Because even they have proven how chaotic the practice of democracy can be at times.
The narrative on how to report America has been altered forever!
Credit: Rodney Tsenuokpor
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