This is the dumbest paragraph by Thomas Friedman you’ll ever read in your life

You can learn everything you need to know about the main challenges facing Africa today by talking to just two people in Senegal: the rapper and the weatherman. They’ve never met, but I could imagine them doing an amazing duet one day — words and weather predictions — on the future of Africa.

The title of his column in “Out of Africa: Part III.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

Younger Me: 18th century European views of Africa and Africans are sticky. This means that occasionally, even educated sophisticates like Friedman (especially as they get older), can let slip horse manure like this.

Current Me: This is racism masquerading as stylistic hyperbole. For an uncomfortably high proportion of Americans — whether educated or not, in media houses or in the seminar room — Africa is a simple place with simple people facing simple problems that require simple solutions. Africa is just different in every dimension imaginable.

Very few of these people ever updated since reading Joseph Conrad.

In order to know about Africa’s future, you don’t need to talk to someone with a sophisticated understanding of the Senegalese economy (or for that matter, Africa’s other 53 economies). Just talk to the rapper and the weatherman. Or some dude in Kibera. Or a warlord somewhere in Eastern Congo. And then pepper your story with some quotes from WENA (Western Europe, North America, and the Antipodes) diplomats.

Think about it. At least two college-educated people at the New York Times looked at this and let it through.

Also, there is a way to have an intelligent conversation about climate change in Africa without always tying it to conflict and migration to Europe.

H/T Matina Stevis.

6 thoughts on “This is the dumbest paragraph by Thomas Friedman you’ll ever read in your life

  1. Pingback: Three most interesting articles of the day (April 27) | BAIL: Bay Area International Link

  2. Friedman’s current visit to Africa is showing how wrong his views on African poverty and development are.

    His second opinion piece is equally full of bad medicines because his diagnosis is way off the mark.

    My comment on that specific article was:

    “The trouble here is clearly capital and better institutions. Those villagers are not only victims of climate change, like in many parts of Africa they are victims of education deficit and shortage of skills and technology to be productive in times of challenging climate.

    We should put some effort on diminishing climate change impact on people’s lives but we must put even more effort on helping poor people get proper governance and opportunities. Poor Senegalese farmers like those in hinterland Angola, where I’m from, need training, infrastructures, fertilizers, capital and equipment to produce, they’re doomed trying to grow crops like they did four decades ago”.


  3. In respect to your last paragraph: (Western) people tend not to care or know much about Africa, but are freaking out about the refugees and migrants in Europe and elsewhere. Friedman’s obviously trying to make a connection between the two to make people aware of the major problem, rather than the symptom. He’s simply bridging the two so that people who are not well versed in one have the opportunity to gain an interest in the other. The Showtime documentary “Years of Living Dangerously” (a title also borrowed from a book…) shows how he links the war in Syria (the “What” that everyone knows about) with climate change, its potential underlying cause (or the “Why”), in order to get people thinking differently about the issues. He may not be the best writer in the world, but he’s making these issues accessible to the non-expert.


  4. Don’t forget the taxi drivers. How many policy decision have been made based on knowledge acquired from a taxi ride to the airport?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: The Ten Most Read Posts of 2016 « An Africanist Perspective

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