Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's Not What You Said, It's How You Said It.

I’ve dilly-dallied for a while over whether or not to respond to the words of Kevin Myers over the past week or so and finally decided that I may as well say a few words, if only to try to get the feeling of extreme annoyance that I’ve had since I read his piece off my chest. I was away at Oxegen the week before last and so I was a little shut off from the outside world and therefore blissfully unaware of Myers’ piece until I saw Bryan Mukandi’s response to it for the Irish Times, linked to on his blog. I’m glad that Bryan was given the forum of the newspaper to express his views but, in a way, it’s a shame that it took an African to be the one to publicly denounce Myers. Every right-thinking Irishman should have been lambasting him for such a shameful display of racism. For that is what it was.

To clarify, I don’t entirely disagree with Myers’ central thesis that “self serving generosity has been one of the curses of Africa”. Pouring money into Africa without being sure of where it’s going is no help at all, and is liable to end up in the wrong hands, most likely those of one of the many despotic, Mercedes-chauffeured, fat dictators who have so much of the continent in their stranglehold. In a pre-emptive strike against those who might accuse him of being uncaring, Myers is at pains to point out that he has been to Ethiopia and has been hit in the pocket by forking out for these ungrateful little bastards. Well Kevin, I have been to Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda and therefore take huge umbrage against his talk of how “the wide-eyed child we saved, twenty years ago, is now a priapic, Kalashnikov-bearing hearty siring children whenever the whim takes him”. Like many of you, I had to reach for the dictionary for the word ‘priapic’. It means:

1. Of, relating to, or resembling a phallus; phallic.
2. Relating to or overly concerned with masculinity.

So Myers is either calling the men of Ethiopia a bunch of dicks or, more likely, he reckons they are overly macho. Yep, macho, gun-happy, promiscuous idiots - that’s how Ireland’s best-known columnist chooses to characterise the men of an entire nation. That, Mr. Myers, is nothing but cheap and pathetic racism. An intelligent man like yourself should really know better than to tar an entire nation with such a disgusting slur. And that is why you have been reported to the Gardaí by the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

Of course, he doesn’t stop there, choosing also to brand the entire country of Somalia as “another fine land of violent, Kalashnikov-toting, khat-chewing, girl-circumcising, permanently tumescent layabouts.” So that’s two huge nations dismissed with a sweep of the Myers’ pen. Truly shameful. It is this kind of crass, vile language being applied to pretty much an entire continent of people that leaves Myers without a leg to stand on. I'm bored with his article by now, but he also suggests that malaria "is one of the most efficacious forms of population-control now operating". It's also a particularly horrible way to die Kevin, but you don't need to worry about that, I suppose.

I am not a self-righteous hippy. I am not a politically-correct puritan. But I fail to see why anyone should have to listen to that kind of bile-filled, hateful crap from anyone in the mainstream media, and that is why I will not be buying the Independent again for as long as Myers is in their employment. Kevin Myers, you are not Jonathan Swift and this is not a Modest Proposal. You are a shock hack and this is an indecent proposal.

Update: When writing this piece I completely forgot to throw in a link to another response to Myers I came across that I really like. It's from bodhránbanger and it's called 'Why Kevin Myers is No Longer a Journalist'.

9 comment(s):

Darragh said...

Well done Andrew, great personal response.

Lottie said...

One one hand Mr. Myers voiced some of the shameful nasty thoughts that many of us are guilty of thinking on issue of African Aid and the future of the nation.

But in reality - He went too far.

This is just a nasty piece of "journalism" aimed at getting him some publicity.

The entire article is a racist bigatory generalisation with the only aim being sensationalism. I hardly ever read pieces as I find him repulsive chauvanistic pratt and his latest stunt has just confirmed my previous feelings.

B said...

"shock hack" was all you needed to say really.

He brings a lot of things people quietly thought to themselves beforehand though to an open area for discussion.

I know two people who spent 3 years in africa doing charity work that flat out refuse to support a certain organisation for some reason they never disclosed.

Anonymous said...

Have you read Myers' updated article in yesterdays indo? It was a much better insight into his opinions, it just drives me crazy that he felt the need to write the other one first. I am not saying I agree with everything he wrote yesterday but I do wish he could have written this piece without the nasty and what he believed to be provocative one two weeks ago. The other one was unnecessary and he is so patronising about anyone who actually advocates political correctness. This pissed me off, not because I am the most pc person ever, but more so because it appears that his readership are so influenced by his writing, that all pc will go out the window in his quest for debating the problems surrounding giving aid to Africa. I vow never to read anything that man writes again.

Darren said...

I'd like to withdraw my earlier comments. I can't stand by them as I don't truly believe them.

Myers went too far. He may have brought up a subject that needs discussion, but going about it the way he did was just an obstacle to discussion. It bordered on incitement.

For me, I DO believe that charity must begin at home and I do believe that the only way to properly solve the problems in the countries we are talking about is regime change.

Sweeping generalisations are not helpful and I am sorry I jumped aboard Myers bandwagon, even if it was only for the briefest of moments.

Moominmama said...

The problem with Myers' article is that he taints the real issue -- overpopulation -- with his pointless racist statements. To suggest that Africa has given the world nothing but AIDS is as offensive as it is factually incorrect. The problem is that statements like that put people off from addressing the fundamental issue, and the fact is that we cannot help Africa until we address the problem of overpopulation. That much he got right.

Andrew said...

Thanks for the comments guys and welcome to Chancing My Arm Chaucer's Bitch.
I agree that overpopulation is a major problem in Africa. Thing is, a big part of the reason for it is that Africans often deliberately have big families because they realise that starvation or disease are likely to kill some of their children off young. It's been proven that better circumstances mean people are less inclined to produce heaps of children as a means of survival.

Nerd, thanks for alerting me to Myers' new article. It is a lot more measured and reasoned but doesn't in any way excuse the way he approached the subject in the first place.

Darren, brave of you to take back your comments. It's not like you were entirely wrong, I think you just hadn't fully considered how vile Myers' words really were. Africa is like every other continent, there are some lousy people and some wonderful people.

B, there are plenty of 'charities' not worth supporting so I can completely understand your friends' reluctance to support certain ones. Too often the money goes to the wrong place entirely, or a very small percentage of it actually gets to the intended target.

Anonymous said...

this was a very good read Andrew.

Andrew said...

Hi Donna, thanks. That feels like a very long time ago now but i stand by everything he said. I haven't bought the independent since. i did buy the sunday independent on a plane recently, but in my defence I had nothing to read, my girlfriend was asleep, i was very bored, and there were no other newspapers for sale there. It was take those kind of circumstances to repeat themselves for that to happen again, as long as Myers works there.