Friday, December 14, 2012

Reasonably coherent on NPR; Acidic comments accuse, confuse

I appeared a few days ago on KCUR, Kansas City’s NPR affiliate. The program, Central Standard, was excellent, and my host, Jabulani Leffall, was thoughtful and well prepared. (Click here to listen to archivedcopy of the program in which I discuss peace journalism and my new book Professor Komagum).

After the program, I came across some angry, ugly comments on the Central Standard web page. Those comments about my appearance, followed by my responses, are below.

Comment 1: Remember the story about Mortenson and his "charity' works in Afghanistan on 60 Minutes show? How do you tell us that "War-torn' when there is no war going on Uganda? There used to be a rebel group ion northern Uganda, which was vanquished three years ago and Joseph Kony is no long anywhere near Uganda. An easy way of milking cahs (sic) from the State Department? Curious! isn't it (sic) ?

Response 1: By war torn, I mean war-impacted, which all of Uganda (especially Northern Uganda) was and is. Of course I know that Kony left Uganda in 2007. As for your other comments, comparing my work to Mortenson, they are shameful. You have no idea as to my honesty and motivations. You have no right to question my good intentions.

Comment 2: Well, now you've gone to (sic) far ! Your story has disintegrated into telling tall tales about nearly being crushed by a rhinoceros and how Ugandans practice witchcraft. Come on sir, this is an old story about an ego-driven Western educated "superior" white man who treks to the wilds of Africa to bring knowledge to the wild tribes. This narcissistic message has been told for the last 200 years.

Response 2: 1. These are not tall tales. These things happened; many Ugandans do believe in witchcraft, whether you believe this or not. I suggest you read V.S. Naipaul's The Masque of Africa.
2. Ego and narcissism? Why the anger? Simply put, I had some good ideas that I wanted to share with some friends and colleagues in Uganda. Are these ideas invalid because I am a white Westerner? Does this make me a neo-colonialist? I have hundreds of Ugandan friends and colleagues who would strongly disagree with your stilted assessment.

Perhaps I’m more naïve than I thought, but I was really surprised by the vitriol of these comments. I suppose derision is to be expected when one is in the public eye, but I was still shocked that people who have never met me would so ignorantly and brazenly question my integrity and honesty. In addition, to suggest that I have financially profited from my peace journalism work is truly laughable, as my wife or any number of creditors could attest.

As for being a “superior” Westerner, my colleagues in Uganda, Kenya and elsewhere have moved beyond commentator #2’s post-colonial finger pointing, and have instead chosen to embrace good ideas like peace journalism even if they do come from a white Westerner. If only we could all be so wise.

--Follow me on Twitter @PeaceJourn

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