6 thoughts on “Links I liked

  1. Celebrity advocates in general get terrible abuse in the blogosphere, often for not understanding issues. That’s fine. It becomes a problem when people assume that because someone is famous for a different reason, they cannot understand something completely different.

    I used to make that assumption. Then I heard Geldof speak at the launch of the Commission for Africa’s second report. He was easily the best, most intelligent and most incisive speaker there.

    None of this relates to the Clooney issue, though.

  2. How did this become about which Westerner is more qualified to midwife Sudan? What’s absurd is the idea that a Hollywood actor or an academic professor (or anyone who has not lived and acted in and breathed Sudanese politics for even a fraction of its war-torn history) could play a meaningful role in the birth of a nation.

    A useful trick in these instances is to imagine the parallel in your own country’s politics. Can you conceive of Gerard Depardieu running a parallel election monitoring system in Florida and weighing in on Bush v Gore and expecting to have any impact whatsoever? Not, admittedly, the best of examples, but I would love to hear the example that makes us think: oh, maybe the US could have an equivalent to Clooney in Sudan.

  3. I’d look at this the opposite way: Clooney aside, isn’t “working in various countries in Africa and studying them for years” setting the standard of expertise pretty low? If I lived in Greece for a year and traveled to various parts of Europe several times per year, would that suddenly make me an expert on the conflict in the Balkans? How many Sudanese languages do these experts speak?

    Working in this field means exposing yourself to this incessant pissing contest: who’s spent more years in Africa? Who’s lived in more depraved conditions? Who’s had malaria the most times? Who’s spent more time with the Minister of Whatever? Those who score lower on these important metrics are subject to the traditional dismissal of “such-and-such just doesn’t understand development”.

    The hostility to Clooney (and others) is about his refusal to respect their authoritah in these matters.

  4. George Clooney is a good dude who’s trying to do right by his celebrity and resources. One can hardly fault his choice of issues to take on.

    • The reason Clooney earns the smug derision of folks like Blattman and Texas in Africa is because they’re envious of and threatened by the attention he gets. Only Westerners with fancy degrees and peer reviewed publications should be permitted to pontificate on such matters.

      • My concern, which the academics may or may not share, is that Clooney doesn’t live or work in the region. Blattman and TIA have have worked in various countries in Africa and studied them for years – they have a much better chance of understanding the problems that, say, Sudan faces than celebrities who visit situations of crisis and then fly back to home. Anyway, this development aid thing should be about the people who live in the place and their specific needs – not about us, or our good intentions, or the little that we are willing to do for (to) them in the brief moments when they’re in the paper.

        Read the “About” pages of some Western academics’ blogs and you might be surprised to see that they are involved in thoughtful and useful work.