Chris Blattman

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Foreign correspondents, amok

Many of Corker’s anecdotes dealt with the fabulous Wenlock Jakes. “…syndicated all over America.”

…”Why, once Jakes went out to cover a revolution in one of the Balkan capitals. He overslept in his carriage, woke up at the wrong station, didn’t know any different, got out, went straight to a hotel, and cabled off a thousand-word story about barricades in the streets, flaming churches, machine guns answering the rattle of his typewriter as he wrote, a dead child, like a broken doll, spreadeagled in the deserted roadway below his window — you know.””

“Well they were pretty surprised at his office, getting a story like that from the wrong country, but they trusted Jakes and splashed it in six national newspapers. That day every special in Europe got orders to rush to the new revolution. They arrived in shoals. Everything seemed quiet enough, but it was as much as their jobs were worth to say so, with Jakes filing a thousand words of blood and thunder a day. So they chimed in too. Government stocks dropped, financial panic, state of emergency declared, amry mobilized, famine, mutiny –and in less than a week there was an honest to God revolution under way, just as Jakes had said. There’s the power of the press  for you.”

That is from Scoop, Evelyn Waugh’s mockery of the foreign correspondent. The novel’s set in Ishmaelia, a fictional nation on the brink of war with Italy–a thinly veiled version of Ethiopia, where Waugh covered the Italian invasion in 1935.

I would go as far as to label Scoop essential reading for the international worker. I am tempted to one day write its satirical sister on the aid community. We are the equal of Waugh’s journalists in our bumbling, ignorance, and fabrication.

I am almost through Waugh’s (non-fiction) travelogue of the same journey. Many bloggable bits, which I will find time for soon.

3 Responses

  1. I’m assuming you’ve long already seen Ross Coggins’s poem “The Development Set,” which you could of course still expand into your book

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