Free Speech, even for Kevin Myers – Update

Image of Africa, via Millennium Campaign (End Poverty 2015) website.The controversy about the article by Kevin Myers in last week’s Irish Independent rumbles on. And as I said in my last post, that is all to the good. It is the frank and open debate of the points he makes in the article that will best serve his critics, not an over-reaction to his rhetoric.

Here’s a sample of the online reaction:

Banging on About Stuff Why Kevin Myers is no longer a journalist

With every sentence Myers displays (quite proudly) his absolute lack of knowledge of Africa, the history of the continent or the various nations thereon, the cause of economic and financial instabilities and the causes of interracial, international and tribal unrest. And he overlooks both Africa’s historic contribution to mankind and its huge potential to contribute.

Best of Both Worlds Decide for yourself

But read the whole thing. It’s harsh but heartfelt — not heartless — and surely within the range of depressing but not unwarranted Afro-pessimism. … There’s not much hate-speech in what he’s arguing.

Crunchy Con Africa? Screw it, says Irish journo

Harsh. But there’s ugly truth here. What does one do with it? This guy would just as soon let nature take its course, no matter who dies. Like I said, I can’t go there. But what does that mean, in the end? That we work to save who can be saved, in the face of the tragic truth that ultimately, helping Africa is like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the mountain?

Or is the pessimism, not to say cynicism, about Africa unwarranted? If it is, why? What evidence do you have for real hope in broad progress in Africa? I’m not asking rhetorically. I’m looking for a solid reason, or reasons, to refute this Irish journalist’s stance.

Ebony Jet / Big Ideas Irish Writer calls for African Population Control Via Neglect. The ‘Let them Die’ Policy

Even in the face of some of the most progressive suststainable technology being created in Africa, even in the face of rapidly increasing oil wealth in places like Angola, Nigeria and Gabon. Even in the face of mutually beneficial business dealings between African Governments and China, you still get broad sweeping venom and contempt like this out of Europe.

Eunomia Which Africa?

… the politicisation of ethnicity through elements of mass democracy and the division of a country along ethnic lines tend towards the creation of ruinous, exploitative and oppressive policies that destroy previously flourishing states.

Gary’s Musings Kevin Myers Article

For me development projects should never be about just giving – development intervention should be about partnership, education and commitment for the long-term. There are no simple, magic solutions – every intervention takes time, resources, expertise and serious commitment to see it through. Its easy to write diatribe like the Myers article. Its frustratingly hard to do something constructive about the challenges Africa faces. Articles like the above just make those challenges harder.

Update (19 July 2008): Helen Keogh Africa is far from being a lost cause — but we must help realise its potential (from the Irish Independent)

… The following words have been used: cynical; selfish; misguided; inhumane; loathsome; myopic; disrespectful; racist. … It will be interesting if the Press Ombudsman and national anti-racism groups consider them to be acceptable. …

In the first place, aid does work. … if you were to come to visit programmes supported by Irish aid agencies, you would see a different Africa to the one he portrays. You would see children seizing the opportunity for education and any improvement to their lives. …

Amid the wild assertions, untruths and half-truths, Mr Myers raises valid questions about sex education and disease prevention in Africa. Certainly the population growth on the continent is a concern. But rather than “washing our hands” of the issue, should we not support educational programmes that empower people to plan their families effectively?

In fact, what we need is more and better aid, reform of the world’s trade, commodities and financial systems — oh, and a properly functioning UN Security Council — to allow Africa to deliver on its potential.

Hibernia Girl PC bullies from the Immigrant Council of Ireland swing into action against Kevin Myers

The ICI people (and, I’m sure, loads of PC folks) seem to have missed the main point that Myers was making — we should question ourselves as to how moral it is to support societal systems in which more and more people will inevitably suffer.

Norakism Criticism of Kevin Myers’s Comments on Africa

Myers also forgets to demarcate between government and citizens. He … believes that because African governments are guilty then therefore the African people are guilty as well.

The Two Wolves The Road to Hell (update (19 July 2007): comment here)

The road to hell is paved with good intentions they say and without a doubt large swathes of that continent are starting to do a very good impression but little do the well-meaning and generous natured here understand how much they are contributing to the continuation or indeed deepening of that hell.

Radarsite Out of Africa: The Bitter Truth (cross-posted A Western Heart)

This is a tough article. No holds barred. I gave it a great deal of thought before deciding to cross post it here to Radarsite. However, what finally pushed me over the edge was the answer to this simple question: Is it true? Putting aside for the moment the obvious question of whether or not Mr. Myers’ article is a racist rant from an angry white supremacist — is what he is telling us the truth?

This is just a small sample. There are lots of blogs simply reprinting the original article or some of the follow up news stories about the ICI‘s complaint of incitement to racial hatred, but there has also been a lot of debate; some other examples: Africa is a Country | Blowhards | Born Again Redneck | Bryan Mukandi | Corrupt | Corrupt Éire | Five Feet of Fury | Holy Coast | The Corner | Mangan’s Miscellany | Nemozen (excellent satire) | Old Atlantic Lighthouse | Refugee Resettlement Watch here and here | The Trooper’s Gal | Twisted One 151; update (20 July 2008): Stephen Spillane’s My Opinion.

If it was wrong to ban Trócaire’s tv advertisement on one side of this debate last year, and it was, it is equally wrong now to penalize Kevin Myers for putting the other side of the argument. Much better to let the debate proceed, and to come to a conclusion on foot of it as to the best way to progress.