Donald Trump’s magical term “Fake News” absolutely hit the nail on the head in regards to the dismal behavior of the current Mainstream Media when they fabricate their product. But below Fake News there needs to be another subcategory of “Fake Outrage”. Meaning the news is presented factually and could be of value to the public, however the reaction within said news is hysterical and/or vastly overblown.
Take for example CNN’s rather detailed breakdown of how China is moving into the African media sphere. The information provided looks to be true but it is written to fill the Western reader with some sort of looming dread. The article ends on a perfect doomsday quote by a PhD candidate that they interviewed…
“In the trade off between letting go of some sovereignty and building a state-of-the-art telecommunications network, most African countries have chosen the latter,”
Apparently you can be horribly naive and biased while working towards a PhD and/or getting your next paycheck from CNN. The idea that modern Africa is completely independent and free as long as the Chinese stop sending phones and cable TV dishes to the continent is mental.
“Post colonial” France has 3,000 troops spread over 5 African nations covering from the very west of the continent to the Horn of Africa according to Business Insider. The Washington Post says that during the middle of Obama’s presidency the US had troops in at least 13 Sub-Saharan African nations. Obviously not all bases are pubic knowledge thus there are “at least” 13 bases. Free and independent nations are not smothered by foreign troops.
Sub-Saharan Africa is also plagued by massive government debts with roughly half the nations being in the red up to half of their national GDP according the Economist. This raises the question of whom are they indebted to? Of course it is lovely white faces at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank not their neighbors. The African Development bank is a player, but behind their local looks they have many foreign (Western) partners. The West still has a financial stranglehold on Africa. Is this Africa’s own fault for having corrupt leaders that took out IMF loans they could never possibly repay? Yes it probably is, but it doesn’t matter how the debt was created, African is beholden to it, thus not very pure and independent.
CNN in their breakdown of Chinese expansion into the African info space also forgot to mention that media the world over is by default – American. It is false to portray poor Africa (which isn’t that poor anymore if you take a virtual trip through their cities via Google Maps) as this totally free media space filled only with some hapless local content that will be Crushed by Xi’s evil 10,000 Villages plan. If you travel the world and see a movie theatre it will have Hollywood movies guaranteed and translated American shows/movies will be on TV in hotel room guaranteed. The entire campy genre of Ugandan action movies (the only African-made movie you will probably ever see) is founded on imitating Hollywood.
To say that Africa is empty of media is mad, the author from CNN needs to be less dishonest or more self-reflective. Their real problem with China putting up TV-dishes in 10,000 villages and selling smartphones built for African realities (cheap, good battery life to survive long power outages, gearing phones to local languages) is that it is a threat to US/Western dominance of the continent. The Chinese Communists are doing Capitalism better than the West in Africa and at least subconsciously some people at CNN are spooked.
There is nothing wrong with an American news outlet saying that they want to keep the world’s eyes seeing history and events through a primarily American filter. There is nothing wrong with wanting America to step up its game in Africa to make sure hearts and minds are won over on a continent that has lots of lovely natural resources. It would be a normal healthy attitude to say something like “If the Chinese want to take Africa, then they’re going to have fight for it, right boys!?”. But somehow trying to make the Chinese look evil for attempting to make money selling products and services and gain soft power influence is Fake Outrage.
China is just trying to do the rational things that America was doing very well for decades after WWII – bringing their media technology to as many markets as possible to make sweet cash and get those all so important soft power victories. If you have a problem with the Chinese answering certain market demands in Africa then you should honestly advocate for giving them an economic fight for the territory. Many of the biggest tech companies in the world are from the West. If you want your info-colonies back so much then go out and win them over with good tech and great content. Don’t lie to the English-speaking speaking public implying Beijing is somehow that vastly inherently different from Washington and by its very nature doing evil.
CNN’s view is both racist and a perfect example of “Fake Outrage”.
The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.
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