Now, I normally don’t waste my time responding to stupidity. But, just this once, I’m going to take a paragraph-long pause to deconstruct a recent Vice documentary about Liberia for what it is: simply unoriginal and redundant. Using sensational images of bush meat to capitalize on the human tragedy of Ebola is not only irresponsible, it is downright criminal. Vice has followed a long tradition of Western psychosis about fears of their own bestiality—from Joseph Conrad’s ‘the horror’ in Heart of Darkness to Russell Banks’ contemporary misrepresentation of Liberia’s armed conflict in The Darling, where the primates appear more humane than the black African human characters.
The new barbarism thesis has amplified this distorted narrative in the ivory towers of academia, with scholars insinuating that close proximity combat in Africa is unsophisticated and therefore less civilized than dropping bombs on innocent civilians to avert terrorism. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s celebrated Ted Talk about the danger of a single story is so apt. Vice didn’t reveal anything at all about the complexity of my country and its people in that ridiculous documentary. Instead, they reminded us that ignorance laced with racist venom and ‘othering’ should be countered at all cost. Here’s an idea: we should boycott Vice’s gross misuse of the blogosphere, give them five lashes, and tell them to go and sin no more.
Robtel Neajai Pailey is an academic, activist and author based at SOAS, University of London.