Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I couldn't make this up...

Last night, just before going to bed, I logged in to my computer to check my email. Imagine my surprise when one of the headlines on the msn.com homepage read:



First, this is not a practical joke. The news sites did not get hacked. There really is a General Butt Naked, né Joshua Milton Blahyi, a rebel commander in Liberia's longstanding conflict who has been in exile in Ghana. He recently returned to Liberia to testify in the hearings of that country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which began in 2006 and are continuing today.

Since most of my dissertation involved just such commissions in Africa and Latin America, this ought to provide me an excellent opportunity to comment on that phenomenon here. The thing is, though, I just can't get over the fact that the news outlets chose to use Blahyi's nickname in all of their headlines. Here are some other winners:

"Butt Naked Battallion Commander apologizes for killing 20K Liberians" (from USA Today)

"General Butt Naked Admits to Eating Children's Hearts" (from ShortNews.com)

"General Butt Naked Confesses to Nude Killings" (from the UK Telegraph)

I guess it's pretty much axiomatic that "if it bleeds, it leads".... but it's hard for me to believe that it really did not occur to editors that the supperaddition of Blahyi's nickname in the headlines was a bit over-the-top.

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Incidentally, if you are interested in learning more about Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, you can check out their website here. More about Joshua Blahyi here. More about Liberia here and here.

3 comments:

Ideas Man, Ph.D. said...

I think I'm going to throw up.

Booga Face said...

The joke in one of my classes is that when I use the phrase "those jerks", my students are supposed to know that I'm referring to the mainstream newsmedia -- Fox, NBC, etc.

But on the other hand, I'm wondering where the nickname Butt Naked comes from. Because, like you, I too wonder why the newsmedia didn't exercize better judgement in this case (wishful thinking, perhaps), but at the same time I also wonder why Blahyi didn't exercize better judgement on his own nickname. I mean, English is the official language of the country, so he's gotta know.

Meanwhile, I'd be curious as to your thoughts on Krog's book _Country of My Skull_ about the S. Africa truth and reconciliation trials. I taught it once.

And then there's Kenya...

Brooke said...

Hey, missy, you better start posting pronto, especially since you've been playing blogger police with the rest of us! ;)