why I don't like Kristof
In the interest of staying sane - and, really, because Amanda and Kate already had it covered - I've thus far refrained from comment on this blog about the whole Kristof-printed-a-child-rape-victim's-name fiasco. Suffice it to say that Kristof's apology did not satisfy me. It was an apology of the "sorry if I upset you" nature that didn't reflect a real understanding or acknowledgment of why this was such a grave error. Moreover, his essential justification for printing her name and face is that she's Congolese and lives in a remote area.
Sorry, but that's not good enough. There's a qualitative difference between getting informed consent to print an adult rape victim's name and doing the same for a child. I don't believe there's ever a valid reason to print the name and face of a child who is a victim of abuse or violent crime, especially when that child is an orphan. The story would have been just as horrific had Kristof used a pseudonym and an obscured picture, and I can't think of any good-hearted person who would refuse to donate to an aid organization because they didn't get to know the child's actual name. There was just no reason to put her at even more risk on the pages of the New York Times. And the Times would never have even considered printing the name and face of an American child who'd been raped. The only things that differentiate this little girl are her ethnicity, nationality, and location. None of those factors validate the decision to violate her right to have her identity protected.
Someone sent me a tweet the other day to note that I seem to enjoy attacking Kristof and that I need to recognize that he's an ally. I don't like Kristof, it's true. Do we both think the things that happen to women and girls in the Congo are horrific? Of course. But I don't see Kristof as an ally, or at least not one with whom I want to be associated. Kristof spends his time sensationalizing poverty and behaving as though the solutions to global poverty, violence, and abuse must originate from the west. His approach reeks of the white man's burden and all-too-often ignores the complexity of the cases he addresses. Kristof seems to be largely unwilling or unable to recognize that the solution to the Congo's problems will ultimately have to come from within the Congo.
As we've discussed here time and time and time again, advocacy for its own sake is a not laudable goal. Bad advocacy that's based on bad facts leads to bad policy recommendations. I don't enjoy attacking anyone who's putting out bad ideas based on incomplete understandings and faulty assumptions. But I'm not going to ignore them when they do. The Congolese deserve better. And it's their voices - not Nick Kristof's or mine - that should be foremost in the debate.
Labels: the kristof strikes again